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2 posts from May 2015




The semester is over and students have left Madrid to return home or are taking some days off to travel around Europe before catching up with their responsibilities in the US. This newsletter will highlight some of the events and activities that your students have participated in the past months.


La foto 1 (6)University of Michigan, Tufts Univeristy, Providence College and Brandeis University students with a Valencian woman dressed with the regional outfit

 When we invited our students to join us on a study trip to Valencia during its main Festival they did not know what to expect. We held a meeting prior to the event to explain the purpose of the trip and the history behind this ancient festival called Las Fallas, however, it was difficult to explain the magnificence of the sculptures that are placed all over the city to be admired before they all are burnt to the ground to commemorate St Joseph's Day.

After a short ride on the high speed train, the Liberal Arts group went to see the main Fallas which caused a commotion among the students. They kept asking why people burn these works of art until they understood that the festival refers to the need to start anew: the sculptures represent, in an ironic and funny way, the most important events that took place during the year leading up to the festival, and burning them is a way to expiate mistakes and look forward to the future, always in good spirits and with a sense of humor.Fallas collage


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Former Vice-Rector of International Relations, Dr. Alvaro Escribano, inaugurated the new International School at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. This is a new and exciting project that the host university is managing with the intention of grouping all international programs in an ample space. Under Dr. Escribano’s management, this will allow the university to provide better services to the international community on campus, as well as to serve as a reference to Spanish students interested in studying abroad.  

  2Last month, CIEE moved to its new office in the new International School. This space will allow CIEE staff to meet with students privately on campus and attend to all students’ needs in a timely manner. This office represents a good addition to our study center in the heart of Madrid, as it gives our students more options to better utilize resources available to them.

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La foto 2 (8) Brandeis U. and U. of Michigan students riding along the river

The start of Spring and the first warm sunrays were an invitation to spend some time outdoors, and so, we took the group to Madrid Rio, the newly remodeled banks of the Manzanares River which has recuperated a semi abandoned area of the city. This area was an ambitious project by Madrid’s former city mayor who wanted to provide Madrid with an extended park where madrileños can practice sports, enjoy fresh air, or take their kids to play. Along the banks of the small river Manzanares, students rode their bikes surrounded by the Royal Palace, the old slaughter house now one of the most avant guard spaces of the art scene in the capital, and the Atletico stadium, in a day which not only showed them a new area of the city, but also let them do what locals do in their free time  


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Las Ventas, a 1920s building house of some of the most important bullfights in the world

Spain is known worldwide for its traditions, especially bullfighting, which has become a tourist attraction and an image of the country in many places. However, it is a tradition that is not as popular among locals as it might seem. It is surrounded by controversy about animal rights and the killing of bulls during the fiesta. Therefore, as our students feel attracted to it, we offered them a workshop on bullfighting, reviewing its origins, the role of women in it, the international attraction, the elements and part of every corrida, the business around it, etc. as well as offering an open forum for discussion on their views of this tradition as a cruel event. After the workshop, we took the students to Las Ventas bullring, one of the most important ones in the world, to see on site what a bullfight is like without exposing them to a real bullfight (an experience that they should choose to have, or not). Visiting Las Ventas helped them to see the fiesta from a new perspective and experience this tradition in a different way, fostering
reflection and avoiding judgment, an effective way to learn in depth about a very Spanish event.

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La foto 1 Proud students show their diplomas after completing the CIEE intercultural course

 After the completion of the CIEE course "Intercultural Communication and Leadership", students received a diploma certifying the successful completion of the course and the acquisition of intercultural skills. This course, taught by LA Resident Director, Paco Frisuelos who has been trained in Intercultural Communication in various courses and workshops including the SIIC in Portland, Oregon, helps students deal with cultural differences and learn how to respond to them. Through a series of exercises and lectures, students learn how to build bridges with the unfamiliar, finding new opportunities to learn through a deeper reflection on their everyday experiences. The course includes a section on personal leadership, facilitating students a way to respond to situations while managing their emotions, attending to their physical cues, being aware of judgments and practicing mindfulness during the process. The aim of the course is to help students acquire intercultural skills which will be of great use in their future in a variety of contexts, including the workplace, the classroom, or when travelling around the world. 


La foto 1 (7)  The sumptuous stairs to access the Royal Palace in Madrid

 Learning about an institution that does not exist in the United States is easier and more fun if you do it in the right scenario. Thus, the Liberal Arts students went on a visit to the Royal Palace of Madrid, the largest palace in Western Europe with more than three thousand rooms.

The recent crowning of King Philip VI was a good starting point to discuss the role of kings in modern times and the impact of an institution such as the monarchy in democratic countries. The recent news and scandals which led to the resignation of former King Juan Carlos last June, served to open a discussion about what a king should be and how to modernize an institution that is old by definition. Differences among British, central European and Spanish monarchies (and their acceptance among the people) were also topics covered during a visit which allowed the students to see the throne room, the old dormitories and dressing room and the amazing dining room, where the king celebrated his wedding in 2004.


Barcelona meeting

Staff from CIEE study centers in Ferrara (Italy), Barcelona, Seville, Alicante and Madrid (Spain)

 CIEE Barcelona hosted a regional staff meeting to participate in a workshop on "Interpersonal and Emotional Intelligence". Facilitated by a psychologist, the purpose was to train staff members to learn how to manage their emotions in a better way when dealing with difficult situations. This is especially important when working with students for a long period of time, since they can come to ask for help in a variety of situations that range from the very common cultural shock/homesickness and cultural adaptation to the more dramatic ones that have to be taken care of in a much more delicate way. This two-day workshop was followed by different working groups focused on best practices in the diverse areas of expertise of the CIEE staff who attended this workshop fostering an excellent opportunity to learn and improve our work with foreign students.


Collage farewellAfter finals, the LA group met with CIEE staff to celebrate the end of the semester and be together for the last time as a group. In a quiet and relaxed afternoon, the group enjoyed a bunch of activities prepared by the staff to review their participation in the Liberal Arts program. A photo contest, a jeopardy game about Madrid, a video of the semester’s best moments and the exchange of farewell gifts livened up the time we spent together. CIEE staff had some appreciative words for the group as they were a very kind and responsible group who has shown dedication to their academic responsibilities as well as enjoying their free time exploring Madrid and travelling around. The students had the time to quickly reflect on the experience sharing with the group the general impression of having had a great semester.  





By Christian Smith

Hawaii Pacific University

As a Humanities major from Hawaii Pacific University one of the things that grabbed my attention was the religious history of the country. The different examples of history in places like Toledo and here in Madrid were fascinating to me. When in Toledo me and the other students in the program learned about how Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together in harmony until the “Reconquista” in Spain under the Catholic Monarchs. So of course one of the most exciting weeks for me was “Semana Santa” or Holy Week. Thankfully, we were on Spring Break so did not have to go to classes during that time. During this time there were religious processions all over Spain.

At first it was tempting to travel to another city in Spain to catch a glimpse of the processions However, then I got the idea to watch the processions in Madrid. Perhaps the most memorable procession for me was “El Pobre”. This particular procession started at the Church of Peter on a street called Nuncio (Calle Nuncio). It was amazing to see all the people standing on both sides of the street to take photos of the processions with their IPads, cameras and telephones. In the distance you can see platforms with various figures on them like the Virgin Mary. One thing I would say for Americans, especially African Americans who come to Spain is that the people you see dressed in hoods during the processions are not the Ku Klux Khlan. Even though there is a striking resemblance in how they dress. On top of that they were holding lighted sticks which is good to see for a change without worrying about being in danger. Anyway, later on during the day I also had a chance to go inside of the Church of Peter which was close by. Probably spent about 30 minutes in the church taking pictures since there was so much to take in. Holy Week was definitely one of the best experiences of my stay in Spain and one of the others was being in Segovia for a weekend.


In March I had the chance to go to Segovia with some friends from a Spanish church I started attending. It was a bit farther up north so it was colder than Madrid. Yet, I enjoyed being in the countryside of the city for a long weekend. A very memorable part of my weekend in Segovia was the tortillas with my friends from the church and learning more of the Spanish language in the process. Thankfully, they took me to the “Jardines Del Palacio de La Granja de San Ildefonso”. Known for being summer residences of the Kings of Spain. It has a beautiful garden with statues of unfamiliar looking creatures. If you walk far enough into the garden you can see a lake surrounded by forests with mountains in the background.

As my time in Madrid comes to an end, I am beginning to wonder how it will feel to walk the streets in the United States. The city of Madrid, has become like another home to me and I will miss people playing music or instruments on the metro. It is a great way to start a morning or to end a day. Being abroad in Spain has been a wonderful experience for me.