WEEKEND TRIP TO GRANADA
One of the most popular destinations in the world, Granada offers visitors a dazzling mix of past and present and a rich cultural link to its historical past. After having visited the Basque Country, in northern Spain, visiting Andalucía was a must, providing our students with a unique opportunity to see the contrast between the North and the South and observe a different way of living. Granada was also on everybody's “must-see” lists. The old Muslim palace of la Alhambra attracts millions of visitors every year and they did not want to miss it. This beautiful and perfect combination of architecture and nature, royal residence, garden and fortress has not only inspired hundreds of artists and writers, but also provides a great frame to discuss the current conflicts derived from religion and the very peculiar historical past of Spain.
Granada is also the birthplace of world-renowned poet and playwright Federico García Lorca and the city that the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand chose as their last abode. It is a city with a lively, young nightlife based on the tapas culture, which delighted our group, and it is one of the best places in the world to enjoy pure flamenco in its multiple forms. Without a doubt it was a weekend excursion to expand knowledge and enjoy cultural differences.
TOUR OF REAL MADRID SOCCER CLUB
As part of the CIEE course, International Business, students visited the facilities of the Real Madrid soccer club. As a way to learn about an important Spanish Brand, students were able to go over the club's strategies, known all over the world even in countries were soccer is not a major sport. Some of the most important soccer legends such as Beckham, Zidane or Ronaldo have played an important role in the marketing plans of the club, not only in publicity but also as team assets who everybody wants to see in action at least once in their lifetime. Real Madrid is not only an important company/club that generates millions of Euros every year but also one of the best soccer teams in the world, winning many international and national championships every year which speaks not only of its intelligent management but also its excellent sport qualities.
VISITING THE PRADO MUSEUM
While being in Madrid, a visit to the Prado Museum is a must. The art gallery offers the visitor an excellent collection of masterpieces by artists such as Rubens, Titian, Rembrandt, and Bosch, as well as some of the best examples of Spanish paintings through the art of Greco, Velazquez or Goya. The tour was not only intended to give students a glimpse of the works at the museum, but also to understand the evolution of art concepts and techniques, the relationship between art and society, and the role of the Monarchy and Church as collectors and patrons. Students could see, on site, some of the paintings they are studying in class and develop some skills to reflect in front of a painting.
This semester, the CIEE Internship course invited Javier Iglesias, Founder and Director of Pygmalion Branding, an innovative company that works in professional profiles to optimize job searching. Our group of students attended a session where they reviewed the steps to follow when it comes time to search for a job. During the session, students were given some tools and hints that can transform their job application into a more effective one. Working on their cover letters and resumés was also a big part of the session, where the group had the opportunity to learn how to include their study abroad experiences, not only in academic terms, but also as new acquired skills and strengths. Students were very happy with the session finding it very useful for their future plans and taking away a deeper knowledge that will help them when applying for a job.
CIEE COURSE: INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND LEADERSHIP
Students enrolled in the CÏEE course "Intercultural Communication and Leadership" visited the Ayaan Hirsi Ali women's center to learn more about attention to domestic violence and abuse against women. Students in the class were offered the opportunity to learn more about diversity in Spain, since this center works mostly with Magreb women but also Latin American, Eastern European and Spanish women. The group met with the center director, Concha Méndez, who explained the different departments of the center to help women deal with difficult issues, from domestic violence to eviction, and divorce. The center has a psychologist, an intercultural mediator, a lawyer and other professionals who understand the women’s cultural differences and what is considered right and wrong in their home cultures. This was a very interesting visit where students spent time asking many different questions about the topic which helped them to compare with the same topic back in the US.
The group also visited the Royal Palace as a lead in to discuss the Spanish concept of Power Distance and Hierarchical status. A walk through the never-ending halls and chambers learning about the privileges of royalty and the way they have been living for centuries helped them to understand this concept that does not exist in the US. Students were surprised with the way they lived and by the European fascination with royalty and aristocrats such as Queen Letizia of Spain, Duchess Katherine or Baroness Carmen Thyssen
CIEE STAFF VOLUNTEERING AT NATIONAL CAMPAIGN
Every year Banco de Alimentos (Food Bank), a Spanish organization that works nationwide, organizes a food drive in a large number of supermarkets all over the country. The idea is to ask people to donate food for those in a precarious situation who need help to eat every day. CIEE staff decided to participate this year and volunteer to help with the campaign. CIEE staff split into different groups to work in different supermarkets providing information about the campaign and selecting the products that were donated to prepare them for further delivery. During the weekend campaign, the expectations on food gathering were surpassed being a total success. After that, all food will be donated to different NGOs for distribution securing food for many families for the next months. A very gratifying activity before the Holiday season that CIEE staff enjoyed a lot.
The end of November marks a very special time for students abroad. Being away from home during Thanksgiving is not always easy, and so we organized a special dinner for all the students at our Study Center. Patricia Witzig, Housing Coordinator, cooked a big turkey that delighted the group. They all contributed with some dinner preparations bringing those dishes that cannot be missing from a Thanksgiving dinner. In an unforgettable evening, students pronounced their appreciation words and participated in different fun activities and games that made the event even more enjoyable. The celebration ended late with happy faces that showed students satisfaction and acknowledgement for a celebration that made them feel (almost) at home.
HISTORY THROUGH THE WAY WE DRESSED
Madrid has a very unique museum which provides an interesting approach to History: the Museo del Traje (Costume Museum). The collection allows the visitor to see garments from 18th century onwards contributing to the idea of daily life back then. Through this lesson on the way people dressed throughout different decades we can relate to the changing roles of women in society, the way children were looked after, societal hierarchies, the importance of accessories for social use, etc. The collection reaches the 21st century with the works of important designers and the use of new materials never before used in fashion which also speaks of the sign of our times and provides an interesting glimpse into the far future.
The CIEE staff signed up for a charity run in the center of Madrid. Organized by a national NGO and an important corporation, the run raised funds for charity purposes. In a mass race, the blue CIEE t-shirt mixed with the runners who responded to a call of solidarity in a type of event that has become very popular in Madrid. People, just as CIEE staff, are attracted for the opportunity to contribute to those in a situation of need while practicing sports and having fun, always keeping in mind the good cause that motivates runners.
When the semester is over it is time to look back and think about the achievements everyone has made during the semester, review the goals they brought, comment on the challenges they went through and set goals for the future, but it is also a time to celebrate, get together as a group for the last time and toast for the completion of a great semester which allowed us to have a great learning experience meeting each other while learning about Spain and its culture. The group, then, went to the trendy area of Malasaña to celebrate and say goodbye to peers and staff and have a last happy memory as a group