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2 posts from November 2014



Dear friends and colleagues:

Hola from Madrid! We are pleased to share an update with you about the Engineering and Society Program.


We received news from the Vice Rector for International Relations at our host institution. After several months of negotiation, the Academic Advisory Board of Universidad Carlos III de Madrid has approved a new (binding) regulation that establishes the right for U.S. college students to take an early exam for any direct enroll courses offered in the fall semester. This eliminates the need take distance exams in January when most CIEE participants have returned to their home campus. This new policy will go into effect immediately.  All our CIEE Madrid students are now informed and are pleased with the news. They will still need to check with their regular course professor of each specific class on the exact date, time and classroom for their December final exam, but this change allows future CIEE students to complete their fall semester in December. IMG_5916

CIEE staff has been working very closely with the UC3M leadership to negotiate this important academic change and ensure that CIEE participants can complete all their courses onsite prior to their departure from Spain.


On a Friday morning the Resident Director and the Student Services coordinator met with the engineering students to visit one of the largest airports in Europe, the Barajas-Madrid airport complex.  Students met with a representative from the Environmental Agency at the airport and took a guided tour. The main objective was to get a deeper understanding of how environmental policy applies in practice at one of the busiest airports in Europe. The group learned how airplane designs create noise and what this means for noise pollution in the area. Our guide showed the CIEE participants how her department tracks flight routes in and around Madrid. In addition, she explained how she analyzes noise levels at different points across the vast airspace around the airport. IMG_6790 IMG_6794 IMG_6821
On a cultural note, our students learned how the economic crisis in Spain has lowered the number of plane traffic in the past year and how the Environmental Agency manage over twenty-five birds of prey help to reduce air traffic accidents in the natural area of the airport. IMG_6813


Engineering students enrolled in the three-credit Spanish Cultural Studies course visited one of the largest public cemeteries in Europe, La Almudena. This 120-acre burial ground has over five million graves sites that supersede the number of inhabitants of Madrid by over one million. Students learned how to look at design and urban planning. Almudena 2

Several participants valued the larger graves that filled the cemetery. The architecture ranged from very traditional (statues of Jesus, a cross, etc.) to modern (the statue of a women weeping over the grave). All of the graves were above ground, which is different than the United States. La Almudena cemetery seemed much more colorful than ones many participants had seen in the United States because there were flowers on many of the graves and trees lining both sides of the roads. One science student observed that Spain seems to value the dead externally by spending a lot of money and time decorating the graves and by making the graves very personal with special decorations. Almudena


Engineering participants joined CIEE staff and Spanish network students on a three-day weekend excursion to the north of Spain. The focus of the journey was for students to learn about a different region in Spain, the Basque country. Students shared a group meal to practice Spanish and talk about their semester experience. ES BILBAO TRIP

One of the trip highlights was to discover the engineering marvels of this port city. Students visited one of the first hanging bridges. ES bilbao 12

They also took the 4-minute funicular train that English miners built during the early 20th century to go to the top of the city. Once they reached their destination, they got a treat for some great panoramic views. Funicular-artxanda-2 20140928_105852 ES Bilbao 14 ES Bilbao 15


On Friday, October 24, Eero Jesurun, Center Director for CIEE Madrid, co-presented a session at the Forum on Education Abroad´s second European conference held in Barcelona.  Together with representatives from the STEM disciplines, he presented on  “Addressing Questions for STEM Students and their Curriculum Going Abroad to Europe.”  Presenters and audience members discussed how do we should monitor and enhance participation of STEM students using a science curriculum based on breadth versus a depth approach. Eero also presented on the challenges that study abroad models in Europe and gave examples on what has demonstrated to be effective in Madrid. Forum EUROPE conference 1. jpg



by Lily Boe

Villanova University


So, for the weekend of September 26-28, my program, CIEE planned a very unique trip to Bilbao, a small city in the north of Spain. CIEE planning the trip meant everything was included—travel costs, accommodation, food, tours, etc. Which, as a typical college kid studying in Europe and going broke by the second, is a real treat.

We departed via our own private bus on the morning of the 26th. Since it was a private bus and it was just a small group of us, there was one person to every two seats, meaning we were all able to spread out and sleep when necessary. It was funny sometimes to see how silent the bus got. Well within 30 minutes of our journey, the bus was completely quiet, and everyone was resting up for the activity that was soon to come.

After about two hours, we arrived in a lovely little Spanish pueblo, or little town. This was crazy to see—it was kind of the first real glimpse I’ve had of rural Spain. It’s amazing how small this town was. Our huge, gas-guzzling bus surely looked out of place among these dirt streets and small homes with clay rooftops. In this pueblo, we embarked on our first adventure: kayaking the Duraton River.

When we first entered the pueblo, it looked dry as a bone. But, as we made our way toward to river, we started to descend this enormous hill made of sand. All of a sudden, we walked through some cliffs and we arrived at the most pristine-looking river that I had ever seen (Sorry Connecticut, but your dinky rivers just don’t compare!) We ended up kayaking in a canyon. It was incredibly beautiful. Despite the insane arm strength that it required, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Prior to beginning our journey, we were told not to make a lot of noise, because we were technically in a natural park inhabited by an endangered species of vultures, which tons of noise would scare away. So, we quietly rowed along, as several vultures circled around above us.

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After kayaking, we went into the pueblo for a traditional Spanish lunch of Paella. It was pretty delicious! I mean, you can’t really go wrong with rice, seafood, and some veggies in my opinion. The meal was accompanied by some delicious Spanish wine. And just like that, we were all in major food coma, and ready to try to sleep it off for the remainder of the bus ride home.



By the time we arrived in Bilbao, it was already incredibly dark outside, so we couldn’t see much of what the city had to offer. What we could notice, however, was that we were descending into the city. The city appeared to be the lowest point in the area, in between many mountains, down below. From the far-up highway, the city looked quite beautiful, lights glimmering in the dark of the night.

That night, after checking into our hotel, a few of us went to grab a bite to eat at a local place that sold “pintxos,” or Bilbao’s version of tapas. After filling our bellies, a small group of us went to hang out in one hotel room. I forgot how much I love sitting around and getting to know people in a small group. Since living in a homestay, I’ve forgotten what that’s like. We aren’t allowed to have guests over, and for obvious reasons, since it’s not our home. So it was nice to sit around and talk—it had a certain privacy that you can’t get in a bar or restaurant. I feel like I learned some truly interesting things about some wonderful people that night.

Saturday started off with a delicious breakfast, courtesy of our hotel. All of a sudden, it was like an American breakfast—a huge buffet consisting of eggs, bacon, breads, pastries, cereals, fruits, yogurts, and more. No more light Spanish breakfast anymore I suppose! After, we made our way into the heart of the city. The center of Bilbao basically revolves around one main river. That day, we had a bike tour planned, in order to see what the city had to offer. I really enjoyed it! It was a remarkable way to see the city. We ventured passed the Guggenheim, across several bridges, and through many gorgeous parks. Pictures to follow!

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Truthfully, after that two-hour bike tour, we had seen almost the entire city! It’s so small. The one thing we hadn’t really ventured into was the “Casco Viejo,” or the old part of the city, where you can see a lot of the history of the Basque people. The Basque are an indigenous group, who live within “Basque country” typically—Bilbao being one of the most important cities in their region. Seeing this old part of the city in comparison with the new, modern part that contained the exotic Guggenheim and several chic bridges was a very unique experience. I had some awesome gelato-like ice cream and a Palmera de Chocolate the size of my face (I’m being really healthy this fall) and was fairly content with how I’d spent my afternoon!

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That night, our program director sent us out for pintxos and drinks with a few Bilbao students from the area. That was a really special experience and a great way to practice my Spanish, which I was thankful for! In the area where we ate, we ended up coming face-to-face with masses of people drinking in the streets and wearing their football jerseys, as there was a huge game for Bilbao’s football team that evening. I’d never seen streets this rowdy, not even in Madrid! I suppose that’s one of the perks of a smaller city.

Later that night, we spent a little more time hanging out in the hotel rooms, then a bunch of us made the executive decision to go check out Bilbao’s nightlife. And what an experience that was! First, a group of us got separated from our other friends and ended up going to this cute children’s park right beside the Guggenheim. We climbed to the top of this monkey bar-like thing made of ropes. It was nice to just sit for a moment and enjoy the sky of Northern Spain. Finally, we tracked down our other friends and met them in a salsa-dancing club that they had found. This was my favorite place of the night! We were all pairing off and dancing salsa, spinning and twirling and loving it.

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Unfortunately the other clubs we went to (there were 2 more!) did not provide as much of a unique cultural experience as the salsa dancing one did, but I still had fun and enjoyed the company I was with. The other 2 clubs ended up being more like what you see in Madrid, with plenty of club-like dancing and American music. No complaints though! It was an incredibly solid night out in Bilbao. And it was my first time going to more than one club in a night! It’s probably because the Bilbao clubs don’t have a cover charge J

The next day, as our Bilbao journey was drawing to a close, we woke up early to take a tram ride up to the top of one of the peaks that overlooked the city. We got into this box-like cable car and started making our way up. It really felt like we were on some sort of a ride, and like the box was going to drop like the way it would on a wooden roller coaster. But it didn’t, and we made it safely to the top. From there, we had a breathtaking panoramic view of the lovely Bilbao. You must check out the pictures!

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Overall, I had a wonderful weekend in Bilbao and am very grateful to CIEE for planning such a lovely trip for us! It was proof that Spain is as lovely of a country as I had believed, and I ought to see a hundred other cities here while I can. Wish me luck with that one!!!