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6 posts from March 2015



 By Justin Noddle

 Lehigh University

 I came to Madrid with two goals: I wanted to greatly improve my Spanish and I wanted to visit every European country possible. I can without a doubt say that I am much more confident in my Spanish speaking ability and am near fluent already. However, after spending two months in Madrid, I have adjusted my second goal to be almost the complete opposite. The past few weekends I traveled to some of the most amazing places including Morocco, London, and even Dublin for Saint Patrick’s Day. While I truly enjoyed myself in these famous countries, I couldn’t help but think “I would rather be in Madrid right now.”

Here are some of my favorite photographs of my first time experiencing Europe:
Mount Teide, a volcano that is the highest point in Spain, in Tenerife, Canary Islands

Justin3My favorite falla that my friends and I watched burn down in Valencia, Spain

Justin4A beautiful beach view from the top of Santa Bárbara Castle in Alicante, Spain

Enjoying the sun set behind Templo de Debod in Madrid, Spain

I’m assuming you’ve caught on and realized that many of my favorite moments abroad came without even leaving Spain. I may be slightly biased, but I sincerely believe that Spain is the most incredible country in the entire world. You can hop on a train for less than one hour and experience a completely new culture, surrounded by different architectural styles, and often even hear different dialects. I can even hop on the Madrid Metro, get off at a random stop, and have a completely new eye-opening experience just a few blocks from my home. This is why I have changed my second goal to completely immersing myself in the Spanish and Madrilenian culture. Every time I get off of the plane from traveling to other countries and walk the streets of Madrid, I immediately smile and feel at home.

I feel extremely comfortable calling Madrid my home now, and I have endless reasons why. Lets start with the most important, the food. Whoever says the food in Spain isn’t the most delicious food in the entire world has not tried croquetas, patatas bravas, authentic paella, and definitely is yet to have a napolitana de chocolate from La Mallorquina. I could talk for hours about all of the incredible food I have had the opportunity to taste in Spain, but I will spare you for now. The people in Madrid are some of the most welcoming, optimistic, and understanding people I have ever encountered in my entire life. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to make many Spanish friends, and I am dreading the day that I will have to leave them. As I said before, every block of Madrid is different and has something new to offer from the last. I like to describe Madrid as the place that has nothing amazing to see, yet everything you see is amazing. In other words, it may not be the top tourist destination, but it is the most astonishing city to live in. My words and pictures cannot even come close to explaining the connection that I feel to the entire city of Madrid; so my recommendation to you is to come and experience this enchanting city for yourself.



By Matthew Carbognin

Fordham University

Last Thursday, I ventured over to Valencia on Spain’s eastern coast for the famous festival known as Las Fallas.  We left early in the morning and took a high-speed train (which was pretty cool) that got us there in little over two hours. 

Las Fallas is essentially a festival to honor Saint Joseph in which the people of Valencia construct these massive and beautifully detailed wooden structures.  Many depict movie characters, figures from popular culture, and almost all of them are satirical.  The Fallas give the artisans a chance to voice opinions and even criticize or poke fun at countries and governments.  These beautiful structures dot the city and are set ablaze on the last night of the festival, creating one of the most outrageous sights I have ever seen in my life. 

The other major component of the festival of Las Fallas is the fireworks.  I can’t even begin to fathom the amount of money the city spent on fireworks.  For the entirety of the festival, you can always here explosions…it is the closes thing to a war zone I have experienced.  Sometimes the explosions are far off and sometimes there is a small child with a book of matches in her hand tossing firecrackers on the sidewalk on which you are walking.  It was, by far, the loudest twenty-four consecutive hours of my life.  Unfortunately, Thursday was the last night of the festival and immediately after the crema, the good people of Valencia returned home to finally catch some sleep before returning to work the next day. 

Honestly, I am not sure if I would go back to Las Fallas next year…but I am certainly happy I went. It was one of the strangest festivals I have ever witnessed and la crema was simply one of the coolest things I have ever seen.




by Jessica Rodriguez

Providence College

The morning of the first day of our trip to Morocco was definitely a tough one. I had slept maybe 4 hours the night before and the three transfers on subway I had to take to get from my house to the airport were not a good combination for me on a Friday morning.  However, after I finally got to the airport and found the CIEE group, my morning started to get much better!  I slept the whole flight to Morocco from Madrid and when I landed the weather was absolutely BEAUTIFUL.  The day was shaping up very nicely (except for the bumpy landing of course). 

In Tangier, Morocco, we spent the first day trying traditional Moroccan food, drinking tea at a traditional Moroccan café, and learning more about Moroccan social, political, and religious culture.  We walked around quite a lot and we were able to see a lot of Arabian architecture and the everyday people of Morocco.  One of the first things I noticed when I got there was that I mostly saw men, not women in public spaces. However, one of our tour guides explained to us that traditionally in Morocco women are not allowed to be out without an accompanied male, perhaps a husband or father, as an escort.

            Although Friday was fun, my favorite day by far was the second day.  On Saturday, we went to Asilah.  Asilah is a small city by the coast an hour from Tangier by bus.   In Asilah, we walked around a lot and saw really picturesque spots and amazing graffiti.  I was able to take a lot of beautiful pictures.  The best part of the visit to Asilah, for me, was being able to ride a camel.  I was a little scared, I must admit, but the experience was amazing! After heading back home from Asilah, we got henna done on ourselves at the hotel. I was pleasantly surprised to see most of the males from the program get henna done on themselves as well.

            Sunday was our final day in beautiful Morocco.  A few of my friends and I bartered a bit for Moroccan souvenirs before heading home. We also met a contemporary and revolutionary Moroccan designer and were able to see a few of his latest designs.  I was very sad to leave Morocco but very pleased with my experience there.  I hope to return one day and experience its’ beauty once again.






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A colorful fruit shop in one of the markets the group visited

 As part of the cultural offerings available to the Liberal Arts students, this semester we have created a Culture Club that will provide more opportunities to explore Madrid and learn more about the local culture. Named after a famous 19th century writer, Galdós portrayed Madrid in most of his novels and we will use him as the inspiration to take a closer look at local customs and divulge hidden areas that those students with more curiosity will be able to learn from. Students participating in the Galdós Culture Club, will tour markets to differentiate them according to neighborhoods and types, try new products (such as Spanish fruits) and learn the non-written rules when shopping in them; they will participate in debates with the RD to get an update and new perspectives on current events; and will visit the workshops of several local artists among many other activities scheduled for them to respond to their desire to learn more.



Children of Assilah posing with a group of CIEE students

Linked by a shared historical past, Spain and Morocco have cultural ties that cannot be overlooked. Thus, together with our students we embarked on a trip to explore the North of Morocco visiting two cities, Tangiers and Assilah. The idea was to approach a different culture and study the relationship between both countries given the fact that they share borders.    


Riding camels at the beach was a lot of fun

Students were very excited with the idea of travelling to Africa and having the opportunity to ride camels, but they did not expect to enjoy participating in local customs like visiting a hamman, (Arab bath), trying local dishes, enjoying their sugary tea with mint or getting a henna tattoo as much as they did. However, the best part of the journey was the unique opportunity to meet local youth who shared with our students their views on Islam, the role of women in Muslim society, the use of hijab or the Moroccan music they listen to. 


An immigrant from Nigeria talking to our students

 Undoubtedly, one of the highlights of the trip was the talk our students had with immigrants from Sub-Saharan areas, who shared with them the difficulties they have to face living in Morocco as illegal aliens and their desire to cross the border and start a new life in Europe. It was a very moving and eye opening talk which resulted in one of the most intense learning experiences of the group. 

IMG_1988 Hena tattoos before going out

Students also learnt the history behind the Spanish occupation of Southern Sahara territories, visited a women´s center to see their handicrafts work, learn to write some Arabic words and visited a fashion designer´s workshop where they could try his creations on in a mix of traditional and modern clothing.  


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 Ursinus C. and U. of Iowa students at the entrance of the museum

The way people dress is  a sign which helps to learn about culture and how it is revealed in people's daily lives. Therefore, visiting the "Clothing Museum" became a journey to the development of cultural norms and habits. From the regional dress that Spanish  people wear in local festivals to modern designers, the museum displays 18th century dresses that can easily depict women's role and the social rules they were oppressed by and French influenced garments that  speak of a time when the Spanish court was close to French monarchs. The change in the 19th century with the loose creations by Fortuny, and the beautiful dresses by masters such as Balenciaga or Pertegaz are only some examples of the richness offered by this museum that also displays old toys and accessories which helped us to travel back in time. 



U. of Minesota student enjoying her Spanish intercambio

Every semester we organize, together with the Language Teaching Services at the host university, a series of events aimed at helping our students meet Spaniards of their same age. One of the most popular ones is the "Meet & Talk" happening, where a group of Spanish university students attended to meet our group of CIEE students. Through a series of funny ice breakers and questions to foster conversation, students mingled and started to get to know each other using their language skills. After changing partners every once in a while, students ended up with a bunch of new telephone numbers they could start using to deepen these newly started friendships that will help them to improve their Spanish and learn about Spain significantly.  



 Sonia Sales with other CIEE worldwide staff

 Last month, Sonia Sales, Student Services Coordinator for the Madrid Study Center travelled to Istanbul, Turkey, to participate in one of the international cohorts to be trained in Intercultural Communication. This is an ambitious project in which CIEE is focusing much effort, providing all of its employees worldwide training on this field to help them understand differences and be skilled when working with foreign students and professionals who may bring different perspectives and cultural approaches.  The sessions were led by Catherine Menyhart, from CIEE Portland and Quinton Redcliffe, from the Cape Town Study Center and counted with the attendance of staff from Chile, Spain, Korea, France, Thailand, Cuba, the Netherlands, and Japan just to mention some countries of origin. An excellent opportunity to put on the table an innovative way to deal with students’ needs and improve everyone's work.

Sonia training


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 Francisco "Paco" Frisuelos, Resident Director for the Liberal Arts Program in Madrid, has just published a chapter in a book about Film and representation. This book, edited by Universidad de Granada's Professor Salvador Ventura and published by Université Paris Sud, contains a series of papers discussing different approaches in the way film is used as a means to represent reality.
Thus, Paco Frisuelos is the author of a chapter about American cinema and the uprising of new heroes after September 11. His chapter analyzes how Hollywood films are interested in a new type of character which embodies the new fears and yearnings of American citizens.



by Eniola Akintade

Tufts University

Hello, Mother (and anyone else kind enough to be reading this)!!! Before I give everyone the rundown of my weekend, a little disclaimer: neither my words nor featured pictures can do eni (jajaja) of these villages justice! 

~Viernes, 23 de enero 

¿Has leído el cuento de Don Quijote? If we're all being honest with ourselves, the answer is no. Sure you may have skimmed the pages for a literature class, but that, mis amigos, does not count. But do not fret! The library is chock-full of copies. In the story, DQ (not Dairy Queen under these circumstances) is a hidalgo who, after reading soooo many novels about heroes and knights and dragons and such, loses his marbles and decides to go on a quest to restore chivalry to the world. I can't deny that there are parts in the story that drive me loca, but it's one of the most influential works of literature of all time and blah blah blah (I can see your eyes glazing over). So how does DQ relate to my weekend? Wonderful question! La Mancha, that's how! In the story, DQ is a native of this pueblo, which is situated in la comunidad autónoma de Castilla-La Mancha. But enough about DQ and his vast influence, and more about me and my travels (it's my blog, not his)! After only a short bus ride (menos de dos horas) from Madrid, I was in the land of beauty galore. Every single view was post-card material, and every bite of food deserved a pretentious award (pollo con patatas, so simple yet so, so scrumptious). But my favorite part? Los molinos de viento!                           

Eniola1 Eniola2
This place deserves every shout-out it receives. So if you ever find yourself in Madrid, find yourself out of it and make your way to La Mancha, if for only a day.

Eniola3~Sábado, 24 de enero 

As if one day trip wasn't enough, some friends and I decided to put our feet in even more pain and frolic through the city of Segovia! Una ciudad en la comunidad autónoma de Castilla y León, Segovia was part of the Roman Empire way back in the old days yet even today, the Roman influence is ever-present (por ejemplo: the picture beneath).  

Eni0 Eni1We visited un castillo, went on a Segovian food tour (where I tasted the sweetest honey in existence), and aimlessly wandered through aqueducts.   

Eni3 Eni2Not to sound like a travel brochure, but sometimes visiting places that aren't easily recognized by your friends, family, Instagram followers, etc., is the way to go. After this magnificent weekend, I will make it my mission to continue venturing through off the beaten path places like these!



By Nicole Kleiman-Moran

University of Michigan

As you have read from the previous posts, Madrid is a beautiful city. It is a city filled with friendly people, beautiful buildings, history, and of course great food and drinks. However, Madrid is also amazing because of how accessible it is to the rest of Europe! (from our home stays, all we have to do is jump on the metro and wait 35 minutes and we arrive at an international airport)

February was the month of travel:

The second weekend of February, I traveled with 6 other CIEE Students to the Canary Islands for Carnival celebrations. These Carnival activities were the second largest following those is Rio De Janiero. Let me tell you: the Carnival definitely met my high expectations. Everyone was dressed up as if it were Halloween, there was music, dancing and incredible times! Here is a photo of some of us dressed up:


The middle weekend in February, CIEE took us on a marvelous trip to Morocco. We packed an incredible amount of activities into roughly 48 hours, including: eating couscous, talking to immigrants, seeing a designer, riding camels, exploring a sea side town, going to a traditional bathhouse and getting henna! Here is a photo of us overlooking the ocean;


And finally, to wrap up the month of travel, I traveled with more CIEE people to Porto Portugal! Despite the rain, we still loved the city: we went on port wine tastings, ate traditional foods, and walked up the historical hills and winding streets. Furthermore, Porto is known for its connection to the Harry Potter, the influences included: some of the costumes freshman college students wear, windingstairs found in an library which influenced the moving staircases in Hogwarts, a cafe where JK Rowling wrote her books, and the house of slytherin named after Portugal's dictator.


It was a very cool month of travel!! Cant wait to get a few "calm" weekends in Madrid