The new group of Liberal Arts students arrived on a cold morning to Madrid Barajas Airport and were welcomed by CIEE Madrid staff. After resting in their Madrid homes, they participated in the Orientation activities prepared to break the ice and get to know each other better. From this point on, the group participated in Orientation sessions at the study center covering aspects on safety and emergencies, bystander intervention and academics while enjoying visiting important places in the city, and tasting churros con chocolate in the oldest chocolatería in Madrid or trying new dishes in a group dinner.
Food is an important element of the Spanish culture. Therefore, the group was invited to learn how to prepare some popular Spanish dishes like tortilla de patatas, croquetas, salmorejo or paella in a fun cooking class. Students followed the steps to prepare a full Spanish menú for them to taste, and they loved the feeling of achieving what it seemed a difficult task before they started.
Getting familiar with Madrid, its neighborhoods, its monuments, and its history was also in the agenda. A visit to the City Museum, located in a historical building with an impressive facade, gave students the opportunity to approach to the changes Madrid has gone through to become one of the most Cosmopolitan capitals in the world.
Madrid is also a city that is investing in the development of green areas where its citizens can rest, practice sports and breathe fresh air. One of these areas is Madrid Rio, one of the new parks in the capital of Spain along the Manzanares River. Riding a bike is one of the best ways to explore it, and discover its different corners and the avant garde bridges that cross the river while doing some exercise.
Once students got settled in Madrid, it was the time to host our "Meet and Talk" event to help them make Spanish friends. In collaboration with the Language Services at the host university, the event put in contact Spanish students interested in learning English with our students, so they could find people their age who enrich their experience not only practicing the language, but also getting new perspectives on Spanish culture and tips on what to do in Madrid.
The rich historical and cultural heritage of Spain allows to pay a visit to significant places and momuments like the Monastery of El Escorial, the 16th century residence of King Phillip II. The building is not only a palace, but also contains an amazing library, a beautiful church, an excellent art collection and the Royal Pantheon, where most Kings and Queens of Spain are buried. The visit was not only a History lesson for the students, but also an approach to important cultural dimensions like the Spanish hierarchical system or the problems an insitution like the Monarchy is going through nowadays. It was also an opportunity to visit the mountains of Madrid connecting students with nature after those first weeks in an urban environment.
The start of the semester also brought the first weekend excursion of the semester. The group travelled to Sevilla, the capital of Andalucia, worldwide known for its beauty and the warm character of its inhabitants. Monuments as the Cathedral were a testimony of the Muslim past of the area, where the Moorish style mixes with elements of Christianity. Thus, students were impressed by the ashtonishing architecture of the Alcazar, the old Royal Palace where the group identified some of the settings for the famous TV show "Game of Thrones".
The María Luisa Park, site of the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibit, the Barrio de Santa Cruz (the old Jewish neighborhood), of las Setas, a new modern construction made of Finish wood, were some other spots where students discovered the life in a medium size Spanish city.
This has been an amazing start of the semester, a prelude to the many different actitivities and opportunities to learn that our students will experience in the months to come.
As a response to the growing interest in urban culture, students were invited to meet local artist JEOSM to learn more about the development of graffiti in Madrid, from the earlier examples by Muelle or Glub to the recent works by E1000 or Boamistura. This workshop not only helped students to learn more about local artists but also they could design their own graffiti and work on it collectively. The group chose to paint a mural with their names surrounding CIEE and leave it as a decoration of the Student Lounge for the remaining of the semester. They really enjoyed practicing with the spray although they were surprised with the difficulty of painting with it, but they loved the experience feeling prepared to appreciate urban art from a different perspective.
WEEKEND EXCURSION TO GRANADA
As a complement to our excursion to Northern Morocco, students were invited to visit Granada and learn more about the historical relations between Spain and Islam. Being the last Muslim kingdom in western Europe in the 15th century, Granada is worldwide famous for the magnificent palace of la Alhambra, the official residence of the Muslim kings which became a favorite of the group while visiting its beautiful patios and the splendid garden of el Generalife. However, Granada is much more than Alhambra as the students had the opportunity to learn during the weekend: the tapas culture that regulates social norms when going out, the ethnic diversity with the presence of gipsy communities who own most flamenco caves in the Sacromonte; the Royal Chapel with the funerary monuments for Isabella and Ferdinand, the monarchs who unified the peninsula, the poems of local writer García Lorca or the crafted works on leather that can be bought for a few Euros. All these elements, make of Granada a fascinating place, a bewitched city where time seems to stand still inviting visitors to dream.
Being far from home for such an important day as Thanksgiving is not easy. Thus, we organized our popular Thanksgiving potluck, inviting the students to participate in a celebration that could make them feel at home. Besides the traditional stuffed turkey, our Thanksgiving dinner offered traditional dishes from Spain, South Korea and Nigeria that students enjoyed a lot. Dining in a long table, all together was a great opportunity to acknowledge their achievements during the semester and thank to everyone who made possible for them to study abroad in Madrid. It was a fun and touching time which strengthened the bonds among the group before they continued celebrating in the streets of Madrid.
FAREWELL AT UC3M
The semester was officially closed at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in an event where CIEE students were invited to participate. The Director of the International School at UC3M talked to the students highlighting the importance of their study abroad experience and the impact that this semester abroad should bring to their professional and academic future. IN this informal social gathering, students had the opportunity to say goodbye not only to their classmates but also to their professors who attended the event.
NEW BOOK BY PROGRAM RD
Francisco ("Paco") Frisuelos, Resident Director for the Liberal Arts Program, is the author of a chapter in the newly edited book "Cine e Historia(s)" (Film and History) about the use of misrepresentation and invented events in Film. Published by Université París Sud, Dr. Frisuelos demonstrates how screenwriters and film directors do not respect historical truth as a narrative tool, to build their own histories that become a unfaithful mirror of History.
This book counts with the collaboration of many faculty members and experts working in the field in different universities in Europe and South America.
Riding a camel is one of the activities students have on their to-do list when they plan to travel to Morocco. The idea of visiting the African continent for the first time is very attractive to most of them although they are unfamiliar with the realities of the country. Visiting Morocco with the students is, thus, a great opportunity to explore the relationships between Spain and its African neighbor and approach an Islamic country to learn about the influence of religion on people's lives while escaping stereotypes linked to it.
Our first stop was the port city of Tangiers, where writers such as Paul Bowles or William S. Burroughs got their inspiration for some of their novels from its rambling streets and colorful markets. Students were taken to a women’s center to have lunch, where they met local students and had the chance to talk about social issues regarding youth, career, family, traditions, etc. while tasting local dishes such as couscous and harira soup. The group learned about the role of women in Moroccan society and the use of the hijab, the veil that many women use to identify themselves as Muslim.
In Tangiers, students met a group of sub-Saharan immigrants who are waiting for an opportunity to cross the Gibraltar strait and enter Europe in search of new opportunities. In a meeting facilitated by CIEE staff, students were exposed to the realities of immigration, their daily challenges and the way they survive in a strange land. This was an emotional and instructive moment that opened the eyes and raised awareness about a problem that needs to be addressed urgently.
From Tangiers we moved to the blue city of Chefchaouen in the mountains, where the group was invited for lunch by a local family, having the opportunity to see rural life in Morocco. The members of the family taught the female students how to wear the hijab and showed them how to cook tajin. In this town, the group learned how to bargain and about the bathing rituals at the Hamman.
As an end to the weekend, and before flying back to Madrid, the group travelled to Asilah, a beautiful beach town where they could finally ride camels, leaving the country with the feeling that it had been an intense weekend where new learnings, new approaches and lots of fun mixed together in perfect communion.
LANGUAGE EXCHANGES WITH CIEE
Every semester, CIEE Madrid organizes, together with the host university, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, a series of events to foster opportunities to practice (and improve) Spanish with native speakers. In a fun activity, which is very popular among university students, CIEE participants met Spaniards of their age and shared their interest in learning a new language and making new friends. American students were surprised how interested Spanish students are about the United States, American campus life, their knowledge of American sports and the desire to travel to cities such as New York City or Chicago. CIEE students could exchange WhatsApp and friend them on Facebook, making their first acquaintances on campus with whom to practice their Spanish.
A CLOSER LOOK TO MADRID
As part of our Cultural Agenda, students went on a guided tour to learn about the different areas of the city, especially those neighborhoods they do not explore on their own. This past month, we took them to Barrio de Salamanca, the residential and lively area of Madrid where they found a different physiognomy of the city. Exploring the markets, the commercial area with the most famous fashion designers shops (known as the Golden Mile), the monuments in the area, the cultural options and the history behind the urbanistic plan, resulted in an enriching morning getting to know Madrid a little bit more in depth.
However, their favorite part was the cereal bar in the area where we ended the tour. With a selection of more than a hundred types of cereal from all over the world, students enjoyed a late breakfast ordering their favorite brand with tasty toppings bringing them memories from home.
PROGRAM RD AT CIEE CONFERENCE
Francisco ("Paco") Frisuelos Krömer, Resident Director for the Liberal Arts Program in Madrid, attended the CIEE Annual Conference that was held in Los Angeles, CA from November 16 to November 19. With a topic focusing on Global Education, Paco led a session on "Intercultural Training for Faculty to Develop Global Initiatives" where he spoke about the importance of the acquisition of intercultural skills to improve the role of Faculty in the student's learning process. Together with Elsa Maxwell, CIEE Academic Director for Intercultural Learning, and two Faculty members from Ausgburg College and Marymount University, the session received record attendance by an audience of faculty and HE administrators interested in the topic.
BIKING ALONG THE MADRID RIVER
Discovering new areas of Madrid in the middle of the semester is always a nice activity for students. Although they like to explore the city on their own, there are areas of the city they don't visit on their own when they see them on the map. However, when our staff takes them, they discover the wonders of these new areas. This is the case of the Madrid Rio Park. Students like to run and bike in central parks such as Retiro or Oeste, but after visiting Madrid Rio it becomes one of their favorites. New bridges, lots of areas to relax, playgrounds, running tracks, bike paths, nice cafes,... a great offering along the Manzanares river that becomes a park where they return frequently.
US ELECTIONS: HELPING STUDENTS TO VOTE
With the US Presidential elections, the students needed some guidance in the process of voting from abroad. Thus, we invited a representative of Rock the Vote to our Study Center to help students with the process of requesting their absentee ballots and to be able to vote on time for the US Presidential election. No student missed this meeting showing their strong interest in participating in the electoral process and in supporting their candidate. Living the elections abroad is also a new experience for students by being exposed to a non-American point of view and being asked questions about the process since Spaniards are very interested in learning about this from an American.
Before coming to Spain I had a mental list of goals I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to improve my Spanish, try new foods, make Spanish friends, and of course travel. After a wonderful first month in Madrid has flown by, I’ve realized some of my travel goals were a little too ambitious, and there is so much I want to explore right here in Spain.
I’m not so great at making plans. I’m the dangerous combination of a procrastinator who needs everything to work out perfectly. So far I’ve had to do very little travel planning myself, relying on my friends to make the final decisions. Last weekend I spontaneously decided (on Wednesday) that I wanted to do a weekend trip to Seville. After a few days of searching for last minute hostels and the Renfe website not working, I had a tentative plan for two days in Seville and one in Córdoba. Luckily my friend was crazy enough to join me.
Seville is one of my favorite places I’ve been to so far. I love architecture and art history, and last year I took a Spanish art history class that spent a whole week studying Seville. Getting to see the Seville Cathedral and the Real Alcázar de Sevilla in person after learning about it was amazing. The streets of Córdoba were also beautiful, and the gardens in the Alcázar were incredible. I’m really glad I got to see all these historical sites.
We met up with my friend who is part of CIEE Seville, and she showed us the less well-known parts of Seville. My favorite was a festival near her university that had tents representing countries from all over the world. We had empanadas from Peru, tacos from Mexico, mojitos from Cuba, and went shopping in Morocco. The man in the Moroccan tent complimented my henna from the trip. We chatted about the places we have gone (and Natalie got a little taste of Morocco).
Aside from the historical sites, we met a lot of fascinating people during the trip, like our waiter at the flamenco show who really encouraged us to practice our Spanish, even though everyone else switched to English when they saw us. Or the groomsmen staying in our hostel, especially the one who asked us to pick out his tie for the wedding (and then took a selfie with us so if no one liked it he could blame the Americans). Or the nice older guy in our hostel who meditated every morning.
After a month in Spain I’ve accepted that not everything is going to go according to plan. At the end of a long day in Seville we couldn’t find an open taxi, so we made the long trek back to the hostel. We ended the day at more than 12 miles. The next day despite being at the train station early, there was a mix up on the departure board and we missed our train to Córdoba. After a moment of panic followed by a slight outburst, we managed to make the next train a half hour later. Despite a few hiccups, everything still managed to work out. Sometimes not having a plan was more fun, like our impromptu search for an amazing (and cheap!) flamenco show. We saw everything we wanted to see, ate lots of awesome food, and talked with some really interesting people along the way. I’ll remember to keep all this in mind for the rest of my time in Spain.
How would I describe my first month abroad? ¡Buenísimo!
The people, the culture, the foooood, the architecture, the history of the city that lingers in each crevice, and one of my personal favorites, el aire libre, otherwise known as the great outdoors have made it easy for me to call Madrid home.
Adventures are not hard to come by, the challenge is deciding which one to take and with whom. But before I expand on what choices I have made...let me disclose a top secret thing about how I make choices. Well, it isn’t top secret, I am just downright awful at making decisions. My biggest trick in the book is to ask the waiter or waitress to “surprise me” when I cannot decide between dishes. The Spanish culture has only taken kindly to this 50% of the time. Therefore, I have had to face my fears and learn how to make definitive decisions... kind of.
You can imagine my difficulty when I had to decide where in Spain to travel to on one of my first free weekends. The only thing I knew for sure is that I wanted to hike. I did not know if I was going to find a summit, a waterfall, a river, a historical site, or just walk around some city. I vaguely knew that there were some mountains on the “Cercedilla” train because of short trip a friend and I had gone on. I also knew that nobody was going to wake up early with me on a Saturday morning to go exploring, so this was going to be one of my first solo excursions.
As a woman, this is a bit scary. I am privileged to be studying abroad in one of the safer large cities in the world, and because of that, I was able to wander a little aimlessly. Even if you have to plan meticulously in order to stay safe, traveling alone is worth it. All the anxieties or uncertainties may be a little overwhelming, but on the flip side, if you have all the safety precautions covered, solo travel as a woman is very empowering.
At the end of the day, you will have just had the time of your life by yourself. In the past, I have done a couple of short trips alone but did not really enjoy them because I felt as if I needed to rush through them since I was alone and didn’t have someone else to discuss anything with. I have learned that the reality is in fact the opposite, there is a great power and opportunity for growth in taking your time when you travel alone because it gives you a lot of time to be pensive and connect with people you would not otherwise have the opportunity to if you were in a group.
Personally, I think my sense of humor has also gotten better because of it (no, not because I make up a ton of puns the entire time). I believe this is closely tied to the fact that our sense of humor is dictated not just by our interests, but by our fears and values. Our family may have a huge influence on this, but so does traveling. Therefore, traveling alone changes your sense of humor.
Back to the story… As I sat waiting in the train terminal at 9:05AM I realized that the train only comes every hour on the hour. I had missed my train, without realizing that saturday schedules are different. My face had to have been some sort of mixture of angry and sad while I took my book out and started to read to pass the time. Somehow, I must have appeared somewhat welcoming because a middle-aged Spanish woman asked me about the train schedule and if she was in the right place. Thankfully, my Spanish had improved enough for me to tell her about the hourly schedule. We then started talking about what each of our plans were for the day, and before I realized it, an hour had passed and I had made a new friend. Her trip was much shorter than mine, I had another 2 hours ahead of me. But I definitely had been humbled enough to have realized that the journey could be as entertaining as the destination. Although, the beautiful views at the top of the Peñalara Peak are forever burned into my memory, so are the lessons I learned along the way.
Although summer is not over yet, students arrived to Madrid to start their semester abroad. As soon as they were welcomed at the airport by the CIEE Madrid staff, and taken to their homestays, the group showed their excitement for being in such a vibrant city like Madrid. As an icebreaker, students came to the Study Center to meet each other and participated in a fun activity to get to know their respective hosts better. The game helped them discover some things they have in common to make them feel closer to who their family will be while in Spain. Orientation lasted a week balancing sessions on different useful topics and free time for the students to rest and adapt to Spain's way of living. The group received great support from the CIEE Spanish Student Network who acted as their first contact with people their own age, providing them with tons of tips about the city, academic life, nightlife and local customs.
Among the activities CIEE offered to the group in these first days, students especially liked the time spent in the Sabatini Gardens with their hosts. The group visited these beautiful gardens which are part of the Royal Palace, giving them a new opportunity to spend time with their hosts outside of the house, getting to know them better and sharing good experiences with them.Their favorite activity was, without a doubt, the cooking class. The idea of learning how to cook Spanish tortilla or learn the basics of a good paella were very enticing for the students who are always ready to try new dishes. Separated into different working groups, students became chefs for a day before eating what they prepared in the most exciting lunch to date this semester. Introducing them to local traditions was part of Orientation too, and thus, bullfighting could not be missed. However, the aim of CIEE is to be respectful with everyone's beliefs and ideas and instead of taking student to watch an actual bullfight, they visited the bullring to learn about the tradition, but they also heard how bullfighting is viewed in Spain in different areas. For some students this was a surprise since they believed bulls were not killed or they thought that everyone in Spain were fans of this ancient tradition. However, the activity helped them learn about the fiesta from an un-biased point of view and let them form their own opinion about it.
The tour of the university campus was part of this week too. Students need to get familiar with the campus and the location of the different services offered there. As a way to provide them with a first taste of the university cafeteria, we organized one of the favorite activities for the students: a group lunch there, where they started to get used to eating meals without ketchup and order without waiting in a line.
After these initial days in Madrid, there is no doubt that students are ready to live the study abroad experience in Madrid.
UNIVERSIDAD CARLOS III WELCOMES CIEE STUDENTS
Alvaro Escribano, Director of the International School at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, inaugurated the academic year at an event where American students were the protagonists. This event counted with the presence of David Gil, director of International Programs at the institution and Mrs. Jane Strai from the American Embassy in Madrid who talked to the students about the services provided by the Embassy to its citizens abroad. The university clubs and associations presented the different activities offered on campus that students can join to enjoy their spare time between classes, which is an excellent opportunity to make new friends. After the official inauguration and welcoming of students, they were invited to a social gathering where they could chat with professors and meet other students.
BYSTANDER INTERVENTION WORKSHOP
With the start of the semester, recommendations on emergencies and safety are a must. CIEE is very concerned about the safety of its students and it does not spare any effort to provide as many recommendations as needed to ensure a safe stay to students. Not only do we have presentations on how to live (safely) in Madrid or emergency protocols, but we also held a two-hour workshop on bystander intervention.
Being alone in an unfamiliar setting can put students at risk and that is why CIEE insists on practicing intervention, to remind students of the importance of supporting each other, especially when they go out at night. Following a series of activities and watching some interesting videos with illustrative examples, students were introduced to different ways of intervening in ambiguous situations that might be the result of local customs but not exempt of a preventive intervention to avoid major issues.
Some students have had similar workshops on their home campuses as this is becoming a widespread practice in the US, but they mentioned that it was very interesting, and enlightening, to go to this type of workshop in a foreign context. Some students had never experienced a workshop such as this and were very thankful for opening their eyes and alerting them of the possible risks they can face and ways of preventing them by collaborating with all participants.
EXCURSION TO TOLEDO
The old city of Toledo welcomed the group of students on a Friday morning. As soon as the group exited the station, the impressive old town was in sight bringing lots of questions to their heads: the idea of a city founded in an ancient time is the best incentive to want to visit it. The first stop was at the old Roman bridge of Alcantara over the Tajo River where traces of Isabella and Ferdinand introduce the visitor to a trip to the past. Other stops included the old hospital of Santa Cruz (now a museum of religious art) with its beautiful entrance, the Plaza de Zocodover (where the Muslim market took place), the Alcazar, or Fortress, with its four different facades, and the 10th century mosque next to the city walls.
The Cathedral left the group speechless with its impressive Greco paintings, the wooden choir chairs and Narciso Tome's 18th century decorative motifs. They learnt about Toledo's main tradition (Corpus Christi), the use of the chapter room or the reason behind every altar piece. We visited the Museum of El Greco located in a reproduction of his own house, and the Museum Sefardí, one of the remaining synagogues that now houses the Spanish Jewish Museum. The Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes also completed a visit to a past known for the co-existence of the three main religious cultures during the Middle Ages: Christians, Jews and Muslims.
EXPLORING MADRID: LAVAPIES NEIGHBORHOOD
Could there be anything more attractive for a group of young students than learning about the newest and most vibrant initiatives in town? That's why we invited the group to tour the thrilling area of Lavapies, the most typical neighborhood in the city that is becoming the center of the artistic scene in Madrid. Touring the streets of Lavapies we had the opportunity to discuss recent phenomena such as the ethnic diversity as a result of being the home for many different immigrants of varied origins, and the gentrification of an area that gained a terrible reputation 20 years ago and now is the most attractive area of the city to live in.
Students had the opportunity to visit an urban garden too, an initiative of the neighbors in the area to offer their children an alternative way of living in the city: tomatoes, lettuce, rosemary, and lavender are planted next to playground areas and communal spaces that welcome all kind of visitors. However, what the group liked the most was the visit to the old Tobacco Factory. A few years ago, a group of young artists occupied this abandoned building to create a space for collaborative initiatives: free music and dance workshops are offered daily, together with free concerts, a second hand clothing trade, a crafts market, and, mainly an underground area where artists can develop their artistic interests. They met a recycling artist and listened to the rehearsal of a music band, and on top of that they took tons of photos of the hundreds of amazing graffiti that decorate the space.
Student took good note of the location of this place, promising they will return soon to participate in the activities and mingle with members of the community.
2016 commemorates the 4th centennial of Cervantes' death, the famous author of one of the most important books ever written, Don Quixote. For this reason, this year has been labeled as "Año Cervantino" (Cervantes' year) to encapsulate all the events and activities related to this important writer all over Spain. Cervantes was born in a little town not far from Madrid, Alcalá de Henares, site of one of the oldest and most prestigious European universities (where CIEE has a summer program). Thus, it was the perfect occasion to visit the town as a complement to our previous daytrip to La Mancha following the steps of Cervantes' character.
Students were surprised by the charm of Alcalá; its quiet streets surrounded by ancient buildings invited them to travel back to the 17th century when the novel was first published; its welcoming population showed their pride of this little city that played an important role, culturally speaking, in the past. The group visited the university's old buildings, the old corral de comedias (one of the oldest theaters in the world), and the house where Cervantes was born in 1547 and many other sites that resulted in a happy discovery for the group of students.
CIEE AT THE MOVIES
Pedro Almodovar is the most well-known Spanish filmmaker outside of the country. Winner of two Academy Awards, his films are studied in many universities and are the subject of many International conferences. Thus, attending his new film release was a special occasion for our students who love movies. "Julieta", Almodovar's latest motion picture, is a story where women have an active and protagonist role - as is common in all of his films - but also an excellent portrait of pain, guilt, and remorse. Based on three short stories by Canadian author, Alice Munro, the movie is a good example of Spanish idiosyncrasy portrayed by a series of female characters that show the intensity of human relations in Almodovar's universe
CIEE COURSE: INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND LEADERSHIP
Communication across cultures is more difficult than what it may seem at first. Students arrive in Madrid confident with their Spanish as the key tool for an effective communication. Soon, they realize that language is not enough, there is a lot of non-verbal language that they don't understand or misinterpret; cultural dimensions that are unnoticed can create misunderstandings or false expectations, leading to frustration and stress. Thus, a course like the CIEE elective "Intercultural Communication and Leadership" helps students to understand the unseen elements of Spanish culture while comparing them with their own. They learn to appreciate different perspectives, approach reality suspending judgement and be open to difference in a new way.
This course, taught in Spanish, makes them work in reflecting on the study abroad experience and how it makes them mature and grow personally, acquiring the skills that will help them to lead in multicultural environments. The course mixes classes at the CIEE study center with activities outside of the classroom, like visiting Madrid’s largest cemetery as a way to learn about the concept of death in Spanish culture, the traditions linked to it, the idea of the eternal rest and the link to religion, the display of status through tombstones, etc.
Visits to the Royal Palace, LGTBQ quarter, markets, and an ethnic immigrant enclave help them learn not only about customs but also to be more aware of signs of identity and different approaches to daily routines.
CAREER PLANNING WORKSHOP
Given the successful workshop that Founder and Director of Pygmalion Branding, Javier Iglesias, offered to our students last semester, we invited him again to help students to work on their resumes and cover letters, as well as become familiar with numerous resources for job hunting. The workshop helped students to use new tools to transform a job application into an effective presentation of a qualified job candidate. Working on their cover letters and resumes 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.
The good weather invited us to go out and enjoy the outdoors. We all rented a bike and went to the area of Madrid Rio, the new park of Madrid along the Manzanares River. This area used to be a highway and several years ago it was rebuilt underground to use the area as a recreational park, full of sports tracks, green areas, fountains, and a long path for runners, roller skaters and bikers. Next to it, the Matadero de Madrid (the old Madrid slaughterhouse) is now one of the alternative cultural spaces of the capital of Spain, with it amazing movie theater, its exhibition rooms and an excellent offer of theatrical performances. Students visited it learning about the transformation of Madrid, remodeling old abandoned spaces to convert them into areas where young people, like our students, can have access to many cultural and recreational resources.
URBAN ART WITH LOCAL ARTIST
There is no doubt that our students have a strong interest in urban art. When we take them on tours, they are always asking and photographing all kinds of examples of art that seem to offer a bigger connection with them than the one they can find in art galleries. Therefore, we organize an interesting activity to help them understand much better about urban art and graffiti. For the first half of the activity, they met with urban artist, JEOSM who explained the regulations about painting in the street, the different types of urban art and some of the most famous works in Madrid. After the students got a better perspective and knowledge on the subject, they were invited to paint their own graffiti. To avoid any legal issues, they painted it in the artist studio, allowing their creativity to flow while using spray cans and templates freely.
At the end of the activity, all students received a book about Madrid graffiti as a present to remember their "contribution" to this extended way of artistic expression.
RE ENTRY SEMINAR
Every year, when the semester comes to an end, we organize a "Re-entry" workshop. This is a very important event for all of our programs since it provides very useful information to the students about reverse culture shock and helps them to prepare their return to the US. Students always assume that returning home will be easy, they do not expect that they could face some distress dealing with mixed feelings and finding themselves out of place even being in their own culture. The workshop guides the students through the necessary steps to lessen the transition linked to the return, helping them to reflect on the things they want to do before leaving and be prepared for what they might experience once they are back. Through a series of exercises, activities and alumni testimonials, students approach a reality that is completely new for most of them and found it of great help.
Time flies and the Spring 2016 semester is over. Students are done with finals and use their remaining time in Madrid to do all those things they haven't done yet or to enjoy their favorite spots and activities before they leave the country. As a way to celebrate a fantastic semester, we took the group to a final activity to the Amusement Park of Madrid. It was the time to be together for the last time while having fun and laughing endlessly. But we also met at the study center to have some snacks and play our Madrid cultural jeopardy, to test, in a fun way, how much they know about their host city, which is always a popular activity. To put the final note to the semester we prepared the following video summarizing their semester in Madrid/Spain which will help them cherish their memories of an unforgettable time.