EXCURSION TO SEVILLA
The group visiting "Las setas" the new and modern structure in the center of the city
If there is a city that could best represent what is a powerful idea of Spain, that is possibly Seville. Located in the South of the country, the capital city of Andalusia is a great escape to dive into a rich culture and history. The muslim past of the city, the historic presence of the Jewish community, the ongoing importance of the Catholic Church and the traditions linked to it or the importance of the river for the local economy where some topics that we discussed during our visit. Students absolultely fell in love with the city, its impressive preserved monuments and enjoyed climbing up the Giralda Tower. Participants also learned some flamenco dance with a local flamenco star and also reenacted Star Wars while visiting Plaza de España where some of the film scenes where shot.
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A NIGHT AT THE THEATER
When our students joined Student Services Coordinator, Sonia Sales, to go to the theater, they did not expect that the venue had prepared many surprises for them. The play was the commercially succesful "Campanadas de boda" (Wedding bells) performed by La Cubana, a popular theater company from Barcelona. They are famous not only for their sense of humor but also for their innovative approach to theater. The play, about a wedding preparation included many jokes and twists that students enjoyed a lot. During the last part, the theater was quickly transformed in a wedding chapel, making all the audience members participate as the guest for the ocassion with fun hats. Students could not believe they were part of the play and the wedding. Singing along, following choreographies and even participating in the play were part of a night that our group will hardly forget.
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SOMEWHERE IN LA MANCHA...
SLL Students in front of Consuegra's windmills
If there is a popular passage in Cervantes' "Don Quixote" that is when the protagonist attacks some of the windmills that he believes to be ferocious giants. However, the novel presents a sojourn of a country gentleman through the region of La Mancha, a mostly rural area in central Spain that is hardly visited by students. Using the novel as the excuse and the symbol of this universal character of representation of Spanishness as the threat, students enrolled at the "Spanish Cultural Studies - Seminar on Living and Learning" course were able to visit little towns as Almagro, Consuegra, Puerto Lápice and Tembleque, all mentioned in the book. The idea was to explore many different Spanish values comparing urban life in contrast with rural Spain. Concepts of time, family, and traditions were the starting point for discussion and reflection while visiting old plazas, the oldest theater in Europe or the famous windmills. All these spots provided a great opportunity to learn about history, local economy, societal norms and mainly, how Spain is more than what the image shaped by stereotypes, gaining a deeper knowledge of what it means to be Spanish.
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"Selling" the Study Abroad experience to future employers is not an easy task. Having the students talk about these four months of their lives further than with adjectives as "amazing", "awesome", "fantastic" seems even harder. Therefore, at the end of each semester, we offer a Re-Entry seminar that help them reflect on the experience and verbalize it in proper terms. It is important that they know the audience and highlight what best suits their interests, especially when a future career is in mind.
The ReEntry seminar is also a great tool to introduce the "reverse culture shock" concept, and idea that is unfamiliar for them and that seems unrealistic. However, at the end of the seminar, students seemed as something very likely to happen to them and they felt prepared to deal with it. Exercises, tips and guidelines were provided to help them.
The group was impressed by the Mausoleum and the history behind it
Spain is a country with countless opportunites to revisit history. The long tradition of preserving its old buildings and monuments pays off when students visit them to recreate the historical events related to them. Not far from Madrid is the historic place called El Escorial. This amazing building was the residence for the powerful King Phillip II in the 16th century and it holds a monastery, a palace, a royal pantheon, a school, a library and a church. Besides its apparent austerity was the home for the most powerful man of that time who reigned over "the empire where the sun never sets". This visit was a good way to learn about Spanish monarchy, religion wars, colonization, and other subjects related to today's world.
In the afternoon we visited the nearby Mausoleum of "Valle de los Caídos" (Valley of the Fallen), a monument built to pay homage to casualties of Spanish Civil War (1936-39). However, the presence of Dictator Franco's grave in the main altar has charged this place with a lot of political connotations linked to his Dictatorship too. The way people cope with this piece of recent history was a good way to learn for the group of students who were able to see not only the aesthetics of dictatorship (similar to other European countries) but also how wounds are still open among Spaniards when it comes to talk about this important historical period.
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Enjoying a beautiful day before visiting El Escorial
Time flies and the semester has come to an end. After a week of finals, and before students leave Madrid, the CIEE staff organized a farewell event to enjoy the company of all the students as a group for the last time. Drinks and food were served while students shared their memories of what has been a great semester. They all agreed that this was one of the best experiences of their lives, learning a lot about the culture, about the country and about themselves. It was very rewarding to compare the students today with the time when they arrived: they have matured, grown as humans and have made significant progress with their Spanish.
CIEE organized a fun game to be played by teams with the goal to see who was the one with a better knowledge of Madrid. Easy and tricky questions were part of a fun game that crowned a student from Gordon College as the one with the best knowledge of Madrid. The group loved the activity and suggested we play it throughout the semester in the future.
A video containing the best moments of the semester, was a good way to review all the activities and accomplishements the students have made during these four months, a good exercise of memory that will feed their nostalgia when they are back home.
NEWS ON THE RD
LA Program RD with Professor Gloria Camarero at Carlos III University
This has been an extraordinary semester for Francisco Frisuelos, LA Program RD in terms of professional development and achievements. While working in several articles to be part of different books, and becoming part of a research project in conjunction with Birmingham City University, University of Sussex and Free University professors, he was awarded with the medal of honor of Universidad Carlos III de Madrid as a Doctor of that institution. In a solemn ceremony, he was awarded with his medal in the presence of the university president and all vice rectors, as well as all the other doctoral recipients.
In addition, Francisco has taken part of a six-month training in Intercultural Development that was completed in early May with his certification as an IDI administrator. The IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory) is a very useful tool to assess intercultural competence and reaching out cross-cutural results. This qualification will be used as a valid tool when it comes to work with future students who come from different background and cultural values.
Receiving his IDI Certification as Administrator of this Intercultural tool.