Welcome to our Madrid Fall 2015 start up! This semester we have a diverse group of students where sixty percent of our highly motivated STEM participants are U.S. college women whose majors vary from computer sciences, mechanical engineering, biology and industrial engineering. The entire group has showed a lot of curiosity and enthusiasm in learning as much as they can about Spanish culture during orientation to help them with the integration process in Madrid.
We started orientation with an introduction to health and safety issues as well as guided walking tours with Spanish students and the Resident Director who highlighted major landmarks in the city, such as the Puerta de Sol (see our group photo above) and the Plaza Mayor. Our students get an opportunity to understand the lay-out of the city and how to get around easily by using the metro system and the local busses. Students also participated in Spanish student activities to visit the Parque Retiro and get to know some of Madrid´s top museums.
One of the orientation “highlights” was our group activity to the Urban Playa Film Festival, a very popular outdoor summer movie series where old films are shown to a Spanish crowd. CIEE staff managed to get tickets for a sold out show of a “Sing-A-Long” with professional singers on stage while showing the 1978 film musical “Grease” with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. The film was dubbed in Spanish, but the songs were in the original English version and had subtitles in English so that the Spaniards in the audience could sing along with the film.
There were several live entertainers dressed up in fifties-style clothing on the stage and who encouraged the film crowd to sing along. Once they encountered our group of CIEE students and realized they were Americans, they the microphone to them so that they could sing along to “Summer Nights” and “Greased Lightning.”
Several students mentioned to CIEE staff that they were surprised to learn how the crowd was captivated by American music and how popular Grease seemed to be for several Spaniards. One student commented that she did not realize the persuasive power of American culture that is transmitted through film. Afterwards, several studenst met up with the Spanish dancers from the live show.
Spanish Intensive Language Course
All the CIEE students in the engineering program, regardless of their Spanish level, enroll in the CIEE Spanish Intensive Language course. This semester students were divided into two groups, beginner and intermediate level. Students took nearly four hours of Spanish language class each day, which included breaks and interactive activities. Students participated in teacher-led activities such as a street interview exercise where they had to ask local some questions about Madrid or look up landmarks on a city map.
One afternoon, students visited the National Archeological Museum (MAN) where they selected a curious object and had to practice describing this object. In the photo below they are at the museum entrance together with their Spanish language professor, Raquel, who is seated. Other class activities included a visit to a local traditional market, the Royal palace of Madrid and the city´s history museum where studenst got to see models of the city´s geographical growth.
Host University Visit: Leganes Campus Tour
After completing the two-week Spanish language intensive course, all students visit the Leganes campus of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid where they will take regular direct enroll courses with other Spanish students. On September 2 the resident staff took the students on a campus tour. Leganes is a working class area of Madrid and urban art is part of its many street corners. Students posed in front of one of the scenic walls across the Leganes campus grounds.
The group had lunch together with CIEE staff in the student cafeteria, walked around the Leganes town center (filled with little bars, restaurants, supermarkets, kebab places). One of the favorite stops was at the university health and fitness center. Students got a “peek” of the university gym. For two weeks, the university gym has “open doors” that allows students to enter for free and try out the facilties, including an Olympic size swimming pool.
New Academic Feature: Teacher-led STEM Study Groups of Two to Four Students
This semester all STEM students are taking a variety of classes, including Industrial Automation, Fluid Mechanics, Linear Algebra, Systems of Architecture, Physics, User Interfaces, Discrete Math, Art History, Economy of Europe and Spain. One special feature of the Engineering and Society program is that we have special study groups that are organized in coordination with the Dean of the Leganes campus. Some regular classes already require group work, but this special Leganés campus teacher-led study group typically consists of two to four U.S. college students who are taking a university STEM course. The group meets once a week for an hour on campus during which students complete course revision and study the course material in preparation for the final exam and other tests. In most cases, the teacher of the study group is a different faculty member from the one assigned to teaching your regular course. Study groups will start meeting as of next week, September 14, for the duration of fifteen weeks. The teacher meets student for an hour each week until exam time in December. If there is no study group for the course yet then the Dean of the Leganés campus will create one, even if the CIEE student is the only U.S. College student in that course. In that case the CIEE student would have a one-to-one tutoring with the university teacher.
Bystander Intervention Workshop
On the last day of orientation, CIEE staff lead a required health and safety workshop on Bystander Intervention. This semester many students already completed a bystander training at their home campus and this is great asset as students seem to be more aware of the characteristics and factors that are involved in stepping in when there are difficult or complex situations. The CIEE staff also invited Spanish students from our social network who help and participate throughout the orientation program. One section of the training included the analysis of consent and intervention as portrayed in a Blake Shelton country song video called “Sangria” which included several stereotypes about Spanish culture but also seemed a good learning tool to start discussion about what is acceptable in a culture (either the U.S. or Spain). The two-hour works shop also includes case studies that students assess in small groups and the get resource information before they leave the room.
We will keep you posted this semester with a newsletter mid-semester and also at the end of year as our STEM students explore Madrid and the rest of Spain.