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3 posts from April 2016


La Leche? Food in Madrid

By: C. Gallati (U. South Carolina)
The barista looks over her shoulder at me as she finishes pulling the shot of espresso for my cortado, her question hanging in the air for only a second. "Caliente." I reply, digging into my pockets for a loose euro.
Spaniards treat their coffee like a tool, often opting to stand at the bar for just long enough to finish it before heading back into the streets. When it comes to ordering your coffee (always espresso, never drip) your choice of drink depends on the amount of milk you'd like and, as my barista had just queried to me, the temperature of the milk.  ES Chad coffee
For the steely eyed and steady handed, café solo will get you a shot of the black stuff with no adulterations. If you're like me and want the bitter edge of straight espresso softened some, café cortado will come "cut" with just a splash of milk. The ever popular café con leche is an equal part milk to match the espresso shot and is usually consumed as a breakfast drink (and sometimes making up the entirety of a Spanish breakfast). At the other end of the milky spectrum from café solo is the café manchada, a large glass of warm milk "stained" with a shot of espresso. And for those longing for the coffee of home (well, my home at least), a café americano will simulate a tall drip coffee by adding hot water to espresso. 
            And now, a lightening round for those drinks that exist a little more on the fringes of the Spanish coffee scene: 
  • Café con hielo: with ice (can be applied to any drink- solo, cortado, con leche, etc.). Especially popular in the summer.
  • Café bonbon: with sweetened condensed milk (!!!). 
  • Café carajillo: with brandy or whiskey, for when you're feeling more adventurous in the afternoon or evening.
  • Café descafeinado de máquina: decaf espresso. Leave out the de máquina and be  prepared to receive a warm glass of milk and a packet of powdered decaf coffee.

When the barista asks "the milk?" over the roar of the coffee grinder, she's referring to the temperature of the milk. Your two options are templada or caliente, room temperature or hot. Simple, right? This question also brings to mind the cultural significance of la leche (the milk) in the Spanish language. For example, ser la leche (to be the milk) can mean to be incredibly great or horribly awful, depending on the context. If this is confusing, think about an English equivalent like "sick". Mala leche (bad milk) can mean bad luck or a bad mood or temperament. It only makes sense that an ingredient with this cultural weight pairs so well with a drink that plays such an important role in the average Spaniard's day. Now that I've sufficiently showed my cards as a coffee addict, lets explore some other typical Spanish foods that are very much la leche (the good version). 

No, not the thing that comes wrapped around your burrito. In Spain, a tortilla is similar to an omelette or frittata with potatoes and onions. While they may have all sorts of ingredients, the most traditional (tortilla española) contains just eggs, potatoes, and onion. It’s made by frying off sliced potatoes and slightly caramelizing onions in a generous pour of olive oil before mixing them into scrambled eggs and returning the mixture to the same pan. ES Chad Tortilla
Halfway through cooking, a plate is used to carefully flip the tortilla so that the other side may set. A proper tortilla should be golden brown on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. This has quickly become one of my favorite Spanish dishes (no doubt a product of my love of all things eggs) and it has the added benefit of being a very cheap lunch when placed in the middle of a halved baguette to make a bocadillo de tortilla
If you order a drink in Spain, you can be sure that won’t be the only thing you’ll receive. Most Spanish bars and restaurants serve a tapa with every round of drinks, whether it be as simple as a bowl of mixed nuts or as extravagant as a slice of tortilla on toast topped with lettuce and tomato. While tapas have become synonymous worldwide with small dishes meant to be ordered in twos or threes, they aren't typically ordered in Spain and the selection is made by the bartender or waiter. ES Chad Tapas
They have their origins in old bars where legs of ham hung from the ceilings. To keep dripping fat from falling in drinks, bartenders would offer a plate to cover (tapa) the glass and naturally, some began offering small snacks to go on the plates. Clearly, this was popular with the patrons and the rest was history. For the best tapas in Spain, head south towards Sevilla and Granada.
Perhaps the most well known Spanish food worldwide is paella, a rice dish flavored with saffron (which gives it a distinct yellow color) and topped with any combination of seafoods, meats, and vegetables. It originated in Valencia and is typically cooked in a large, shallow pan over a wood fire. The most traditional paella contains rice, saffron, chicken, rabbit, duck, snails, beans, artichoke, and tomatoes. While you can get it all over Spain, most Spaniards tend to consider more of a Valencian dish than a Spanish dish. If you have a chance to have it in Valencia, it’s an opportunity you cannot pass up. Here is the paella that we ate while visiting Valencia. ES Chad paella
You and your friends are walking through Puerta del Sol, Madrid's version of Times Square, at around 3:00am (don’t ask me why you're here at this time, that’s on you) and your stomach growls. After a quick exchange of knowing glances, your party turns down a side street towards la Chocolatería San Ginés to get some of the best churros and chocolate on Earth. But Spain doesn’t play favorites with its pastries (pastels)- its love for sweet baked and fried foods is wide and far-reaching. When the sun comes back up, be sure to stop in La Mallorquina (also on Puerta del Sol) for the best napolitana (a sort of flat croissant filled with dark chocolate and topped with sugar) in the city. ES Chad napolitana
And each city has its own delicious creation:
  • Sevilla: Torrijas- imagine the sweetest french toast ever soaked in syrup
  • Granada/Santa Fe: Piononos- a cylinder of thin pastry fermented in different kinds of syrup and filled with toasted cream
  • Segovia: Ponche-  sponge cake layered with cream and wrapped in marzipan
  • Bilbao: Bollo de Mantequilla- a delicate bun filled with sweet butter paste
One could write an entire book on Spanish cuisine and there is no way I could capture it all in a single blog post. So come to Madrid and experience some of the world’s best food it in first person!


Newsletter # 2: Engineering and Society - Spring 2016


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. ES teatro Hey Boy Hey Girl
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. CLM number 2 ES La Mancha CLM number 3 Lamancha

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. Segovia Castle 2
Gracie gerron

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.Barrio Salamanca Mejorada 4 Lavapies Tour 5

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. Uc3m visit 2

Homestay Training

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. ES homestay training

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). Chad Gallati

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. RD world meeting ATL RD Atl 3


My Madrid Homestay

by S0phia Yamas

Columbia University


My homestay is next to the river, which is perfect for me because I like to run and the river is lined with running trails. My host family consists of a mom and a dad and a sister and a brother, something completely alien to me because in the United States I am an only child with divorced parents and have lived on my own on the opposite side of the country from my parents for a year and a half. It's great because the sister is my age and plays soccer, so I go to soccer practice with her when I have time and hang out with her friends and go to parties with her and we have things to talk about.

Sophia's host

My Spanish mom and dad often stay in the kitchen talking with me for a long time after dinner and I've learned a lot about Spanish culture from them. I ran a marathon in Barcelona during my stay with them, and they were sending me "Buen suerte!" and "Eres campeon!" on WhatsApp. When I got a fever afterward they took me to the hospital even though it was 10:30 at night because my host mom was worried. They even lent my friend and I snow gear when we went skiing for a weekend and didn't have any. They had extra tickets to a private tour of the Reina Sofia from my host mom's work so they brought me. Earlier in the semester I had only seen the part with Guernica, but seeing another part of the museum made me realize that it's a really great museum and I want to go back as much as possible. My host family has been an integral part of my study abroad experience in Madrid, and I don't know what I would do without them.