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Spring 2018 Mid-Semester Newsletter Liberal Arts Madrid Spain


This Spring 2018 semester our students are taking great advantage of the many cultural and educational opportunities in Madrid and Spain. Our CIEE Student Life Office staff meets regularly with our Student Representative Council, consisting of five elected CIEE students from the current spring group who provide us with feedback on activities, classes, and overall programming. All students are doing well in their courses and have completed their midterm exams. Here are some other highlights from our semester so far:

Visit to a Pig Farm

The role of pork meat in Spanish culture and cuisine is an essential part of the Iberian food system. Staff organized a visit to a pig farm, approximately two hours outside of Madrid, where animals live in natural environs. CIEE hired a tour guide who explained the outdoor rearing methods of the Iberian pig in the so-called “dehesa” eco system, its economic benefit for the region as well as the controversies surrounding the export of Iberian ham to the US. After meeting the pigs up close and in person, the participants went to a small factory, run by two sisters, who make specialty hams and organize tastings. They could accommodate some exquisite local cheeses for our vegetarian participants as well as provide Hallal meat options for our Muslim students (who do not eat pork). Pig farm 2
Pig farm 2
Pig farm 2
Pig farm 2

Overnight Excursion to Extremadura

Each semester the program has a weekend overnight trip to a region of Spain that allows students to explore the cultural diversity and similarities of the country. In mid-April the group visited the region of Extremadura, located in the South West of Spain by the Portuguese border. Several students commented that it felt like a journey into the heart of old Spain, from the country’s finest UNESCO world heritage sites of Roman ruins in Mérida, to mysterious medieval cities of Cáceres and the village of Trujillo. The local tour guides explained a lot of the historical significance of the cities in Spanish and also pointed out the film scenes from recent Hollywood productions and the storylines that were used for Game of Thrones in Cáceres and Gladiator in Mérida. Students also enjoyed some outdoor kayaking to learn more about the natural landscape and wildlife environment. Extremadura 1
Extremadura 1
Extremadura 1 Extremadura LA

Spanish Student Network

CIEE collaborates with many local students who share modern furnished, WiFi enabled apartments with our participants, but also participate with our students in various cultural activities in the city. So far, some of the more popular activities with Liberal students have been visit to a day trip to a village outside of Madrid with a local resident as tour guide to explain the typical traditions of rural life outside the capital, the visit to the Real Madrid Soccer Museum, and a very successful cooking class: Visit to LA to Mejorada Visit to Soccer Museum Cooking class LA
Health, Safety and Security: Self Defense Class and Sexual Assault Allegations

This semester, CIEE staff coordinated two sessions with a self-defense instructor who met with our student in the Retiro park after classes. The idea behind this class is for participants to learn and practice safe ways to get out of potentially violent situations without getting injured. Self defense class
Recently CIEE staff also spoke with our spring students about the NBC Today show interview with US college students who accused a tour guide with Discover Excursions, which is based in Seville, of sexual assault and other disturbing behavior that occurred between 2013 and 2017.  CIEE staff explicitly advised against using this tour operator because of these serious accusations that have been made against them.  Staff also cautioned students when booking travel with any tour operator that promotes party-centric excursions. In our meetings, we reviewed the independent travel notification protocol, recommend that students travel with companions who they trust and apply the bystander intervention tactics that we discussed in our orientation if a participant sees and determine that a friend might need help. The majority of our students travel together in groups when visiting other cities outside of Madrid and have not used travel operators for any excursions to other European cities.

Welcome to Additional CIEE Staff Members

Our team is growing. This spring we welcome two additional CIEE staff members, who are collaborating full time on various tasks and responsibilities that ensure a smooth running of our programs. We are especially pleased because it allows for additional interaction and support with our participants. Francisco Pascual, worked previously with CIEE Sevilla, and moved to Madrid to join our team in mid-March- as our receptionist and support administrator. Fran is now the first face that our students see when the walk into the Global Institute. He helps to advise students with local cultural resources, but also will lend an extra hand with arranging doctor´s appointments, filing insurance claims, organizing mail delivery, etc. Fran also participates in student activities, such as our bike tour of Madrid. Fran
Maria de la Huerga, is originally from Ibiza and a graduate of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Maria spent a year living in California as part of a university exchange program and is thrilled to help organize various activities as program assistant with our Student Life Office. Here is Maria on the kayak activity, seated in front. Maria de la Huerga


Spring 2018 Newsletter Liberal Arts Madrid, Spain


We are happy to share a few highlights of the start of spring 2018 for the Liberal Arts program in Madrid. Participants have started their classes at the host university, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid after a great welcome by our network of CIEE student helpers, the Director of the International School, the U.S. Consul in Madrid, and the on-site CIEE staff team. Of course, we could not miss a group photo in front of Madrid´s Bear Statue located at Puerta del Sol.  Madrid welcome LA
Flat buddies
Welcome 2 Workshop on Health and Safety: "Cultural Tips, Gender, and Bystander in Madrid”

Students attended a two-hour session at the Global Institute on bystander intervention. During the session, participants discussed the cultural context of giving consent with the participation of Spanish students, who helped with roleplay situations of real examples involving past students. CIEE students learned specific vocabulary and appropriate phrases in Spanish to help in social situations. CIEE staff reviewed similarities and differences in body language, such a touch, physical space, etc.

Students also reviewed and discussed social media apps and its use in Spain with their local peers: How do young people communicate and meet each other? What role does social media play and what are necessary security measures for CIEE students who opt to use social media? When should you exchange your telephone details?

This semester there are several LGTBQ+ participants in Madrid. The group discussed the health and safety of transgender and gay students who want to meet and socialize in Madrid. What does it mean when someone offers to buy you a drink? Is that a common cultural behavior or not?  The session ended with a reminder that students should be intentional about their conduct when meeting others and encourage each other to maintain self-awareness. CIEE staff also shared local resources Cultural Meeting GenderSnow Activity with Spanish Peers in Madrid Mountains

Eighteen students signed up to meet with Spanish students and CIEE staff at 7 am on a Saturday morning at the train station and travel 30 minutes to the Guadarrama National park, located in the Madrid mountains and learn about the ecology conservation efforts and participate in a snowshoeing activity.  The guided event included an explanation of the park project´s aims to protect eleven different ecosystems present in the Guadarrama mountains, including the only Iberian examples of "high Mediterranean mountain". In addition to the surprise of a lot of snow, students also had to endure 20F degree temperatures in the early morning.  Students decided not to build a snow igloo but rather find a cafeteria-bar on the mountain edge for some hot chocolate. Afterwards, when the sun came out, students engaged in throwing snowballs and sliding down some slopes.  Students returned in the late afternoon and said they felt physically exhausted after seeing so much nature and mountains. Snow 1
Snow 1 Igloo 1
Igloo 2

Local Cooking Class with Spanish Chef

Students can choose over thirty cultural activities organized by CIEE staff throughout the semester.  But one of the most popular sign-ups each semester is the gathering for some good food. In this activity, students met at the Global Institute and then took public transport to the east of the city.  Participants joined a local chef in preparing some Spanish dishes, such as paella, in a kitchen environment. The interactive class includes a review of ingredient vocabulary, methods of traditional cooking, reading out recipes in Spanish, repeating pronunciation of Spanish words and learning some basic cooking skills. Students in shared apartments can use these ingredients to make food dishes for themselves during the week with others in their accommodation. LA cooking classSpanish Language Exchange

One of the homestay hosts runs a neighborhood cultural space in Lavapiés neighborhood, considered a trendy multicultural area of Madrid with lost of Indian restaurants, Arab tea rooms, and inexpensive Spanish tapas bars. As part of the Spanish language commitment for Liberal Arts students, CIEE organizes a cultural language event with locals so that students get to meet young Madrid residents who are not students at the host university. This optional event took place during the week and allowed for participants to mingle and practice their Spanish skills. El colmo exchange





The Spring 2017 is over. Students packed their luggage and said goodbye to Madrid leaving behind five months of experiences, a period of learning and growing as human beigns, a time to remember, a experience that will impact in their future having access to better opportunities with their command of Spanish and their way they manage differences now. 

The last weeks of the semester were busy. Personal travels around Spain and Europe, meetings Spanish friends, exploring new areas of the city, last classes and final exams, etc. However, our group of students enjoyed the activities the program offered to them which serve as a nice break of such a busy agenda.

In Bilbao we visited the city and stopped by the Guggenheim Museum. The famous building by Frank Ghery attracts tourists from all over the world and our students were asthonished by the modernity and beautiful looks of the building. Jeff Koons' puppy was the favorite for some of the girls who bougth little replicas in the shop.


Bilbao was a great opportunity to approach to the North of the country, its gastronomy and the Euskera, the official language of this autonomous region. 

A tour of the bullring of Madrid was another favorite. Being able to explore on their own the different parts of the plaza was very enjoyable, but even more if a CIEE professor explained the students how bullfight is seen in  Spain, the myths linked to the bulls, a the cultural aspects reflected in this contraverted tradition. 


The tour not only offered a cultural perspective but also a Business and Legal ones. Bullfights are part of an industry that generates a lot of  money, an argument that is is never provided by supporters of the tradition but that it is well consider as part of the tourist and cultural sectors. Students had also access to the views of non-supporters, those groups that fight for animal rights and are against this ancient tradition. Therefore, students could approach bullfighting from a holistic point of view. 


The end of the semester means that students need to be prepared for the departure. Madrid Center Director, Dr. Eero Jerurun, provided a lecture on Re-Entry and how to re-adapt to their lives back in the US. Students found specially interesting terms such as reverse culture shock and felt prepare for a process they did not know of before. 


Urban art has always been a favorite among the students and thus we invited grafitti artist, Jeosm to teach them the in-and-outs of the urban culture in Madrid. Students loved to hear about how young artists invade the public space, how they create their artistic signature or what the best materials are to work with. To end the workshop, students made their own graffiti, that they dedicated to Madrid, the city that has been their home for the past five months.





By Kevon Edmonson

Harvard University

NO REGRETS! That is the phrase that best characterizes my decision to study abroad in Madrid. Well, more than not having regrets, I am enjoying my time abroad. One of my favorite aspects has been traveling during the weekends. As this is my first time in Europe, I have been taking advantage of the relative ease in traveling throughout the EU. Admittedly, it is very easy to completely forget about or even devalue travelling within Spain. In my opinion, that would be a mistake as each region is abound with cultural and geographical differences.

Recently, I went to Valencia for Las Fallas with a friend. During the festival, giant paper-mâché sculptures can be found throughout the city. These giant figures are then burned on the last day of the festival (La Crema). We originally planned to stay throughout the entire weekend, but after struggling to find accommodations we opted to do a day trip. It was about 4 hours there and 4 hours back in a full bus—and totally worth it! We arrived at around 2pm, and left at 2 am.


Once there we wasted no time to see the Fallas. This year, there were quite a few Trump themed once, as Trump has more or less dominated the political dialogue worldwide. I am not quite sure how we missed every one. It might have been due to the fact that we fled the city center to the beach to escape the kids. Not just any kids. Kids armed with 'fuegos artificiales', which exploded left and right in broad daylight. During Independence Day and New Year’s Eve in the United States, the use of fireworks was generally confined to a rather small window during the evening. Here, it seemed as if each child had a wooden box filled with firecrackers.


The beach was without a doubt calmer than the city center, and where we decided to eat dinner. Las Fallas was a big draw to Valencia, but I must admit that I was also there for the paella. My host mom, and so many other Spaniards recommended that I go to Valencia for a great paella. In the end, we sat beach-side at one of the restaurants before returning to the city center and watching La Crema.

10/10 would recommend!





The Spring semester is going well for our group of students. The city is enjoying nice temperatures and beautiful sunny days which invite people to go out and explore the city, its neighborhoods, its cafes and parks or some fo the exhibits held in the Madrid museums. The CIEE cultural agenda has kept our students busy with many interesting activities that helped them to learn more about Spanish culture. 

We travelled to the heart of the country in search of the origins of the Spanish language. We visited the Monastery of Yuso, where a manuscript with the firsts written phrases in Spanish is preserved. Students were especially interested in the way monks lived in the area, the works of local writer Gonzalo de Berceo and the impressive collection of song books. 

Being in La Rioja was a great excuse to discuss the wine culture in Spain and how important this is for the Spanish economy. Rioja is one of the most famous red wines in the world and by paying a visit to a winery helped students were able to learn more about the process of making wine, from the harvest in September to the commerzalitation of products. The winnery, located in El Ciego, is proud to feauture a building designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry, which captures the different colors of grapes and integrates perfectly in an environment that became one of the students' favorite so far.

However, we want students to discover not only those sights that they can find in travel books or made by famous artits,but to explore new areas and different artistic proposals. This is the case of Justo Gallego's cathedral, a building constructed with recycled materials. The main interest of this building is that it is been built just by one man who has been working in this amazing project for more than fifty years. The tour was led by local students living in the area who proudly explained the impact of this construction in the small town of Mejorada del Campo. 


Students' favorite every semester is our Graffiti tour. Urban art is very attractive to our students who photograph murals and other art pieces while we take them around Lavapies, the multicultural quarter of Madrid. A visit to Tabacalera, the old tobacco factory, now filled with big murals created by different artists and the urban garden of Lavapies completed the tour which offered many alternatives for the students' free time.   IMG_6443

 To relax after midterms, we organized a flamenco workshop where students participated enthusiastically. Led by professional dancer Pilar Vega, she explained to students the origins of flamenco and reviewed the basics of it. On a step by step workshop, students where able to follow the chroreographies and play traditional instruments like castanets in an unforgettable evening. 


Spring break is coming and students are ready to travel around Spain and Europe before facing the last part of the semester, improving their Spanish significantly as well as getting acquainted with the local culture. 


madrid, so much to offer


By Isabel Patt

University of Minnesota

Upon spending almost three months in Europe, I have had the great privilege to travel quite a bit. From Amsterdam to Brussels to Bilbao to Sevilla, with more trips planned in the future, finding the balance between taking advantage of this grand opportunity to travel around Europe and to get to know the city in which I live, Madrid, has been interesting. One of the first comments about studying abroad that has stuck with me from the beginning of this program was that students left in June feeling like they did not know Madrid. Though they had traveled the world, most weekends were not spend in Madrid. During the week, they had class and homework, so it was much more difficult to set aside time to explore then. In response to this comment, I made it a point to set aside weekends during which I stay in Madrid. I stayed for two whole weekends in February, and after traveling every weekend in March, I have left the month of April as a time to explore my host city. Those two mere weeks in February showed me more of Madrid than I had seen in the almost month in which I had already been living in the city. Madrid has so much to offer in terms of museums, art, nature, food, (especially my favorite: dessert :D), culture, bars, etc that I would feel quite disappointed in myself come June if I had not taken the time to try and crack the surface of the treasures that await in this city. I want to make it to every barrio and explore the richness of Madrid!




By Reilly Cohn

University of Notre Dame

Between transitioning to a new eating schedule, navigating menus in a different language, and trying new foods, adapting to Spanish cuisine can be a challenge for any student. Before arriving in Madrid in January, I was particularly wary about my future diet. I had gone vegan in June of 2016, and, although I was eager to maintain my new lifestyle while abroad, I was unsure what options I would have in a foreign city. My apprehension, however, was unfounded – it has been more than easy to find vegan food in Madrid.

My homestay host has been incredibly accommodating, and I have loved just about every new dish I’ve tried. My host and her family have gone out of their way in cooking for me; some recipes are pure inventions, and many are variations on classic Spanish dishes. While it is still relatively uncommon to find vegans in Madrid, it is becoming increasingly popular. I am in the process of compiling a growing list of exclusively vegan restaurants, in addition to the many sites that are vegan- and vegetarian-friendly. These restaurants offer a variety of healthy options, from soups and salads to dishes with tofu and seitan. The neighborhoods of Lavapiés and Malasaña in particular have plenty of choices for vegans. I was pleasantly surprised at how many vegan restaurants there are here. There are a few stores that sell specifically vegan groceries and other ecological products, but I have also been able to find most of what I need at the larger grocery stores when I go shopping for my lunches. Even when I go to traditional Spanish restaurants or tapas bars, I am always able to find vegan options, such as fried eggplant and grilled vegetables.

Although sometimes it takes extra effort to maintain a vegan diet while abroad, it has not been nearly as difficult as I had feared. Many of the meals I have tried here in Spain are new favorites that I fully intend to cook for myself when I return to the United States (such as garbanzos and cooked spinach). With so many vegan restaurants, the freedom to cook my own lunches, and the help of my homestay host, my diet in Madrid has never been bland or boring. Since it is so easy to find vegan versions of Spanish staples like croquetas and tortilla de patatas, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything either. This semester has been an amazing opportunity to experience Spanish cuisine while maintaining a lifestyle that is so important to me.



Madrid, even better than I’ve ever imagined

By Jiahui Zhong

Brandeis University

Madrid, even better than I’ve ever imagined. I learnt a bit about the history of Spain before my visit so I had an impression of its amazing culture and glorious history. But when I arrived here, I was in great shock constantly when I saw these gorgeous-looking cathedrals and buildings in the streets. I feel like I’m wondering in history, and appreciating how intelligent and diligent Spanish people have always been. I can’t believe my eyes! I always love historical sites; therefore I could never get bored in Spain, especially in Madrid, where countless museums and beautiful constructions are located. I live right next to Madrid Río (the river), and I can bike along the river anytime after school accompanied by fresh air and beautiful sunset. The Plaza Mayor is within walking distance and it is surrounded by my favorite restaurants. In addition, I am currently taking a course at UC3M called “Spanish Golden Age Literature” and learning about Spain’s rich literature and culture during the 16th and 17th century including topics of the Renaissance, Humanism, lyric movements, the novel of chivalry, etc. This opens up a new world to me and I am quickly falling in love with Spain once again.




By Matthew Zinner

Tufts University

New.  That is how I would describe my first two months in Madrid.  The short time I have been here has not been like anything I have ever experienced before.  Speaking, listening, and thinking in Spanish all day, everyday has been completely new for me.  Eating dinner at 10pm, traveling to different cities, and seeing the school cafeteria serve shots, all new.  I now take for granted aspects of my daily life, that two months ago would have been the coolest thing in the world to me.

 Every morning and afternoon I walk through Plaza Mayor on my way to campus.  That square is older than the United States, and I stroll through, half asleep or ready to be home after a long day, like it is nothing.  

 This is not to say that I am not appreciative of the incredible opportunity I have been afforded, rather than when you are surrounded by the spectacular, the impressive almost becomes mundane.  When you come back from visiting the Vatican, the massive church you see daily seems a little smaller. 

 That is why I am really glad I have the opportunity to write this blog.  In writing, I have had the chance to take stock of all the incredible things I have seen and done in such a short period of time.  February just ended, and I have already formed a lifetime of memories.  But I still have three months left, and I cannot wait to appreciate all the new experiences on the way.  



classes at Carlos III University


By Evan Fritsch

Belmont Universtiy

Taking classes at UC3M has been a great experience! I am in four direct-enroll courses, and they are all super interesting. My favorite right now would probably be "Lengua Española aplicada a los medios" because we're learning about how Spanish broke away from Latin and evolved into its own language. The teaching style is a bit different and might take some getting used to, but it's an easy adjustment if you go into it with an open mind. It can be intimidating to speak up in class at first, but you just need to be bold at first and then it gets easier from there! I HIGHLY recommend taking as many direct enroll courses as possible because it will definitely give you the most authentic experience you can get!