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6 posts from October 2013


FALL 2013, ISSUE # 2



As part of a worldwide event, CIEE Madrid sponsored the screening of "Girl Rising" a documentary directed by Richard Robbins narrated by Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchet, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, Liam Neeson and Anne Hathaway which raises awareness on the situation of millions of young women who do not have access to education. The film tells the stories of nine girls in different parts of the world who face obstacles through education. This inspiring film was offered to the university community and served to innaugurate the new film screening room at Carlos III University, an space that counts with the newest technologies and comodities for this type of events.



This semester the Liberal Arts group went on its weekend excursion to the Spanish island of Tenerife, part of the Canary archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. The purpose of the trip was to expose students to a very different part of the country that has many cultural offerings like the local cuisine, the economy related to bananas, the rich biodiversity and the island's history linked to Columbus' sea travels in the 15th century. Students were amazed with the view of the dolphins  in one of the sea activities CIEE organized for them.

The group also enjoyed a trekking activity to climb to the Teide's peak, the highest mountain in Spain which happens to be an inactive volcano. This part of the excursion uncovered a moonlike landscape as well as gave a privileged view of the closest islands.


Swimming in natural pools, visiting old little "pueblos", learning about traditional architecture and enjoying the subtropical weather of the island at the beach, were some of the activities that made of this weekend an unforgettable experience. Many students defined this place as "paradise".  


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Ursinus College student working in the Hospital laboratory.

 Studying abroad represents a big impact in a student's career. Improving their language and intercultural skills is always well appreciated when it comes to search for a job. However, doing an internship really makes the difference. Students who decide to devote extra time to learn through experience in the field of their interest, find their reward shortly after they return home. This semester two of the Liberal Arts students are taking the CIEE internship course working at two interesting sites. One student is working in the laboratory of a hospital where she can learn about Biochesmistry as she wants to have a career in this field. The other one is working in the English Department of a school, helping teachers with their classes and developing her skills for her future job as a teacher in the U.S.. Undoubtedly, they are making the most of their Study Abroad experience in Madrid. 



This semester, the host institution has inaugurated its new building which houses postgraduate programs as well as the new Humanities Library. This building is a beautiful piece of architecture which has taken good care of materials and spaces for students' comfort. The building counts with an extraordinary use of natural light, open spaces to study, classrooms, a media library, and the screening room which was inaugurated this month with a CIEE sponsored activity. 


The new building also holds a beautiful treasure: the room for old books where students can consult books from the 15th century in a space that invites to the intellectual retreat.




One of the old accesses to Toledo's city wall

Location of Madrid in the center of the country is perfect when it comes to explore other cities and expose students to History. Toledo and Segovia where two destinations the Liberal Arts group  learned about the Spanish past and all the political, religious and social conflicts that constitutes what Spain is today. Visiting old synagogues and mosques, learning about the Roman legacy in the Peninsula, admiring the works of art masters such as El Greco, walking around the rooms where Queen Isabella took important decisions are some examples of the privileges students participating in the LA Program. These day trips bring the knowledge of History to an easy reach for students.


The Roman aqueduct in  Segovia: an amazing engineering construction from the 1st century



Every semester, CIEE, in collaboration with the UC3M Language Department, organizes an event to help American students meet local peers. This year we called it "Meet & Talk" and consisted in an "intercambio" where our students were introduced to a group of Spaniards studying at UC3M. Through a series of fun activities they broke the ice and were able to find people with similar interests who can become good friends during the semester helping our students to profit their experience in Madrid even more.   




By Cristina Benavente

University of Colorado Boulder


Greetings from MADRID! 

Being here has taught me so many things but more than anything, that there is ALWAYS something to do. A great passion of mine is theater and before coming I knew that Madrid had a theater culture that could easily compete with that of New York or Buenos Aires. The Madrid productions have not ceased to surprise me with amazing acting, stage work and the audience atmosphere is electric.

I have attended a production of the musical Hoy No Me Puedo Levantar, a story set in the 80’s of Madrid of how a guy and his friends try to make in the in the music business. It is based upon the songs of the band Mecano and will whisk you off to the Movida times of Madrid. I truly recommend this musical to anyone who has the chance to see it.

By mere chance it just so happens that my host parents own their own theater company where they do everything from directing to acting! If musical theater isn’t your vibe then I totally recommend going to the plays at Plot Point. They have a wide variety of plays that will test your Spanish and more than anything improve it. After each play the audience can stick around to meet the actors and comment on the play, this accompanied by a glass of wine of course.

And if your looking for something completely different be sure that you can find something to go to. Madrid theater is one to take chances on their audience to experience something new.

The Hole is a caberet comedy show with lots of different amazing tones to it. There is plenty of humor intertwined with not your average love story. I had so much fun interacting with the play and laughing at a great script.

My recommendation is for you to at least see one play while you’re in Madrid. It really opens your eye to what Madrid can offer. I still have a few more shows on my list so I am sure that just by looking at what is out there you can find something that will catch your eye.




a glorious celebration of joy and color

By Tina Vivio
Northeastern University

This weekend Alyssa, Holly, and I competed in Madrid’s Holi Run, which is essentially a glorious celebration of joy and color. It was sweet because it appeared as if all of Madrid’s youth were at the event celebrating with us. Talk about the most crowded metro ride in eternity, where everyone was wearing the same white t-shirt and trying to get to the same place. One girl opened up her bag of color on the train and spilled green dust all over some businessman’s black suit. I’m sure he got some odd looks when he showed up to work that day. Probably the craziest part of the race was the long, nearly two-mile trek to the starting line from the metro stop. I literally felt like I was on the Camino de Santiago. In true Spanish fashion, we saw various people drinking jars of sangria along the route. It was ten in the morning and they were about to run a race, but nothing keeps Spanish people from their sangria.
Spanish people certainly know how to enjoy themselves. When we finally made it to the starting point of the race, everyone was having one hell of a time. There was music, dancing, and explosions of color every time the race coordinators counted down from ten. The once black asphalt was tie dyed with pink, orange, yellow, blue, and green. Everyone’s shirts and faces were stained with color and smiles. Some people had brought their dogs with them to run the race, and the dogs too were fully enjoying the party.

The race coordinators were slowly letting groups of people through the starting gate, so while we waited, we danced and sang and shouted and cheered and threw color over ourselves and strangers alike. It was impossible not to be happy in that moment. We finally made it through the crowd and onto the race route. This was not a race to be taken seriously. No one was legit competing for the title. However, Alyssa seemed to be on a mission to win. She ran like a bullet through the throngs of people, which was super difficult because there were so many of them and they were all walking or jogging at a leisurely pace so that they could enjoy the color. Holly and I tried to keep up, but ultimately we all ended up walking the majority of the route because there really was no other way. There were checkpoints along the route, and at each one there were people throwing different colors over the runners. At the checkpoints, then, there were thick layers of colored dust all over the ground, so runners would stop and scoop it up to chuck in their friends’ faces. At the blue checkpoint, Holly took a huge pile of blue dust and put it on my neck and down my back and for the remainder of the run, I had clouds of blue dust falling from me with every step. Near the end of the race there was a slight hill. Right before the start of the hill, there was a yellow checkpoint, and then at the top of the hill was a pink one. So everyone going up the hill was yellow and everyone going down it was pink. It was quite a cool sight to see. At the pink checkpoint, however, there was a girl with a hose. Colored dust and water don’t mix well together. I got sprayed directly in the face a good four or five times, which washed off a lot of my color and made all the colors on my shirt run together. Holly later said the effect made it look like I had gotten buffalo wing sauce all over my face. Great. Holly’s face was a beautiful piece of artwork with hints of all the colors of the rainbow and a strong presence of blue that kinda made her look like a tall smurf, and I just looked like someone who can’t eat without making a huge mess. After getting through the pink checkpoint, we decided to run it on home. At the finish line, there was free soda and water.


However, at this point, I had to go pee really bad and I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy my Fanta until I did so. There were no bathrooms anywhere. Thus, I finally became a true Spaniard and went pee in a bush. Peeing in public places is classic Spanish style, so I felt pretty accomplished. Afterwards, I chugged my Fanta, we took a bunch of photos, and we headed back to the starting point where people were continuing the music, dancing, and celebration. There, we witnessed some pretty funny things. A guy with water wings on being held up by his friends and pretending to swim through the crowd.

Another guy who was completely naked and struttin’ his stuff. We chilled there for a while until our hunger consumed us and we decided to go home and eat. All in all, it was a super fun, fantastic time!


and after, with our program coordinator. Sonia,  who we met at the finish line




Bienvenidos a Tenerife
Por Megan Phelan
Yale University

Para el gran viaje de nuestro programa, fuimos a las Islas Canarias—a la isla  de Tenerife. Fue increíble, como un paraíso. Tenerife es la más grande de todas las siete Islas Canarias. En el centro, hay un volcán inactivo, el Teide. Alrededor de la isla hay acantilados muy altos que se levantan sobre el agua tan azul como el zafiro.

Llegamos el jueves por la tarde y fuimos a un restaurante típico de la isla. Me encanta probar comida de cada lugar que visito; por eso, era perfecto para mí. En las islas, las comidas típicas incluyen papas arrugás con mojo (papas hervidas con su propia piel y servidas con salsa mojo), gofio (un tipo de harina que puede servir para abrir una comida), morcilla, y plátanos fritos.  Los plátanos son muy populares a la isla: ¡tienen una talla pequeñita, pero un gran sabor dulce!

Los delfines

Nos despertamos temprano el viernes para tomar un travesía en barco al ‘Acantilado de los Gigantes’. Vimos delfines y ballenas y pudimos nadar en el mar al lado de los acantilados. Fue muy impresionante. Descansamos en la playa y disfrutamos del sol. Las playas de Tenerife tienen arena negra por la lava y piedras del volcán. Después de la playa, fuimos a dar una vuelta por la ciudad Garachico. Allí, nos fijamos en una piscina natural en que el agua del mar estaba en una sección rectangular hecho por los acantilados. Podíamos nadar en la “piscina,” disfrutar su belleza, y cuidar de la fuerza de sus olas. Había cangrejos rojos y grises que cubrían las paredes, añadiendo aún más a la belleza natural. La piscina natural era una sorpresa cuando estaba paseando por la ciudad, pero fue una de los mejores partes del día.

Nadamos al lado del barco
la playa
La piscina natural en Garachico. Nota: el chico haciendo backflip al agua

Después, cenamos en una pizzería—pero, no era cualquier pizzería, esta pizzería es muy famosa entre los locales por sus buenas pizzas. Su pizza estrella tiene rúcula, queso parmesano, y tomates secos. Una desventaja de vivir en España es que las verduras no son tan comunes en las comidas. Todos los jamones, carnes y quesos son muy ricos, pero, después de un tiempo, ¡quieres verduras también! Por eso, la pizza con esas verduras fue exactamente lo que quería.

La pizza Rugantino
El mar al anochecer

El Sábado, subimos al Parque Nacional del Teide. Montamos en un teleférico a la cima del volcán y andamos a pie el resto hasta la cima. Había una vista espectacular de toda la isla. Además, pudimos
ver dos de las otras Islas Canarias desde allí. No puedo explicar la grandiosidad de esa vista, pero no se parecía a nada que haya visto antes. Para continuar la excursión, paseamos por los Roques de Garcia abajo del volcán donde puede verse todo del volcán. El volcán fue mi parte favorita de mi viaje porque mostró la diversidad de la isla: tiene playas bonitas y un clima tropical, pero también tiene montañas y un volcán. Soy de Miami, un lugar sub-tropical, y voy a la playa con bastante frecuencia cuando estoy allí, pero la tierra allí es muy plana con ninguna altitud. En Tenerife, ¡disfrutamos la playa y una montaña volcánica en el mismo día!

MeganPaco, Taylor, yo, Sonia y Erin durante la excursión
Las vistas desde el Teide
MeganLos Roques de García

Visitamos un pueblo típico canario que se llama La Orotava. Paseamos por el pueblo y su plaza, los jardines Victoria y la casa de los balcones (un edificio muy famoso en la isla). Cenamos en un estaurante en el pueblo (un guachinche) y comimos carnes a la plancha, cocinado y servido todo en un estilo típico de la isla.

La Casa de los Balcones
Megan     La Vista desde La Orotava

Después de cenar, algunos de nosotros decidimos salir a cantar en un karaoke. Fue muy divertido porque todos nosotros nos lo pasamos muy bien y siempre es muy divertido pasar tiempo juntos. También, aunque el karaoke es un poco tonto, es muy divertido cuando se hace con buenos amigos.

Tuvimos la mañana libre el domingo para descansar y relajarnos. Fui a la playa en el Puerto de la Cruz. con algunos de mis amigos. Nuestro hotel tenía vistas a la playa y solo había como quince minutos andando. Salimos del aeropuerto de Tenerife a Madrid por la tarde.

Tenerife durante el ocaso

Fue el número perfecto de días para vacacionar y un viaje que disfruté muchísimo. Era la mezcla perfecta entre visitar los sitios, conocer la cultura y la naturaleza de la isla, y relajarnos. Pero, ahora estoy lista para seguir mi vida como una madrileña.






By Brendan Murphy
Northeastern University
When I was thinking of what to write for my blog my list of ideas was incredibly large.  While this is not something but of the ordinary, I've only been here for 4 weeks and for this amount of time it is incredible.  So, I tried narrowing the list down and will try to give me best summary of useful things for students who will be studying in Madrid in the future.
First off is my host family.  In one easily put sentence: they are more than I could ever ask for.  I could not be happier.  Actually right now I am watching Wreck it Ralph in Spanish with Guillermo and Ines.  Guillermo is 7 years old and Ines is 4.  I am staying with their parents Barbara and Gabriel who really make sure I feel right at home, here in Spain.  When I first got off the bus and met them, of course it was nerve-racking.  I've actually worked for a student exchange company in the past and know how hard it is to match families with students.  Having this experience under my belt actually reassured me.  I knew the company CIEE would take what they knew about me and would try to match my interests with my family.

Actually, I barely remember what I said in my profile about what kind of person I was.  Anyway, when I entered their apartment (a 4th floor apt in the neighborhood of Chamberi), I was presently surprised.  They said it was built in the 20s, so yes, the windows are huge and it has a very open feel.  Actually reminds me of boardwalk empire a bit because windows in the 20s are always giant.  Besides this, I noticed a poster for Kill Bill and Indiana Jones.  Gabriel explained that these were some of his favorite movies, and I couldn't believe it because I love so many of the same movies when we further discussed film.  Both Gabriel and Barbara are architects, and they love all things American.  There's a giant framed poster of the Empire State Building in their house, as well as a calendar with Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, the famous scene from Casablanca, and more.  I also love classic film so couldn't believe what an amazing job the program did to pair me up with this family.
Also, the kids are amazing.  I was telling my other friends in the program that I could never be upset here, coming home to happy children who are always joking around and having fun. It makes me feel like a kid again.  I can't believe how much they like me too. They are always happy when I hang out with them and play around.
I brought some gifts for them, like a few children's books to learn English and also a few kites (which I realized isn't a normal thing for a city like Madrid, but Gabriel said they could use them on the beach some time). 
A small story I have the relates to a good experience and also to my new host brother and sister, is about how I bought a guitar my first week here.  I was told by a local that there is no craigslist here.  Instead there is a website called  It is exactly the same thing as craigslist, but is even better in my opinion.  I needed a second hand guitar because I'm not looking to lose all my money here the first week.  Anyway, I found a nice Spanish guitar that I was interested in and I got in contact with the seller.  I talked briefly to him on the phone and he seemed very nice although I couldn't tell how old he is.  I'm an avid craigslist buyer in the US so I'm always  cautious and usually don't go to buy something alone.  But, after waking up on my 3rd day here, I read an email from the seller that said another was interested.  I quickly set up a time in a public place because I needed this guitar.  It had the classic Spanish look and shape which I am in love with.  So, after meeting in public, it turned out the seller was a very young architect.  He was extremely nice and gave me an incredible deal.  I even tried to give him more money but he wouldn't take it.  I could hardly believe it.  Also, this guitar is in mint condition.  It is made of cedar wood and also the back is made from bubinga wood, which is gorgeous.  So, after selling me the guitar he made it very clear that if I ever wanted anything like recommendations for restaurant, or if I ever felt like calling him to practice Spanish he would be happy to help.  He too, wants to learn English.  I plan on emailing him soon to tell him how I play the guitar over an hour every day and love it.  I've only been learning for 2 months now but am improving greatly.  As a piano player, I need something musical to occupy my time here.  Anyway, at my apt. here, I'll play my guitar and Ines will take out her Hello Kitty plastic, pink guitar and strum along with me.  I'll even give her one of my guitar picks to use when we play.  Guillermo will stack up books and jam along with us also.  I keep telling them that we're in a band now, we just need a name.  I've never considered being in a band in my life, but now, I'm leaning towards it. 
Another small story before I'm finished writing is from my first concert here in Madrid.  I'm obsessed with garage rock or lo-fi rock (basically anything similar to The White Stripes) and I saw a band from California was playing in Madrid off a record label I like called Burger Records.  I had no clue who the band was but knew that they have played with some of my favorite people.  They are called the Cosmonauts and the concert was at the Wurlitzer Ballroom (less of a ballroom and more of a small dive bar).  But, I dragged two friends from my program to go with me, Chloe and Tina, and they loved it.  The first band called Stereosaurio was incredible.  I couldn't help but head-band throughout all of their set.  It just felt right.  Anyway, during the last song of the Cosmonauts the guitar player (the one on the right who is wearing a dress) gave me a free drink.  He was now dressed in regular clothes and looked like a chill dude.  So, when I asked him "why?" he said in a heavy Spanish accent, "Well... because you enjoyed our concert."  I couldn't believe it so I said where's your t shirts or cd's?? I need one of each now.  He said, "sorry, man we don't have anything to sell."  I couldn't believe this, too.  So, after the show he Facebook friended me and said I'd get free entry to their other shows as well as a special made t-shirt.  Not bad for my 1st week here.  Also, because it was a Tuesday night, it was easy to get first row (actually practically on the stage), and I got to talk to the Cosmonauts after the show and they were just as nice as Stereosaurio (check them both out on spotify).  I told The Cosmonauts that I'd get their new vinyl if they all signed it for me which they immediately did.  It couldn't have been a better experience.
Anyway, I think I've  written way to much.  I also wanted to talk about going to see the Davis Cup Tennis match (I'll include a picture) and seeing Nadal watching the match in the stands the week after he won the US Open.  I also wanted to talk about my favorite music shop here called Holy Cuervo.  Also, about Cien Monditos (the best restaurant chain for beer here, una jarra costs only 1 euro [bigger than a pint]), also about my trip to Toledo (I'll include pics), me buying a skateboard the day after buing a guitar (which I use every single day here also and this is
the best city I've ever skated in my life)  but I clearly have been rambling on for too long now. 
I'll have to bid my adieu for the sake of attempting not to lose your interest.  Oh also, they're barely any bugs here.  Nobody uses screens in their widows which is crazy because in CT where I live, I'd have 100 moths in my room in less than an hour.  I literally can't get over the lack of insects here.  It is nuts. 
Anyway, please feel free to email me at if you have any questions at all, I'd be happy to elaborate more about anything I mentioned in this blog.  I hope I spelled everything correctly but I know I didn't because I'm writing this on evernote which doesn't correct spelling.  Oh well.





By Miriam Cruz

Claremont McKenna College

Adjusting to life in Spain has been a trip.
Not in any negative way whatsoever, but in a very different way than expected. I’ve noticed that the subtle differences that surprise me the most were the ones I thought I was most prepared for.

“The schedule in Spain is different – better get used to doing everything later!”

Ok ok. I was ready for this, even before the millionth person felt the need to give me a heads up. What I was not ready for was seeing children out and about – eating dinner with their families – while I was walking through the streets at 11 pm.

The first time I saw it it took me by such surprise – I texted my friend immediately. Don’t these kids have bedtimes?! How are they running around the streets at  midnight?? I’m still trying to get out of this “American” mindset and accept the fact that it’s ok for kids to be out past the U.S. “bedtime”.

“Old” in Spain is not the same as “old” in America.

It’s true – in America when we think of old we think 100 or 200 years old. This difference really hit me when I was at Colegio S. Ildefonso (the elementary school I’m volunteering at). They were giving me a tour of the school and explaining to me how it’s really small because it’s so old. And because it’s in Madrid – schools here just aren’t built the same way as in the states. There’s way less room to work with. Then they told me it’s the oldest school in Madrid.

That’s pretty cool, I thought. I accepted what they told me and continued listening. But it wasn’t until later that I realized just how old the school really was. After my tour a few of the parents on the board took me out for coffee. While we were talking I asked them more about the school and they told me that no one actually knows how old it is. What do you mean no one knows how old it is? I asked them. Apparently, there are letters from the king of Spain from just before Christopher Columbus sailed to America that reference the school. Which makes the school 521 years old, at least. At least. That’s wild.

“People kiss each other on the cheek to greet each other in Spain”.

Ok. Simple enough. Spain isn’t the only country that does that (or some variation of that). I didn’t realize what a huge commitment this was. When they say that they kiss each other on each cheek once to greet what they mean is that every single person you greet you kiss on both cheeks to say hello and to say goodbye – regardless of how many people are in the group you’re saying hello or goodbye to! KEY caveat. The greeting can be a huge commitment! But they never skimp on it, plus when there’s a big group and you go around kissing all of them it might feel kind of awkward but it’s even more awkward to pick an arbitrary stopping point and offend the half of the group that you neglected to properly greet.

Example: I was out with my host mom at her friend’s bar. We stayed until about 1:30, and then I got really tired because it was the day after I landed in Madrid and I hadn’t gotten much sleep. So we decided to leave. My host mom said we were leaving, so I headed for the door. A few seconds later I realized she was no longer behind me, so I backtracked. She was saying bye to everyone. I felt really rude because it didn’t even occur to me to say bye to the grandpa I had just met, or the teenage girl who was waiting tables, or one of the musicians who had been playing. So I went and said bye too. Eventually we made it out the door, where we ran into a group of 8 or 10 musicians who had performed that night. My mom told them we were leaving, but we must have stayed at least another 5 minutes just saying goodbye to each other and kissing each other’s cheeks. I can’t imagine spending this much time saying hello or goodbye to anyone back home in the states. It’s usually just an “alright gotta go I’ll call you later!” or “see you tomorrow!” or maybe even a hug, but nothing close to the commitment of Spaniards.

Overall, the transition to Spain has been nothing short of amazing. Although Madrid – according to many Europeans – is not the most beautiful city in Europe, I think that its culture and charm more
than make up for any splendors it might be missing.