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3 posts from December 2013


End of Fall 2013 Semester Newsletter - Engineering and Society


Our first fall Madrid group is getting ready to depart and we are sad to see them go! In preparation for their departure, CIEE sponsored a re-entry meeting and a farewell group event with staff at a local bar in the Christmas-lit city center. Chueca lights

Farewell Reception

The Office of International Relations also organized a farewell reception on December 3. The Vice Rector spoke to the students to thank them for choosing the Universidad Carlos III as their host institution. He recognized that the education system is different in Spain and he hoped that this has allowed students take back a different way of framing, have new friends and be open to different ways of thinking to the United States. The university provided coffee, cold drinks, croissants and chocolate pastries in the faculty club for this special ocassion. DSC_1157 DSC_1152

Cultural Activities: Some Reflection and Highlights

Our engineering students commented that the latter part of the fall semester also included very memorable experiences. Exposing yourself and making a fool of one self can be quite a thrilling moment as one participant commented: “Moving your body in different ways in public, in front of your friends and some strangers, can feel quite liberating, like a new me!”

This observation was made shortly after our bike tour with other Spanish students -- undoubtedly a physical challenge for anyone unfamiliar with riding bicycles. She had not really biked a lot and she had to keep up with the pace of the group, which was going at quite a sporty pace.  Yet mingling with Spanish students and sweating it out together as a group seemed to break down many social barriers. Afterwards, the student felt very relaxed and less inhibited to practice her Spanish speaking skills and just have a good laugh. DSC_1024

Other students faced a physical challenge during an evening of intense Flamenco dance lessons. BEC Flamenco.3

Another student said his highlight was visiting Morocco because he had never been to an Islamic country before. One of his concerns was how he would be greeted as an American. Yet this changed very quickly when meeting Moroccans in Tangier. People there seemed to be a lot friendlier than he expected and he said his confidence grew even more. Morocco Morocco 21 Morocco 20

Academics: Spanish Language Classes

All students completed the required language course as part of the program at Universidad Carlos III. The language courses were taught twice a week during the semester at the intermediate, advanced and heritage speaker levels. The language teachers were one of the highest rated academic parts this semester. One student commented that: “My teacher not only taught us grammar rules, but always different ways to express ourselves and have better conversations with my host family and Spanish friends."

  Clase de español

Some student memories included a lot of smiles and a bit of fun while exploring between classes.

  Thom Grassner 2 Sammy rojas 2

Happy Holidays everyone! We hope you come and visit us again soon!



New Ways, Maps and Communication

By: Lydia Stensberg, Beloit College

Through the academic internship and the courses in Madrid, I have learned how to communicate in new ways. During my internship on environmental engineering I focused on energy-saving and temperature based housing. Exposing myself to new technologies in the internship was the technical part of my study abroad, but I learned many additional skills – mostly how to communicate in another culture. For starters, I did all my presentations in Spanish.

LydiaLooking back at my journal entries at the start of the semester, I was constantly comparing Spain with the United States. I would write down things that I liked and that I did not like. But over time, this changed. I realized it is not that important to keep comparing all the time and passing judgement. I realized I had to start communicating and learn how to ask for things: Be open to different systems and values. Lydia 2

I enjoyed most of my classes. But I had a bit of a fiasco with a part of my class at Leganes campus when I had to go to my first materials engineering lab. It was supposed to be in an annexed building next to the campus in Leganés, but when I went I could not for the life of me find it. I emailed the coordinating professor and she gave me directions because there was another group doing the lab the next day. Yet I still couldn't find it. I didn't even know if I had been looking for the right building -- that's how confused I was. My host mother, Rosa, told me that I'm at least learning a lesson in persevering through intense frustration, which is true, and sad, yet it made me smile all at the same time. She has been a great support this semester.  Leganes

Then I contacted our director, Eero, who helped me to get in touch with the right person in the department and finding out where to find the lab. The people at Leganes campus were nice and they showed me the lab building. So, I finally made it to the lab, even if I did get there five minutes late and still looked for it for an hour before finding it.  I felt as is Spain screwed up my sense of direction for some reason. Anyway, the university coordinator was also super nice and understanding about the entire affair.  My professor is even letting me hand in the lab report that I missed initially and she told me that she knows that the language difference and the new environment can get confusing.

Map on how to get to the Materials in Engineering Lab in Leganes

For future students, I made a map to the building in paint and Word really quick so that if someone else has to find it again they don't need to go through the same thing I did, because downtown Leganés is confusing. I had been to the building before and I still thought I was going to miss this lab, too. Map of Leganes Lab

Directions to Ave Mar Med (Materials Engineering and Science Lab)

1)      Walk to the campus, though it, and leave through that opening between buildings 1 and 5. You can also just walk around on Calle Sabatini.

2)      Cross the first bridge you get to across the ceranías train tracks.

3)      Turn slight left onto the Calle Rio Duero.

4)      Turn right onto Calle Rio Manzanares. The street signs are kind of weird in Leganés, but just keep following the road (go on the right side of the road), and the street sign for Calle Rio Manzanares should be on a building and easily visible.

5)      Follow Calle Rio Manzanares to the roundabout.

6)      Go left around the roundabout, cross Ave. Mar Mediterráneo, and the building is right there. There should be a post by the fence surrounding the building that says the name of the building. The building’s actually a scientific/business/development park. Wait in the entry hall until the professor comes to let you into the lab.

Overall, despite a few “hard” lessons, I feel I have grown a lot here in Madrid. I would not change that.


Flamenco Fun Night Out

By: Tom Strassner, Tufts University

My flamenco experience in Madrid was perfect. One recent evening we went to see a show organized by Sonia, our student activities coordinator. It was a Friday night, we all got dressed up and met up at the metro station.  Together we walked to this venue that is off the tourist track.  It was in a typical old bar, but we had to go underground into a large cavern-type basement. To our surprise, there was no one there yet.  But that was the whole point. Before the show we got a fun flamenco lesson from one of the dancers.  We all climbed on top onto the wooden stage.

During our group flamenco session, I learned some very suave dance moves that I will be sure to bring back to the States with me and bust out at the next party. TOM FLAMENCO ONE .20
We also learned about the culture and history of flamenco. For example, that the hand-woven, silk, ornamental scarf with flower motifs came from the former Spanish colony of the Philippines. It is often used for dramatic effect as part of the dance movement. In addition, we learned how to do "palmas" or hand clapping with specific rhythm and force. TOM FLAMENCO TWO.2
Then the restaurant opened for the local public and we had front row seats with a dinner, which was one of the best meals I had all semester. The show was very entertaining and accompanied by great live music. When my family visited I also took them to see a Flamenco show. It may be a stereotype of the country to go and see a Flamenco performance, but it is worth uncovering its meaning and seeing it live.