SPRING 2016 - CIEE MADRID LIBERAL ARTS PROGRAM - NEWSLETTER #2
Traveling to different parts of Spain is a very important element of a program whose aim is to get students to know the Spanish culture and its rich diversity better. Thus, in the month of February the group spent a weekend in Barcelona, the famous Spanish city by the Mediterranean Sea. Coinciding with the celebration of the city's patron saint, St. Eulalia, students were exposed to the political and social realities of the region as well as all the cultural manifestations of Catalan culture..
Students were able to learn about sardana, the traditional Catalan dance, which is danced in a circle holding hands. Students were invited to join and they did not hesitate. Steps are not that difficult to learn and they mingled with the locals dancing in front of the cathedral.
As it was a holiday in Barcelona, we took the group to the Town Hall Square to learn about the Giants tradition, an old celebration in which many cardboard figures representing old kings and queens parade in the streets swirling around as a symbolic representation of the different masters of the territories from the past.
It was also calçots season, a kind of spring onion that is only eaten in this region. In one of our group meals, the students could try traditional dishes of the Catalan culture, such as pa amb tumaquet, butifarra or calçots which were well enjoyed by them.
But being in Barcelona means learning about Gaudí and Modernist architecture. The amazing shapes Gaudi gave to his buildings still astonish visitors who fall in love with the mixture of colors and the imagination which he used to create such unique buildings. We visited some of the houses he designed along Paseo de Gracia and entered the Temple of the Holy Family, still under construction, one of the most important attractions of the city and one of the favorites for our group of students.
A semester abroad is not only a lifetime experience, but also the opportunity to acquire professional experience through an Internship. Some of our Liberal Arts students chose that option with the aim to learn more in a professional setting, improve their resumes, and show future employers their ability to adapt to new and different working environments. Working in Madrid helps them develop new skills and also to put into practice a lot of the ideas and new knowledge they acquire in their studies.
This semester students are very satisfied with their placements since they are aware of the relevance of this opportunity. For instance, a Journalism major is interning at EL PAIS, Spain’s leading newspaper, leader in communication and media. She works for the English section of the newspaper, translating news and writing some articles for the online version. Working in such an important newspaper will undoubtedly be a great asset to the student when she starts working for a job back in the US. This semester we also have students interning in other fields such as Film (a student is working on a documentary about Spanish filmmaker Carlos Saura), Finances or Sports.
The Internship is a CIEE course which also has an academic component. Students have to meet weekly to attend a seminar on Spain and the specifics of the labor market, working philosophy and attitude toward work of Spaniards, an intercultural experience that is very eye-opening.
CIEE ACTIVITY: LANGUAGE EXCHANGE
This semester, the Liberal Arts Program has expanded the number of activities that foster the learning of Spanish language. Besides the traditional AELE sessions and the "Meet and Talk" events, this semester students have the opportunity to participate in language exchange meetings with Spanish students. Hosted in a local bar, owned by one of the CIEE hosts, the CIEE group were introduced to a group of Spanish volunteers through a series of icebreakers which helped them to find people with similar interests. Then, while enjoying a light drink and snacks, the groups split into pairs to chat informally. All Spanish participants had international experience, having studied abroad for one or more semesters, and for this reason, they want to stay in touch with international students providing their experience and knowledge to our students. These sessions not only provided a good practice of the language but an easy way to meet locals who can contribute to a more real experience in Spain, breaking the "American bubble".
Madrid is an exciting capital with a varied cultural offering. Students have access to many different cultural events that can accommodate their different tastes in art, music, theater, etc. This semester we took a group of theater lovers to the amazing new playhouse in Conde Duque, a 17th century army barracks that has now been renovated as a cultural center. The play was a revisitation of Shakeaspeare's Romeo and Juliet by La Joven Compañía (The Young Theater Company), a troupe of young actors who bring topics that young audiences can connect with to the stage. In this case, the eternal love story of Verona lovers was transmitted to the TV world of Big Brother context mixing music, images and the play itself. Students were enthusiastic about this version and the mise-en-scéne which resulted in a very enjoyable evening.
Madrid is a multicultural city with a variety of areas with marked identities. The central neighborhoods are undergoing a rapid transformation as a result of the new urbanistic plans and initiatives which reflects the personality of their inhabitants. Not all students have an adventurous soul and those leave Madrid without visiting most of it. Thus, we organize these walks around different quarters of Madrid to help students discover new areas and a full new range of options. After visiting the most popular ones like La Latina, Sol or Malasaña, we took students on a walking tour of some areas that offer lots of interesting things and new perspectives on Madrid: Barrio de Salamanca and Lavapies. The former is a prestigious area where the high economic level is present through luxury businesses, and a different urban display as a result of being a relatively modern area of the city; the latter is one of the most multicultural areas of Madrid, where a huge number of immigrants live together with locals and where lots of social and cultural projects take place, offering an alternative view of what Madrid is.
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF DON QUIXOTE
Visiting rural Spain can be a very interesting activity that students usually don't have access to. Little pueblos can show the authentic idiosyncrasies of Spaniards and reveal some of their values and norms for living. Thus, we took our students on a trip to La Mancha, following the route of Don Quixote, the universal character created by Miguel de Cervantes with many ideas in mind. First, we wanted those students who are taking Golden Age Literature, or have read Cervantes' novel, to visit the real scenes that can help them picture those descriptions created in the 17th century. Also, we wanted to offer a business point of view and show students how the region has developed a very interesting industry around a fictional character that seems a historical figure. Besides, a trip around places like Almagro, Puerto Lápice or Consuegra, not only bring history into our discussion, but also anthropology, learning about typical dishes like pisto manchego, local industries like wine and Manchego cheese or traditions like cesteria (basketmaking). A beautiful early Spring day accompanied us to enjoy one of the oldest theaters in the world in Almagro and the witnessing of the functioning of windmills which still use 16th century mechanisms.
HOUSING MEETING AND HOSTS TRAINING
In CIEE Madrid we consider our Housing Program to be a key factor in the success of the student experience abroad. For this reason, we keep not only a close relationship with our group of hosts, but also we provide them support and guidance to help them improve the experience of having an American student at home. This month, we held our semester Host Meeting where different members of the Madrid staff participated. The Housing Coordinator, Patricia Witzig, provided all kind of updates on the program, communicated future plans, and especially she informed about all safety and emergency protocols and the role expected from hosts. After this presentation, Madrid Center Director, Eero Jesurun, talked to them about Academics, discussing student expectations and the most common incidents and situations related with exams, grades, and classes among students. To end the session, the Liberal Arts Resident Director, Paco Frisuelos, offered some training in Intercultural Communication speaking about Non-Verbal Communication in an aim to improve the way hosts can understand what students try to express. At the end of the session, hosts pointed how useful the content was and how eye-opening was for many of them.