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8 posts from October 2014



By Bruce Bausk (Tufts University)

It’s wild to think that I’m already halfway through my semester here in Madrid! I’ve been in the city for 8 weeks, but it feels like I’ve only been here for 2.   As we’re halfway through, I feel like this is a good time to reflect on some goals that I made before coming abroad, and make a couple of new ones!


(Wait, is that me on the left or right?  I can’t tell the difference. Cervantes and I are just such #twins.) 

Goal 1- Immerse myself in Spanish culture.   Living in a home stay, I feel that I’m getting to know Spanish culture well (as well as you can in 8 weeks). I’m surrounded by Spaniards and Spanish customs, so I definitely think I’m learning a lot about Spanish culture in day to day life! I’ve also been able to experience some “high culture” in Spain.  The art history class that I am taking goes to museums every other week (what better way to learn about art?), and my host has invited me to go with him to the opera and the theatre. 


(Teatro Real de Madrid.  #socultured)

Goal 2- Improve my Spanish abilities. Another benefit of the home stay is the Spanish immersion.  We are constantly speaking in Spanish in the house, which undoubtedly has improved my Spanish abilities!  


(Side note: my home-stay has cats and they are adorable.)

Goal 3- Travel. I’ve had the awesome opportunity to travel all over Spain!  I’ve been able to tour the Royal Palace in Aranjuez, try mazapán in Toledo, eat paella on the beach in Valencia, visit the Real Alcázar in Sevilla, and experience the distinct culture and food of País Vasco in San Sebastián.  While it is super easy to travel throughout Europe, I’ve only been outside of the country once this trip (Oporto, Portugal was awesome). There is so much to see in Spain and so little time in one semester that I don’t mind focusing on getting to know different parts of Spain.

Further travel plans: Barcelona, Brussels, and the Canary Islands.


(San Sebastian was kind of pretty.)

Goal 4 (New!)- Make more Spanish friends It’s been more difficult than I anticipated making Spanish friends.  It isn’t that students at the university are unfriendly (in my experience they’ve been super nice), but making friends outside of the program is definitely an extra effort.

All but one of the classes that I am taking are with other American students through the Cursos de Estudios Hispánicos program my host university.  While it’s great that these classes are tailored to international students, we have a quick connection and form a bit of a “studying abroad bubble.”  My direct enroll class (with all Spanish students) is a 4th year film class.  As they have a more fixed curriculum in Spain, these students have been taking classes with each other for the past 3 years, already have close friends in the class, and aren’t actively trying to branch out to make friends.  This is completely understandable, but definitely means that you have to make an effort to make Spanish friends!

With that being said, I still chat with native Spaniards at home, at school, on the streets, and in bars/clubs (we are in Spain after all), but the vast majority of closer friends here are from the US.  
At our university there is a American English Learning Exchange (AELE) program which I’m sure is a great opportunity to get to meet Spaniards.  I admit, I have not utilized the program to it’s fullest, but after reflecting; I am definitely going to take advantage of this!

(Note: Though I haven’t made a ton of super tight Spanish friends, I’ve met some really cool people that I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to meet otherwise from schools all over the U.S.)


(Proof of friends.)

Goal 5- Explore Madrid! Traveling is great, but there’s also a ton to see and do in Madrid!  While I’ve gotten to know a lot of the city, there’s so many restaurants, museums, plazas, bars, discos, barrios (even my own), etc., that I still haven’t explored.  With the semester already halfway done, I hope to be able to get to know Madrid better!

Overall: Studying abroad is really great so far and lots of fun!  I do recommend it!





By Celia Flinn  (Claremont McKenna College)

More than halfway through my semester studying abroad in Madrid, I’m given the opportunity to reflect on how my experience has been so far. First of all, I’m having trouble believing that my time here in Madrid is coming to a close. My transition to Madrid was pretty smooth, definitely made thanks to my amazing homestay experience. However, I didn’t realize how much I had truly adjusted until I came back from a weekend away at the end of September. Unlocking the door to my apartment, I felt the immediate sense of relief and comfort and that come from returning home. Although I am have been enjoying visiting other parts of Spain and Europe during weekend getaways, coming back to Madrid now feels like home. Seeing pictures of friends back at school makes me miss them, but I definitely wouldn’t trade places with them. I’m extremely happy to be having this experience.


For one thing, I feel that studying in Madrid has made me more independent. I am alone much more here than I am normally at school, whether that is commuting to school from my homestay, or killing time before a class museum visit by exploring a new area. I’m learning to enjoy my own company and entertain myself without constantly being around other people. When I’m not alone, I am spending time with my friends, Spanish and American. CIEE provides us with an incredible resource: the student network, students who go to our university and come to CIEE activities occasionally. These students are excited to meet American Students and learn about our culture, while sharing about their culture and helping us practice our Spanish. Some of the best conversations I have had in Spain are with students from the “red de estudiantes” sharing our experiences and chatting about our differences and similarities.  I also have conversations with my host mom, branching topics such as family, religion and societal norms to food tastes. I have attended activities such as a flamenco performance, an átletico fútbol game, a bull fight, and a Spanish concert, but I still think my most valuable cultural experiences have been the conversations with local Spaniards comparing their ways of life to mine.


There is still so much I want to see in Madrid and Spain, and I’m sad to think about how little time I have left. I can’t wait for my next adventures here and I’m already cherishing the memories I’ve made.




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 By Wynn Ponder (Washington & Lee University)

Last weekend, our program went to Seville. I was so excited to go because almost everyone in our group went and all I had heard was how amazing Seville was. It was the perfect, besides waking up at the crack of dawn to leave on Friday morning. We went to all of the must-see spots in Seville and still had plenty of free time to explore by ourselves.

We started the trip by stopping for a few hours in Cordoba and explored the Mezquita, which is the cathedral there. It was originally a Mosque built by the Muslims, and when the Christians took over, they kept the Muslim aspects and just added onto it to make it into a beautiful cathedral. There is still a lot of horse shoe arch ways and red and white stripes, which is all Islam style architecture.  We ate lunch in Cordoba and then got back on the road to go to Seville. 

By far, my favorite part of the trip was seeing the Alcazar Castle. To be a total nerd, the architecture on the buildings was stunning and the castle was ENORMOUS. I loved how throughout all of Andaluz, the Christians maintained most of the Muslim influence and architecture after they took over, which allowed for a cool mixing between the time periods and cultures. I’m not a huge Game of Thrones fan, but the upcoming season is filmed in this castle, which makes me want to start watching it. We also visited the Plaza de España, where part of Star Wars 2 is filmed. 

I loved that we had a ton of free time to explore the city by ourselves too. Sonia, who is from Seville, suggested that I go for a run by the river, which was cool because there isn’t a body of water like that in Madrid where people can go boating or fishing. Overall it was a great experience, and it was so awesome to be able to go as a group together to such a fun city!



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By  Ryan King  (University of Colorado Boulder)

For myself, one of the most exciting things while waiting to study abroad was the prospect of making friends with the locals. It could give you the chance to practice your language skills, learn about a new culture or maybe even a shot at that foreign girlfriend/boyfriend that you’ve always dreamed about! However, I’ve found that it isn’t always the easiest thing to strike up a conversation in the middle of campus while I’m still trying to familiarize myself with the culture and still learning the language. In my experience, one of the most helpful ways to meet some locals was to attend the Meet and Talk.

As cheesy as the name is, it was actually a very fun event. The atmosphere was very casual and set up in a way that made it easy to talk to everyone. The event lasted about an hour and by the end I had talked to about twenty different people. The best part of the Meet and Talk was that the locals that attended were there because they really wanted to be. They were very excited to meet us Americans, learn about our culture and have a chance to use their English skills. At the end of the talking session there was ample time to get everyone’s contact information so we could meet in the future. I would say that 90% of the kids were very interested in meeting again to talk and practice our language skills both in English and Spanish. I have certainly made a few new friends and many more that I plan to hang out with in the future.

I would highly recommend Meet and Talk to everyone. Just remember not to be timid because, even though those loud Spaniards may be a little intimidating, they’re attending because they want to meet you. So, go, get their number, hit them up on WhatsApp and find your new Spanish friend.



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By Micaela Lyons (Ursinus College)

My favorite thing about living in Madrid is that, with its central location, it is fairly easy to get to different Spanish cities. This is fantastic because Spain is easily the most beautiful country I have ever seen! Something that always leaves me breathless is the antiquity that is constant throughout the entire country. Ancient buildings, statues and cities in general have a unique beauty to them that you just can't find in the United States (because it hasn't been around that long!). Toledo is a city that demonstrates this Spanish antiquity perfectly. When we visited the Cathedral it took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that I was in a building 500 years old! It was incredible and took my breath away. Toledo also had a quaint feel that I loved because unlike Madrid it is kind of small and still had its ancient feel to it. Loved it.







By Jaymi Cohen  (Tufts University)

I have to admit, one aspect of studying abroad in Madrid that I was most nervous for was the homestay situation. I am so close with my family back home in Boston, and I was nervous that there would be such a language barrier between my host family and me. I soon realized, however, that I had absolutely nothing to be worried about. I still remember my first day here meeting my host parents at their home and right away feeling completely welcomed. They showed such an interest in getting to know me and truly adopted me into their family.

It's the little things that I love and appreciate so much about my host family. When it's nice out we eat dinner outside on the balcony under candlelight. My host dad drives me around on his motor scooter to show me cool parts of the city. The other day I got home from a long day at the university and we all played a game of "Clue" together. Every Thursday night we have "English night" where I help teach the three kids English words. My host mom always messages me to wish me good luck on an exam or asks about one of my weekend trips. After dinner every night when the kids go to bed I always talk to my host parents about what I'm learning in class: whether it's about La Corrida de Los Toros or new colloquial Spanish phrases I learn, they always spend time explaining things to me and offering a new perspective.

My host parents are such caring, warm, and supportive people. My host mom always seems to just say the right things whether it's telling me how "guapa" I am, or how she is so sure that I will do well on an exam. The other night when she saw how I was a little nervous about my first language exam, she sat down with me and thoroughly explained "que" vs "cual". They are also super passionate about everything they talk about and do. When my host dad explained La Corrida de los Toros to me, he searched endlessly for Youtube videos to show me. And my host mom found these art history books in the house and explained a few paintings I learned about at El Prado and then gave them to me to keep in my room.

I also see the way my host parents interact with their kids and how much they adore and love them. They've taught me so much not only about Spanish language and custom, but also about the value of family and the importance of spending quality time together. They continue to impress me each and every day, and I cannot imagine experiencing Madrid without them. I am always so excited to return to my homestay every day to a warm welcome, and a friendly Jaymi!!! Qué tal!? I'm so fortunate to spend four months with this amazing family, without whom my abroad experience just would not be the same.




By Ylaiza Perez

Providence College

Every walk that I have made since I have been in Madrid have been so much more longer than any walk I have made in New York, Boston, or any other city of the states that I have been in. I knew that Spain was a big country, but I never thought there was so much to see. Through my walks, I have been able to take my walks in different paths, in the sense that I have the opportunity to have an internship while abroad, I have been able to meet so many Spanish people and I have been enlightened with the history that Spain has to offer.

The walk to my internship has helped me thus far to acknowledge the difference in the American culture and Spanish culture on how the LGBT community is viewed. My internship is at an LGBT center and it offers me the opportunity to open up a door that I have been letting close. As I have worked and volunteered in LGBT center in the states and I speak fluent Spanish, the experience in Spanish is completely different and so far it has shown me that I need to appreciate the fact that I am bilingual and can still improve my native language.

Even the walks through my language are very exciting! I have met some wonderful people, that I can now call my friends, which are my group members from the Liberal Arts. They laugh at me because I am always speaking Spanglish, instead of one or the other and it is one of the things that make me happy. I can be myself since I have been here. I can walk through the streets without worrying much about anything (aside from school and two more other things), but I feel that my stress level has minimized.

 I feel amazing and still shocked that I have the opportunity to walk the streets of Madrid, I get through write about my journey and all of the other walks that I have yet made. I can’t wait to keep making many walks to remember!






The CIEE Fall 2014 Liberal Arts group with the Spanish Student Network

Starting this semester, CIEE Madrid is proud to announce the inauguration of its new Study Center. This new facility is located in the heart of Madrid, just one block from Puerta del  Sol, a very convenient location for our group of students with easy access to main public transportation lines, some Madrid historical sights and popular leisure places.

The new CIEE Madrid Study Center includes two fully-equipped classrooms and two spacious student lounges, where students can come to spend time together, work on their class projects,  study and wait before attending CIEE classes.  The Study Center also has offices for each program, meeting spaces and an office for Student Services for the better living of the students while being in Madrid.




Group workshop

 Paco Frisuelos (far left) with classmates and course instructor Sivasailam "Thiagi" Thiagarajan

This past July, the Liberal Arts Program Resident Director travelled to Portland, OR to attend a training program in the Summer Institute of International Culture. As part of his training as RD and facilitator of the Seminar on Living and Learning , Paco Frisuelos joined the course Interactive Experiential Strategies for Intercultural Training following the professional development plan of CIEE for his employees. This course, taught by expert intercultural guru "Thiagi" provided a new approach to the tasks usually undertaken by RDs helping them to envision a new and fresh way that engages students from the start.



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Student Services staff from Southern Europe Region met in Barcelona

The summer is a good moment to get together and share experiences and ideas for the new academic year. Therefore, all CIEE student services staff in Southern Europe Region met in Barcelona for several days to share best practices and discuss how to best serve the students during their stay abroad.

Two members of the CIEE Madrid Study Center staff attended - Sonia Sales (Student Services Coordinator) and Patricia Witzig (Housing Coordinator) - bringing their expertise taking initiatives and offering an open willingness to apply new ideas to enrich the jobs they do. A complete new concept of cultural agendas and Housing services was the result of this meeting that surely will make our students' experience even better.



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Renee Spruit (CIEE Amsterdam) with Alana Meek and Paco Frisuelos from CIEE Madrid in Berlin

CIEE has run a new initiative this summer called Intercultural Comparative Experience (ICE). The idea is that students enrolled in some European programs for the summer enjoy a weekend in one chosen capital among Barcelona, Paris, London and Berlin. This initiative will allow students to increase their intercultural awareness though direct exposure to a different culture and to participate in some activities related to the city/country.  In London they went to see a play at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Berlin exposed them to the political realities after the wall's demolition, Barcelona taught them the ins and outs of flamenco and the amazing architecture of Gaudí and Paris played with stereotypes of being French.  

All the CIEE Madrid staff participated in this initiative travelling to these cities and helping with the large groups, organizing them and debriefing after the activities to ensure the weekend was not just a touristic trip but a reflective experience designed to learn.

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Center Director, Eero Jesurun, presenting to the hosts

Living with a host is an important part of the student's experience and a key aspect of our programs. Therefore, we believe it is important that we offer regular training to the group of people that host our student every semester. During the time students were away, we organized a workshop for the hosts to share their experiences and do some case studies to help them prepare for different situations that might arise when having a student at home. Safety procedures, emergency protocols and CIEE rules were revised to assure everyone is on the same page and is able to provide and excellent living experience to each one of our students. This meeting was also held to get to know them better, learn from their experiences, hear about their expectations and help them understand cultural differences for a better experience with our students.  




 Some of the students participating in the Fall 2014 Liberal Arts Program at Madrid's Plaza Mayor

The start of a new semester always brings a busy week of activities and sessions with the new group. The Fall 2014 Orientation was organized around a series of presentations and activities about academics, safety and emergencies, registration, housing, cultural agenda and living in Madrid. Every day, students came to the study center to learn something new and share their excitement and fears of living in a new city. Visits to the Prado Museum to see masterpieces by Goya, Velazquez or Greco, a bike tour of Madrid Rio, a tour the Retiro Park, a flamenco show, group lunches and a walking tour of Madrid city center were some of the activities organized with the Spanish Student Network to help the group bond and start enjoying the city that will host them for the semester.



CIEE students with US Embassy representative at host institution

While away from your country for four months it is important to count with the help of institutions that can provide assistance when needed. For this reason, we feel it is very important that our students attend the meeting with US Embassy representatives  organized by Universidad Carlos III. During the meeting students had the opportunity to learn the services provided by the Embassy in Madrid and were given some recommendations to follow while studying abroad. In an informal and approachable manner, the meeting allowed students to see the city from the perspective of Americans residing here and served as a useful resource for them. 



 The Gothic Cathedral in Toledo, an invaluable learning experience

Toledo is one of the cities that everyone should visit when travelling to Spain. Just an hour away from Madrid, Toledo represents a wonderful trip to the past and an great opportunity to review the History of Spain. Being one of the few cities in the world where Catholics, Jews and Muslims lived in harmony, Toledo still preserves traces of the three cultures with its old mosques, its well preserved synagogues and its magnificent Cathedral, all of them presenting an unique mixed of styles that makes of Toledo a jewel for art lovers. Besides, the city is an excellent scenario to discuss recent historical and political events as well as  try traditional dishes typical from the region (i.e. marzipan) and discover some of the industries that play an important role in the city's economy, such as steel or damasquinados.  



 Taking a break during the hiking excursion to La Navata

Escaping from the big city is always a good plan when the weather is inviting to enjoy nature and fresh air. Thus, a group of students joined a excursion to La Navata, a beautiful area in the Madrid mountains that is a popular hiking destination for outdoors sports lovers. Just a short train ride left the group at the start of some of the paths that lead to different spots where students not only enjoyed the company of trees and rocks but also the presence of roman ruins and beautiful views of the Madrid surroundings. A fun day that will be cherished by all participants.


Student from U. of Colorado Boulder, Villanova U., Tufts U. and Washington and Lee U. over the Tajo River

Half an hour away from Madrid, there is the old town of Aranjuez, a place chosen by Spanish Royals in the 16th century to be one of their official residences. Known by its magnificent 17th century Royal Palace, which was used in some seasons as a retreat of the Madrid court, Aranjuez is a fertile area thanks to the rivers Tajo and Jarama. Thus, the economy of the town is based on the cultivation of strawberries and asparragus, classified as some of the best in the country. Sailing on the river, strolling in the royal gardens and visiting the palace were some of the activities our students participated in during our daytrip. The goal was to learn about the History linked to the city, which played a key role in the start of the Independence War in the 19th century, or the environment that inspired composer Joaquin Rodrigo for his masterpieze "Concert of Aranjuez" and surely our students enjoyed this trip away from the capital city. 



CIEE Madrid staff with Gordon College Professor

This past month, CIEE Madrid was honored with the visit of Professor Pilar Pérez from  Gordon College. This was a good opportunity to show her the new Study Center as well as show her how the center works. Professor Perez was very interested  in learning the ropes of the different programs we offered in Madrid. During three days she met with staff, visited a homestay, toured the university campus, attended a class of the "Seminar on Living and Learning", and  joined a tour with students on diversity in some Madrid barrios. Professor Perez confessed how happily impressed she was with the work CIEE Madrid does with students and was very appreciative of our efforts to make the most of the students' experiences.

CIEE is always welcoming university and college professors and advisors as a good opportunity to exchange best practices while learning on students' needs, demands and expectations. Our study center is open to visitors since it helps us to improve our work undoubtedly.