It is hard to believe that the semester is flying by so fast. CIEE staff has been following an extensive cultural agenda for participants in the spring Engineering and Society program; and we would like to share some highlights from the past few weeks.
Night out at the Theatre with the Joven Compañía
Participants attended an optional night out at the Theatre of the musical drama “Hey Boy, Hey Girl” performed and sung 100% in Spanish. The Joven Compañía, or Spanish Youth Company , consist of actors who are under 24 years old and perform classic plays such as Shakespeare´s Romeo and Juliet with a modern musical twist. Students who are enrolled in the Spanish Language course got extra credit for writing a review on the performance.
Day trip to regional province of La Mancha
On a Friday, CIEE organized a private bus from Madrid to a regional area called La Mancha to learn more about the life in rural villages and the social design of Manchego society. In addition to a guided tour of a medieval theatre, students ate typical food dishes from the local cuisine in a restaurant and visited a medieval windmill of the region where they learned how it functioned. Engineering students were particularly impressed by this Arab invention and its practical design to grind.
Weekend Excursion to Andalucia
Each semester the student group visits a regional area of Spain to learn more about the complex national identities of Spain. In the second month, the group went for a three-day exucursion to Andalucia in Southern Spain and visited the regional capital, Sevilla. This was a very popular trip, led by CIEE staff, because participants really enjoyed that it included a guided bike tour of the city and an overnight stay for two nights in a 4 star hotel. Students also visited the famous Plaza de España where Star Wars was filmed, bought sweets from a local convent, entered the royal castle of the Alcazar, and had a tapas night with local Sevilla students.
Visit Favorite Neighborhoods with CIEE Staff
CIEE staff in Madrid lives in different neighborhoods of the city and enjoy many cultural offerings away from the tourist attractions. Each semester individual CIEE staff show off their favorite spots in their “hood.” This semester, a group from Engineering and Society students visited the barrio Salamanca located near the Plaza Colon in Madrid; the immigrant area of Lavapies; the urban art in Malasaña and a local pueblo outside of Madrid. They explored trendy coffee shops, museums, theatre and tapas bars and also stopped to see the Centro Cultural de la Villa (see photo below). On another day, the housing coordinator took a group to visit a local pueblo and students visited the construction of a new holy shrine and learned about construction designs using recycled materials.
Mid-Semester Academic Meetings
All engineering and science students meet with the Resident Director to review their academic progress and participation in classes in their second month of the program. The RD meets individually with students in his office to hear from participants on how they are managing the work load for classes, the interaction with professors and advise on their overall academic experience. The CIEE program has also arranged for a weekly teacher-led tutorial and students comment that this has been helpful as they prepare for their final exam.
Our students are placed in homestay in the city center of Madrid, near metro stations and easy public transport access. Our housing coordinator has been busy organizing many projects, including the addition of a new housing option of student apartments in the city. She also organized three evening sessions for new homestay “meet and greet” opportunities as well as two-hour training sessions. Themes covered in our sessions, were co-led with the residents directors, who also shared student trends as well as discussed non-verbal communication and exploring ways to improve the cultural communication between students and hosts. CIEE staff also visits each homestay annually to review and check on health and safety standards in the housing, ensuring that smoke alarms, fire escapes, etc. are in working conditions.
Semana Santa – Easter Holiday Break
The Easter Holiday break in Spain is one of the longest school holidays in the country. CIEE students get 10 days to plan and explore many parts inside and outside of Madrid. In preparation for this break, the Resident Director holds his monthly meeting a few days before classes stopped and explained the meaning behind Semana Santa, reviewed some cultural activities of interests that were being offered in the city. Another part of the presentation focused on health and safety reminders (especially for students who planned to travel to other European countries). Participants filled out a more detailed travel form than the standard weekend travel form and let staff know about their day-to-day whereabouts while travelling overnight away from Madrid. Many participants took advantage during this break to visit other parts of Spain, such as Barcelona, Bilbao and Granada (in the latter to see the Alhambra palace).
World Wide Resident Director Training
CIEE organized an annual meeting for resident directors world-wide in Atlanta, Georgia in conjunction with the Forum on Education Abroad conference. The Center Director from Madrid attended 3-days of meetings with CIEE leadership and management to review operational protocols that included health and safety reporting as well as improving response mechanisms for mental health cases. CIEE staff attended from sites all over the world and also has ample opportunity to mentor each other in effective and best practices for student learning outcomes.