Our group of CIEE engineering students arrived in Madrid on Wednesday, January 15 with a lot of excitement. Students have come from different parts of the U.S. and from different schools to enroll in regular courses offered at the Engineering School at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (also known as UC3M). The resident director took the students on a campus tour where some of the students posed in front of the art wall at the Leganés campus, which was designed and crafted by Spanish students.
Orientation sessions started in the CIEE office that is located in front of the Atocha train station. Staff used power point presentations and interactive methods for the sessions on housing, safety, and security. All the engineering participants met Spaniards who study at UC3M. Together they reviewed cultural concepts related to drinking, group behaviours in Spain and held a discussion of a new generation of madrileños called "NiNis" (ni estudia, ni trabaja). This is a cohort of young people who neither study nor work due to the economic crisis in Spain, so they live at home and have a very limited budget. The Spanish students in the presentation wanted to express how this affects young people's social behavior. Afterwards, CIEE participants had a social mixer with the Carlos III students. At the end of the day, CIEE staff led an optional walking tour around the city center for students to know key landmarks, such as Plaza Mayor, the Palacio Real, and Plaza Sol with its emblematic bear statue.
One of the highlight was the tapas-style group lunch with homestay hosts, resident staff and all the CIEE students. This was held in a newly opened restaurant near the Plaza Santa Ana in the city center.
The orientation week also included the official pre-registration session on campus. Each student had an individual academic meeting with the resident director to review course requirements and class selection. Class times are sometimes different due to lab hours and students needed to be clear in which weeks their class hours changed for lab time. On the fifth day of orientation, the university opened up the online registration system. Resident staff and some of the Spanish student volunteers helped CIEE students with the registration on the university computers that was reserved in a classroom by CIEE. Students enrolled in a variety of courses, such as Information Technology, Supply Chain Management, Discrete Math, Statistics, Fluid Mechanics, Web Design, Physics II, Environmental Techonology and, of course, Spanish Language.
All the students had their own terminal to work and select their courses. However, the software system was quite slow and some of the courses taught in English were not listed. This was not a real problem because the university coordinator could enter registration manually and secured their entry into class. All the classes start as of Monday, January 27. The week ended with another fun activity on wheels. Students did an optional biking tour of the Madrid Rio Park that allowed them to see a different, green scenery of the city. This was quite a popular event and students requested if we could repeat something similar again for the group later on in the semester.