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4 posts from February 2014




By Megan Fine

Colgate University

On Tuesday afternoon, our lovely Sonia Sales, Coordinator of Student Services,  directed the first of two “Meet and Talk” sessions.  These get-togethers are designed to help CIEE and Spanish students meet one another and practice their Spanish and English.  We had a good showing and a great mix of CIEE kids and Spaniards—nineteen of us in total, split half-and-half.

I was nervous when I showed up—even after three weeks in Madrid, talking in Spanish is sometimes intimidating—but I had nothing to worry about.  We mingled for a few minutes over some (non-alcoholic) drinks and snacks, and then counted off and divided into groups.  The Spaniards sat down at a few different tables, and we CIEE students joined them, until Sonia said the word and we switched so everyone got to meet everyone.  We spoke in one language to begin at each table and then switched halfway through—sometimes mid-sentence!

Meet and Talk was such a great opportunity, and I completely understand why it is always a favorite event of everyone who attends.  Meeting Spanish students on campus is certainly possible on one’s own, but this session guaranteed that everyone in attendance genuinely wanted to meet and learn from each other.  We all had such a good time that long after Sonia told us we were free to go, we were still talking, laughing, and adding one another on Facebook so we could meet up again.  In fact, as I write this blog, my new friend Ramon just sent me a message!

Many thanks to Sonia for arranging this event. :)





By Rachel Reed

Gordon College

Wine Tour!!

Everyone was in attendance for our first excursion together after orientation. The trip began at the Bodega Grupo Yllera in Rueda.  As we entered Alek, and his sarcastic ways, commented “Guys, what’s that smell?” …WINE!  Here the tour guide explained to us the techniques and machinery used to create different types of wine: vino tinto (red wine), vino blanco (white wine) y vino espumoso (sparkling wine? …the one with all the bubbles).  After touring the factory, we journeyed our way down to the basement where the wine is stored in barrels for different amounts of time.  At the end of the tour, we were able to try a glass of white wine and one of red wine, while eating the queso de oveja (cheese from a sheep) and chorizo. ¡Qué rico!  


After wine tasting, we headed down the road to Bodega labertino: El hilo de Ariadna.  This labyrinth-bodega follows the story of King Minos of Crete based on Greek mythology where every year seven boys and seven girls were sent from Athens, to be sacrificed to the minotaur who lived in the center of the labyrinth, “Just like the Hunger Games!!!!”.  The story follows Prince Theseus of Athens who receives help from Princess Ariadna of Crete who gives him a sword and a ball of string.  After killing the minotaur, Theseus finds his way out of the labyrinth following the string he tied to the entrance of the maze.  As a group we were interested in both the story and in taking as many pictures as possible in this ancient looking labyrinth, lined in parts with old wine bottles, painted murals of Ariadna and Theseus, the statue of the headless Minotaur and the wine skin goat bag (with the four legs and everything!).  It was exciting to journey through an old labyrinth-bodega with Paco, Sonia and the rest of the group!


Tordesillas is a small historic town in Castilla-León one of Spains autonomous communities.  This city is known for being the place where Queen Juana I de Castilla or Juana “la loca” was locked away as prisoner for 46 years by her son Carlos I de España/V de Alemania who wanted for himself all the power of the crown.  Upon arrival, we had some free time to eat lunch and explore the town on our own.  Afterwards, we walked to the Royal Convent of Santa Clara which overlooked one of Spain’s greatest rivers el río Duero.  We were able to take a tour through the beautiful, historic convent with its magnificent 14th century architecture.

Finally, we ended the trip at the Museo del Tratado where the Treaty of Tordesillas between Portugal and Spain was signed in 1494.  This is the treaty that determined which territories belonged Portugal (Brazil and parts of Africa) and which to belonged to Spain (parts of South and North America). 

Although this was a full day’s trip, I loved spending time with everyone while learning more about Spain’s rich history.  It is such a privilege to be living and learning in a new country alongside such great friends and mentors!  I know that this is only the first of the many wonderful experiences we will have together as a group. What a great way to start off this new study abroad adventure!  





 2014-01-25 12.21.37 1                                At the entrance of the Prado Museum before visiting Velazquez and Goya's masterpieces

The Spring 2014 Orientation began by welcoming students at the airport. CIEE Madrid Spanish Students Network helped the Student Services Coordinator to greet students in Barajas' main terminals and take them home to meet their homestays. After some resting time, the group met for the first time with the Madrid staff to get to know each other and find people with similar interests through a fun activity.

The day after, presentations began reviewing all the important information students need to learn to survive during the first days, staying safe and adapting to their new homes smoothly. A welcome lunch was organized in a new and trendy spot where all our hosts shared a relaxed atmosphere while building a new bond.                                                                            _MG_0636

The Orientation week brought a lot of opportunities to learn about the city as well as to start getting ready for classes. There were not only sessions on academic life or class registration, but also individual academic meetings with the Program RD to choose courses and resolve any doubts. This was combined with walks around the city center, a guided visit to the Prado Museum, a bike stroll along the river, a graffiti tour, a taste of tapas at a popular place, a walk along the Retiro park, and even the celebration of the 21st birthday of one of the students in the program.Dacf959a-2294-4dd8-b0b1-692bc26730f7Several days after their arrival, Orientation continued at the university campus. Students were welcomed by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid Vice-rector who stressed the contribution of foreign students in the internationalization of the campus, on of the goals of a university that has been ranked among the world's best. Presentations were held by professor on their courses,  in addition to sessions by different university organizations and students providers who discussed cultural and leisure opportunities.  The university Orientation ended with a security talk by a US Embassy Representative which students highly appreciated.


Appetizers and refreshments at the university welcome event.

To end this fantastic week, students were invited to dinner and see a Flamenco show which was a colorful closing to an Orientation intented to make students at ease with the city and the program and that accomplished its goal without any problems.


_MG_0665   Becoming "madrileños" in San Ginés chocolate factory 

Learning Spanish traditions is an important goal to start helping students with their intercultural development of our students. Therefore, the winter temperatures offered the perfect context to attend Madrid's most emblematic chocolate factory, known for its famous "churros con chocolate" that attract thousands of madrileños every year. The tasty hot chocolate and the warm churros was a way to introduce some of the local habits to students and show them what many Spaniards do to socialize.  



 A monument to the bull in an area known for its rich livestocks

For the first day trip of the Spring 2014 we choose to visit Tordesillas. This medieval little town in the province of Valladolid, was very important in the 15 and 16 centuries, when the kings of Spain and Portugal signed a treaty (Tordesillas Treaty) dividing the Atlantic Ocean and its conquered lands overseas. Visiting the Museum dedicated to this treaty, the LA group learned that the concept of America was created when it was not geographically explored in full, merely checked with the use of old maps that led to the important consequences and arbitrary decisions. Tordesillas is also known  for being the place where Queen Juana (daughter of the Catholic Monarchs) was locked inside her home by order of her son, Emperor Charles V. She remained there for 46 years in order to have her removed from the throne.  This little town also is the place for the magnificent Monastery of Santa Clara, a precious jewel of Moorish art beautifully preserved where nine closure nuns are living today without any outsider contact


Barrels of wine for an unforgettable visit

The visit was completed with a tour at a local winery, where the group went over the process of making wine. Tordesillas is in the area of Rueda, famous for its quality white wines, and this was the perfect opportunity to learn the differences in the process in making white, red and sparkling wines, the different type of grapes used to elaborate each of them and the different needs of every type of wine. Some wine tasting followed with the consumption of some local products such as chorizo or cheese providing a new learning scenario about Spanish habits and the culture of wine. The visit culminated with an enjoyable and fun  walk along the old cellar.


La foto (7)

During the month of January, Professor Bret Linford, a Spanish language instructor from Indiana University, came to Madrid to work on a professional project towards the completion of his doctoral thesis. He invited CIEE students to participate as volunteers in his research project, which consists in the  assessment of the impact of the study abroad experience of American university students, focusing on in their improvement of a second language while abroad. Bret conducted and recorded a series of interviews to study the student's fluency acquisition. Through an ongoing process, he will compare the Spanish progress levels of the CIEE participants. This research will be very significant and of high interest for professors of Spanish, college advisors, and Study abroad professionals, providing innovative insights into second language acquisition.


CIEE Patricia perfil (2)

CIEE Madrid is pleased to announce the incorporation of Patricia Witzig as Housing Coordinator and Administrator of its Madrid study center. Since last month, Patricia is working at the Madrid study center bringing to it her expertise in the field after working several years in Study Abroad. Originally from New York, she has been living in Spain for years after completing her BA at SUNY-Binghamton (including studying abroad in Seville, Spain) and completed Master's course work in Antwerp, Belgium. Patricia is very dedicated to students integration and a good new colleague of the CIEE Madrid stuy center.



Enjoying the Walking Tour of Madrid

By Derek Dedeker

Texas Christian University

After arriving from a long international flight, what a relief it was to have CIEE staff waiting for us at the Madrid airport. From the moment we arrived, we felt welcome. Every staff member knew our names and everything! Moving into my homestay will be one of the greatest experiences I will have here abroad. It was a ton of fun to find out where I was staying, what the living situation was, and to learn about the area of the city I was living in. Right from the start, we bonded as a group. With fun presentations and tons of activities during Orientation, we started to become a family and become prepared for the upcoming semester. In just one week, we learned nearly everything we needed to know. The week covered all sorts of topics from safety, to signing up for classes, to what types of fun things to do in Madrid. We took tours of the University Carlos III campus, found out where our classes would be, how to take the metro/train, and which buildings to go to in the city if we ever needed anything. They helped us around the city so we didn’t feel extremely lost. Everything I was nervous about disappeared in that first week thanks to our Orientation.


At the Crystal Palace in Retiro Park

Derek3The group during the Graffiti Tour

But, my favorite parts of the week were the awesome activities and trips we took together. Early on, we took a huge tour of Madrid seeing everything from the Royal Palace to where to get the best tapas, churros, and hot chocolate. We also went on an awesome bike ride along a beautiful river on the outskirts of Madrid and saw an awesome Flamenco show with a fantastic dinner. Additionally, we went to El Retiro, the famous Prado Museum, and experienced a fascinating Graffiti Tour throughout the city. There truly was something for everyone. I was shocked at how much stuff we did together! This week was a perfect opportunity to bond as a group and feel comfortable in the big city of Madrid. Little by little, we felt ourselves adapting to the Spanish culture and the norms of society. What a great start to what is going to be an even better semester.


Flamenco night with CIEE Madrid Student Services Coordinator, Sonia Sales