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2 posts from November 2014



By Alexandra Arnett

Claremont McKenna College


Two weeks ago for Halloween, I had the opportunity to travel to Barcelona with friends from high school, college, and CIEE. We left early Friday morning and made use of our first full day in Barcelona. We went to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya where we were surrounded by amazing works of art from Romanticism, Renaissance, Barroc and Modern.  For Halloween, we all decided to dress up- no surprise that we got some stares in the metro.


On Saturday, we spent the day at the beach relaxing. It was the first time I had been to a beach here but unfortunately the water was a little too cold for me to jump in. My favorite day by far was Sunday.  We started our morning out with a tour of La Sagrada Familia. It took my breath away! Gaudí thought of everything from the architecture, colors, sound, engineering, lighting and sacredness of the space. It still remains unfinished as each generation works to fulfill Gaudí’s vision. It is unlike anything I have seen before and I think it should be one of the top must-sees when in Spain. After, we continued our architectural tour with Gaudí’s Park Güell. (As seen in Cheetah Girls 2, which we watched Thursday night in anticipation.)
 Alex3My piece of advice to anyone in Barcelona, pay for the tour of La Sagrada Familia (I promise you will not be disappointed) and book it ahead of time, online, so you do not have to wait in the line that wraps around the entire block.


I enjoyed Barcelona, however, I was very happy to be coming home to Madrid. I cannot believe it is November already and I will be leaving next month.  Madrid has truly become another home to me (special thanks to my amazing hosts who made me feel at home since day 1). This semester has flown by and I am sad to have to leave so soon.  I hope to spend my last few weeks here exploring more of Madrid that I have yet to take advantage of- next on my list is El Escorial.






A group of students in the old mosque of Cordoba

The South of Spain is one of the country's main attractions. Its unique cultural legacy is the result of the presence in the area of old civilizations like Romans or Muslims, has always made this region of Spain one of the most beautiful and interesting ones in Europe. The Liberal Arts group embarked on a weekend trip which first stopped in Cordoba to learn about the old Emirate and the later Califate. Visiting the astonishing old Mosque (now transformed in a Catholic Cathedral) provided the context for this learning experience that also took them through the old Jewish quarter, little courtyards and narrow streets where traditions as the "Cruces de Mayo" take place every year. A typical lunch with local dishes such as salmorejo, eggplants with honey and flamenquines was the addition to our visit to this beautiful town before continuing our trip to Sevilla.


A photo on the Madrid bench at Plaza de España is already a must when travelling to Sevilla

Sevilla was also a Muslim kingdom in the past and its main mosque was also transformed into a Cathedral with a completely different result. Students enjoyed climbing the Giralda tower; they visited the old Alcazar (the royal palace where the new season of"Game of Thrones" was being shot), had fun in the Maria Luisa Park and Plaza de España, and were amazed by the avantgarde "Setas" construction. Sevilla allowed them to learn more about History and the influence of Moors in the Spanish way of being. The excellent weather and the great attitude of the students made this excursion an unforgettable experience.


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 CIEE students participated actively in the Bystander intervention workshop

This past month, CIEE Madrid hosted a workshop for all its students on safety. The goal of the workshop was to analyze the way students can intervene to help their peers in some specific situations. The bystander intervention is a preventive measure necessary in uncommon situations and different cultural contexts. This workshop was organized in a way that helped students to share their own experiences and counted with the help of Spanish students who broguth their local perspective and the way situations are perceived depending on the cultural background of each. Presentations on research results, examples of situations where bystander intervention is key and role play activities conformed a workshop intended to help our group of students to have a safe stay in Spain.


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 Siena C., Villanova U. and Claremont McKenna C. students having lunch at the host university with CIEE Resident Director

Organized regularly throughout the semester, lunch with the Resident Director is an informal activity that helps the head of the program to check-in with students. When students are used to Madrid and feel comfortable and relaxed living in the city, they do not require the help of the RD as often as they do at the beginning of the program. Therefore, those students who are more independent only meet their RD occassionally. With the intention of providing more opportunities to communicate their needs as well as checking that they are doing fine with their classes, at their homestays and living in Madrid, the RD invites small groups of students to have lunch together and share their experiences in Spain. This is a relaxed way to access to students and identify their challenges and stress factors to help them overcome them and enjoy the study abroad experience to the fullest.


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 A sunny Fall day to enjoy the visit to the palace

As part of the Engaged Activities embeded in the CIEE Course Spanish Cultural Studies- Seminar on Living and Learning, the class visited Madrid's Royal Palace. The purpose of the visit was to study the importance of hierarchy and social status in Spanish society as well as review the History of royalty in Spain and its acceptance among Spaniards. The complexity of this topic and the implication with different areas of interest, served as the starting point of interesting discussions on the role of the Royal Family in Spain, the political system in Spain and the pros and cons of it. Students reflected on the experience after the visit and interviewed their cultural partners to gather other points of view that led to a new perspective on this old institution.

The Royal Palace is the largest one in Europe, with more than three thousand rooms. It is not used by the King's family as its official residence but it is occassionally used to host official receptions. The recent crowning of King Phillip VI in the month of June also served as a good vehicule for discussion on the role of a king and the presence of royalty in different European countries.  



Liberal Arts students talking to Spanish students at Carlos III University

One of the main challenges for our students is to be able to meet the locals. They want to make long lasting friends, practice their Spanish and get tips from people their age to enjoy Madrid more. Therefore, every semester we organize an activity at the university that helps them meet Spanish students. Structured in a fun way, language exchange is the excuse to reach the goal of putting students in touch, helping them break the ice and identifying a group of people they feel they have things in common and can get along with easily. With a format similar to speed dating, our students switch partners without a rest and exchange telephone numbers or befriend them on facebook before the session ends. This is the starting point, after this activity students should leave their comfort zone being pro-active and contact Spanish students. Those who do it, end with a full agenda of friends that change their experience abroad completely.



 Beloit College student in the exhibit catalog

Photographer Rebeca Rodriguez  has been working on a long-time cherished project: a photography exhibit titled "El Desencanto" ("The Disenchantment") which explores female psychology through different periods of life. The exhibit establishes a poetic dialog between images of landscapes and portraits of women, each pair of photos representing a crucial moment in a woman's life. A CIEE Madrid student was chosen by the artist to pose in front of the camera, representing that moment of splendor when women begin taking control of their lives and becoming independent individuals. This experience was, without any doubt, a great addition to the student's experience in our program, allowing her to have a first hand approach to the artistic scene which enriched her cultural understanding of the Spanish culture. 



Girls just wanna have fun cooking Spanish dishes

A group of students joined the CIEE Madrid Student Services coordinator in a series of cooking classes. The idea is to teach students how to prepare easy Spanish recipes. Staying healthy is very important for our students and the idea is that they stick to that goal while trying Spanish dishes. Gazpacho, stuffed red peppers and tuna-filled eggs were some of the favorites among the group of cooking apprentices who enjoyed the preparation but even more when they tasted the food at the end of the class. These cooking classes help to give students more ideas when it comes to preparing meals at home. With an easy step by step guide, students are provided with different options that can help them organize their weekly menus in a varied, healthy and cultural way.


 CIEE Madrid Student Services Coordinator and LA Program Resident Director

Helping others is always in the aim of the CIEE staff. Therefore, when Madrid organized a 10K run through the streets of the city center to raise funds for the needy, two members of the Madrid staff did not think twice about participating. The run, a popular event that takes place every year, goes through the main streets of the city, which are closed to traffic for the ocassion and allows for a run in an amazing environment full of history, art, and cheering crowds. Over 9.000 participants contributed to the cause with the hope that someday charity races will not be necessary, and will only be organized for fun.