Our Engineering and Society program this Spring 2015 has ended with students achieving many intercultural skills and a deeper sense of Spanish values.
SINGING IN THE UNIVERSITY CHOIR
One of our science participants, Thendral, spent four hours each week in the university choir, coro Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, to learn a variety of classical songs in Spanish, German and Hungarian. The fifty singers, who the choir conductor selected after a rigorous audition, had trained very hard and then performed in the city center of Madrid at the historic venue, Círculo de Bellas Artes. Thendral was the only American and study abroad student in the choir.
In early May, Thendral travelled with the same choir to perform in front a large public audience at the music conservatory in the city of Ourense in the region of Galicia (northwest of Spain). Not surprisingly, Thedral told CIEE staff that this experience was not just a fun activity to explore Spain, but it also made her appreciate the dilligent work ethics of her Spanish peers and reconsider the power of music all over again.
VALENCIA DAY TRIP TO LAS FALLAS
Student also learned that many Spaniards value popular traditions. Our third and final day trip was to the mediterrean city of Valencia, the third largest city in Spain. The group came to see how Spaniards participate in Las Fallas that is a well-known tradition where small and large statues are placed on neighborhood corners. These art pieces were prepared by local guilds with an aim to give a social commentary.
The day prior to our departure CIEE staff held a cultural workshop at the Study Center to explain the origins of this curious tradition since the Fallas statues are also set on fire on the last night of the festivities. During our trip our students tried some typical buñuelos, which is sugared dough and pumpkin.
The student evaluations for the homestays in Madrid received excellent ratings. Students also commented that they feel more confident using their Spanish and having to face cross-cultural communication. All participants commented on the healthy foods, welcoming atmosphere and good conversations they had with their hosts. CIEE placed a couple of STEM students who placed at the same Spanish language level in the same homestay (never mixing levels, but allowing students to give each other support in case they were beginner Spanish learners, for instance). Hosts also were aware of student´s Spanish levels and know to encourage students to keep trying to speak the language. Homestay hosts engaged students in many social activities, such as going for a coffee, going for a walk in the park, meeting family members, inviting them to a theatre play, some time at their weekend home outside Madrid and even taking advantage of the sunny weather this spring on an outdoor terrace.
TREASURE HUNT & BIKE RIDING IN MADRID
Participants participated in various interactive CIEE activities to explore their host city. Our student coordinator, Sonia, led a bike tour along one of Madrid's park near the Manzanares river. She also created a custom-designed treasure hunt game where students had to visit and identify some key parts of Madrid that they may not have visited yet, such as certain statues in some beautiful local parks, tapas places in nice neighborhoods outside the city center, etc. while completing different types of outdoor tasks. Students said they enjoyed the challenge to explore the city on their own and realize that Madrid still had so much to offer -- even after being here for nearly three months. One student commented that a "check-box" mentality should not apply to study abroad in Madrid because she enjoyed revisiting places again and again. Our semester ended with a small farewell party and our student getting ready for their final exam at our host university. Several students met up for a last meal in a local Madrid restaurant.
We´ll miss them all! Have a great summer.