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).
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.