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2 posts from December 2014





Eric toros

Siena College student with the bulls

Spain is known worldwide as the country of bulls. Most Spanish festivities are somehow linked to this animal as the legacy of ancient traditions in the Mediterranean area, although bullfighting is the one that captures all the attention. However, the significance of bulls in Spanish culture goes beyond bullfighting, there are a lot of cultural factors related to bulls as well as they are a significant part of the country's economy.   Thus, we decided to embark upon a great adventure with our students: visiting a bull farm to learn how these bulls are raised, how they live and why they are destined to be sacrificed in the bullring. Guided by the farm's owner, the group not only approached the bulls but also cows and pigs, having a firsthand lesson on the way these farms work and their impact on the economy of the area (Salamanca). Students visited the facilities, explored the field and the area where studs are taken, the area for veterinarians and the small bullring where bulls are tested before going to the show. This was an unique opportunity for our students to learn about one of the most important Spanish traditions from a different perspective that they enjoyed a lot.

Katie cerdos

Ohio Wesleyan University student with the pigs


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Starting this coming Spring, CIEE Madrid will launch a new course called "Intercultural Communication and Leadership". This is a course offered to all CIEE Madrid participants with the aim that they develop skills for a better understanding of the way other cultures work, or said with different words, become more interculturally competent while studying abroad. Through engaging activities, students will apply what is discussed in class in a variety of contexts, increasing their own cultural awareness while developing personal leadership skills.  This course (that offers sections both in English and Spanish) is taught by Center Director, Eero Jesurun and Liberal Arts Program Resident Director,  Paco Frisuelos who will take students on a journey to learn about cultural norms and values, communication and learning styles and ways to establish the bridges between two different cultures to succeed in unknown contexts.


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Discovering new flavors in a delightful evening

Gastronomy is a big part of culture. There are a lot of things that can be learnt about a society through the type of food they eat. Therefore, we organized several gastronomy tours during the semester to allow our students to sample typical dishes and the history behind them. Tapas, traditional cuisine, new approaches to typical dishes, common ingredients, etc. were some of the topics we discussed and foods offered to the group of enthusiastic students who calmed their curiosity down enjoying new flavors. The last tour focused on sweets and it soon became their favorite. A tour of Madrid's best pastelerías (pastry shops) allowed them to try a variety of sweets while visiting some of the oldest shops in town which enriched the experience even further.


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A stop in an old inn to have a taste of traditional dishes

Visiting rural Spain is never on the agenda of our students. The weekend trips to other big cities rarely leave time to consider little pueblos as a weekend destination. However, we believe that visiting rural areas provides a better understanding of the contrasting landscape and social diversity that Spain has. Following a route through four different little towns, students were taken to the region of Castilla La Mancha to learn about the economy of the region (learning about the saffron industry or the importance of agriculture, for instance), the local  traditions (like the process of getting flour in windmills) and the impact of the most well-known book of Spanish literature ("Don Quixote") in the touristic sector. A taste of some traditional dishes from the local cuisine was a highlight of the daytrip, with the discovery of new recipes such as pisto manchego (a vegetable dish) or migas (the old meal for shepherds to resist cold winters). The delicious Manchego cheese was also a choice that the group enjoyed who found this daytrip to be a perfect break from the big city and their academic obligations.


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Students in front of the wall were the thirteen women were shooted

The CIEE cultural class took the students to the largest cemetery in Madrid: La Almudena. Here, more than five million people are buried in a manner of ways that offer a great opportunity to discuss Spanish culture with students. The cemetery, which also has sections for civil burials as well as a Hebrew area, presents a lot of interesting characteristics that helped our students explore cultural differences and similarities with the USA.

One of the most touching moments was when students were taken to the wall were the 13 Roses are remembered with a plaque. They learned the story of these 13 young women who were killed at the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 due to their closeness to political activists. This brought up a lot of questions regarding that difficult moment in Spain’s past and created an interest in learning more about the conflict and its implications today.


Salamanca fall

Looking for the hidden frog at the university facade

Known for its old university, Salamanca is a city that deserves a visit while in Spain. This Castilian city is linked to some of the most important writers and linguistics in Spanish history, like Antonio de Nebrija, Fray Luis de León or Miguel de Unamuno. But also, it is linked to the preparation of Columbus’ expeditions and the Spanish Civil War (through its National Archives). Salamanca is a small town that invites visitors to go back to other periods in History with Renaissance palaces like the Shell House or learn about medieval traditions with the cloistered nuns in convents. It is also the only city in the world with two cathedrals attached to one another and the place where a Roman bridge brings memories of the famous "Lazarillo de Tormes" novel.

As a university town, there are many stories related to graduation ceremonies and rituals to bring luck during final exams. One of them consists in finding a frog on the main facade of the old university building, a difficult thing to do that students enjoyed a lot.  


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Standing in the reserved area for bullfighters' managers

The CIEE culture class took the students on a tour of the bullring in Madrid. Known as Las Ventas, this 1929 coliseum is considered one of the most important in the world. Its impressive architecture hosts the bullfight season every year. The idea was to allow the student to learn about this important tradition being  on site, walking through the corridors, seeing the area where bullfighters get ready to kill the bull, stepping on the yellow sand of the ring where the show takes place, and learning about the way audiences are distributed in the stands (as a reflection of social status).

After the visit, having also learned the different parts of the show, students commented how useful this tour was for them, helping them to acquire a new perspective on bullfighting, understanding the reasons behind it and the importance of this tradition among Spaniards. They also said they were able to understand why people like Orson Welles or Ernest Hemingway were so attracted to it and felt like reading more about it.


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The Fall 2014 Liberal Arts during the Farewell event

December marks the end of the Fall semester and brings a time of stress with finals and preparations for the return to the US. However, there is always time to get together and celebrate for the last time as a group the cumination of a great semester. During the event the group exchanged presents, played funny games to prove their knowledge of Madrid, expressed how grateful they were for having the opportunity to study in Madrid and agreed on the impact that this experience abroad has meant to them.  

This has been a fantastic Liberal Arts group that will be very much missed.







Por Julián Pérez

Claremont McKenna College

Mi experiencia en España ha sido más divertida y emocionante de lo que me era posible imaginar. Conocí muchas personas e hice amistades, y sobre muchas otras cosas, ahora tengo una segunda familia que quiero mucho en este mundo, los Mascias. Creo que el factor que más afecta la experiencia en un programa de estudios extranjeros es la familia que te toca porque convives con ellos y los ves todos los días. Si el ambiente en casa no es positivo, o no te llevas bien con tu familia, estarás incómodo en todo momento y te afecta negativamente el sentido de humor. Estoy tan agradecido con los Mascias por lo bien que me han tratado y dispuestos que han sido para enseñarme sobre España y resolver cualquier tipo de problema que haya tenido. Honestamente puedo mirar atrás en este semestre y decir que en ningún momento tuve algún problema con ellos, nunca hubo una situación incómoda o donde me pensara a mí mismo que ojala me hubiese tocado otra casa. Creo que la clave fue ser muy abierto y hacer muchas preguntas al comienzo, como por ejemplo ¨¿les importa si ceno en la mesa descalzo?¨para evitar cualquier tipo de problema, aparte del hecho de que ellos son extremadamente amables conmigo. Por todo eso, les doy unas gracias muy grandes a los Mascias.

En mi tiempo aquí, pude viajar a Sevilla, Córdoba, Valencia, Granada, y Barcelona dentro de España, y Ámsterdam y Londres por afuera. Conocer estas ciudades nuevas y a viajeros en hostales fueron experiencias muy divertidas e gratificantes para mí. Ojala pudiera haber conocida más partes de España, pero bueno, eso lo dejo para la próxima visita. Mis padres, mi hermana y mi cuñado me visitaronaquí en Madrid y disfrute mucho de enseñarles Madrid, y además les quiero agradecer por hacer el esfuerzo de venir a verme. Creo que no pude haber elegido un mejor lugar para mi semestre en el extranjero y sinceramente estoy considerando volver a vivir en Madrid por un tiempo después de graduarme si las circunstancias los permiten. Por último, quiero agradecer mucho al personal de CIEE y el departamento de estudios extranjeros de CMC por haber organizado este programa y haber hecho posible esta experiencia para mí.