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5 posts from March 2017




The Spring semester is going well for our group of students. The city is enjoying nice temperatures and beautiful sunny days which invite people to go out and explore the city, its neighborhoods, its cafes and parks or some fo the exhibits held in the Madrid museums. The CIEE cultural agenda has kept our students busy with many interesting activities that helped them to learn more about Spanish culture. 

We travelled to the heart of the country in search of the origins of the Spanish language. We visited the Monastery of Yuso, where a manuscript with the firsts written phrases in Spanish is preserved. Students were especially interested in the way monks lived in the area, the works of local writer Gonzalo de Berceo and the impressive collection of song books. 

Being in La Rioja was a great excuse to discuss the wine culture in Spain and how important this is for the Spanish economy. Rioja is one of the most famous red wines in the world and by paying a visit to a winery helped students were able to learn more about the process of making wine, from the harvest in September to the commerzalitation of products. The winnery, located in El Ciego, is proud to feauture a building designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry, which captures the different colors of grapes and integrates perfectly in an environment that became one of the students' favorite so far.

However, we want students to discover not only those sights that they can find in travel books or made by famous artits,but to explore new areas and different artistic proposals. This is the case of Justo Gallego's cathedral, a building constructed with recycled materials. The main interest of this building is that it is been built just by one man who has been working in this amazing project for more than fifty years. The tour was led by local students living in the area who proudly explained the impact of this construction in the small town of Mejorada del Campo. 


Students' favorite every semester is our Graffiti tour. Urban art is very attractive to our students who photograph murals and other art pieces while we take them around Lavapies, the multicultural quarter of Madrid. A visit to Tabacalera, the old tobacco factory, now filled with big murals created by different artists and the urban garden of Lavapies completed the tour which offered many alternatives for the students' free time.   IMG_6443

 To relax after midterms, we organized a flamenco workshop where students participated enthusiastically. Led by professional dancer Pilar Vega, she explained to students the origins of flamenco and reviewed the basics of it. On a step by step workshop, students where able to follow the chroreographies and play traditional instruments like castanets in an unforgettable evening. 


Spring break is coming and students are ready to travel around Spain and Europe before facing the last part of the semester, improving their Spanish significantly as well as getting acquainted with the local culture. 


madrid, so much to offer


By Isabel Patt

University of Minnesota

Upon spending almost three months in Europe, I have had the great privilege to travel quite a bit. From Amsterdam to Brussels to Bilbao to Sevilla, with more trips planned in the future, finding the balance between taking advantage of this grand opportunity to travel around Europe and to get to know the city in which I live, Madrid, has been interesting. One of the first comments about studying abroad that has stuck with me from the beginning of this program was that students left in June feeling like they did not know Madrid. Though they had traveled the world, most weekends were not spend in Madrid. During the week, they had class and homework, so it was much more difficult to set aside time to explore then. In response to this comment, I made it a point to set aside weekends during which I stay in Madrid. I stayed for two whole weekends in February, and after traveling every weekend in March, I have left the month of April as a time to explore my host city. Those two mere weeks in February showed me more of Madrid than I had seen in the almost month in which I had already been living in the city. Madrid has so much to offer in terms of museums, art, nature, food, (especially my favorite: dessert :D), culture, bars, etc that I would feel quite disappointed in myself come June if I had not taken the time to try and crack the surface of the treasures that await in this city. I want to make it to every barrio and explore the richness of Madrid!




By Reilly Cohn

University of Notre Dame

Between transitioning to a new eating schedule, navigating menus in a different language, and trying new foods, adapting to Spanish cuisine can be a challenge for any student. Before arriving in Madrid in January, I was particularly wary about my future diet. I had gone vegan in June of 2016, and, although I was eager to maintain my new lifestyle while abroad, I was unsure what options I would have in a foreign city. My apprehension, however, was unfounded – it has been more than easy to find vegan food in Madrid.

My homestay host has been incredibly accommodating, and I have loved just about every new dish I’ve tried. My host and her family have gone out of their way in cooking for me; some recipes are pure inventions, and many are variations on classic Spanish dishes. While it is still relatively uncommon to find vegans in Madrid, it is becoming increasingly popular. I am in the process of compiling a growing list of exclusively vegan restaurants, in addition to the many sites that are vegan- and vegetarian-friendly. These restaurants offer a variety of healthy options, from soups and salads to dishes with tofu and seitan. The neighborhoods of Lavapiés and Malasaña in particular have plenty of choices for vegans. I was pleasantly surprised at how many vegan restaurants there are here. There are a few stores that sell specifically vegan groceries and other ecological products, but I have also been able to find most of what I need at the larger grocery stores when I go shopping for my lunches. Even when I go to traditional Spanish restaurants or tapas bars, I am always able to find vegan options, such as fried eggplant and grilled vegetables.

Although sometimes it takes extra effort to maintain a vegan diet while abroad, it has not been nearly as difficult as I had feared. Many of the meals I have tried here in Spain are new favorites that I fully intend to cook for myself when I return to the United States (such as garbanzos and cooked spinach). With so many vegan restaurants, the freedom to cook my own lunches, and the help of my homestay host, my diet in Madrid has never been bland or boring. Since it is so easy to find vegan versions of Spanish staples like croquetas and tortilla de patatas, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything either. This semester has been an amazing opportunity to experience Spanish cuisine while maintaining a lifestyle that is so important to me.



Madrid, even better than I’ve ever imagined

By Jiahui Zhong

Brandeis University

Madrid, even better than I’ve ever imagined. I learnt a bit about the history of Spain before my visit so I had an impression of its amazing culture and glorious history. But when I arrived here, I was in great shock constantly when I saw these gorgeous-looking cathedrals and buildings in the streets. I feel like I’m wondering in history, and appreciating how intelligent and diligent Spanish people have always been. I can’t believe my eyes! I always love historical sites; therefore I could never get bored in Spain, especially in Madrid, where countless museums and beautiful constructions are located. I live right next to Madrid Río (the river), and I can bike along the river anytime after school accompanied by fresh air and beautiful sunset. The Plaza Mayor is within walking distance and it is surrounded by my favorite restaurants. In addition, I am currently taking a course at UC3M called “Spanish Golden Age Literature” and learning about Spain’s rich literature and culture during the 16th and 17th century including topics of the Renaissance, Humanism, lyric movements, the novel of chivalry, etc. This opens up a new world to me and I am quickly falling in love with Spain once again.




By Matthew Zinner

Tufts University

New.  That is how I would describe my first two months in Madrid.  The short time I have been here has not been like anything I have ever experienced before.  Speaking, listening, and thinking in Spanish all day, everyday has been completely new for me.  Eating dinner at 10pm, traveling to different cities, and seeing the school cafeteria serve shots, all new.  I now take for granted aspects of my daily life, that two months ago would have been the coolest thing in the world to me.

 Every morning and afternoon I walk through Plaza Mayor on my way to campus.  That square is older than the United States, and I stroll through, half asleep or ready to be home after a long day, like it is nothing.  

 This is not to say that I am not appreciative of the incredible opportunity I have been afforded, rather than when you are surrounded by the spectacular, the impressive almost becomes mundane.  When you come back from visiting the Vatican, the massive church you see daily seems a little smaller. 

 That is why I am really glad I have the opportunity to write this blog.  In writing, I have had the chance to take stock of all the incredible things I have seen and done in such a short period of time.  February just ended, and I have already formed a lifetime of memories.  But I still have three months left, and I cannot wait to appreciate all the new experiences on the way.