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3 posts categorized "Travel"


Spring 2017 - End of Semester Newsletter - Engineering and Society


Thank you to a great group of students this spring semester. We encourage you to continue your travels and explorations. Students regularly visited CIEE staff during office hours and at the Study Center to share stories about friends and family in the U.S. or Spain, anecdotes, jokes or cultural mishaps. In addition to socializing and studying, our participants completed a variety of activities this spring with our Madrid program.

Local Cultural Activities

Several participants joined our graffiti workshop with a local Spanish artist, who explained how graffiti artists work in Madrid. He shared his perspective on some of the challenges that they face in today´s art market. Students also practiced their painting skills. Grafitti_01

On a sunny afternoon at 6 pm, participants attended a guided visit to the largest bullring in all of Spain, located in Madrid, with a CIEE teacher, who explained the cultural meaning and value system behind using animals in this old Spanish tradition of the bullfight. Bullring_02

Weekend Excursion to Bilbao

Student participated in an optional three- day trip to the Basque country with accommodation in Bilbao, with its modern riverfront landscapes, a paradise of food tapas and quirky architecture. The group traveled in a private bus with two CIEE staff members on a Friday Morning and returned back to Madrid by Sunday evening. Students had guided tours of some of the emblematic parts of the city, its history as a seaport and also had enough free time to explore the old city center and in the early morning took an old tram to the city´s  highest point for a panoramic view.20170304_111526 20170304_11195720170304_121505Madrid Chotis Dance Class

Near the end of the semester, some CIEE participants engaged in dancing during the two-hour cultural talk at our Study Center about Madrid´s patron saint, San Isidro, celebrated on May 15th each year.  Representatives from a local cultural group spoke about food and traditions during this annual Madrid festival.  Participants also learned how to slow dance the Chotis and listened to typical chotis music.Chotis 1

LGBTQ Activities

Our host university has an active gay student group, called LGBTQ+ UC3M, which organizes social and awareness events, such as the amateur indoor soccer tournament against LGTBQfobia held this past April. Each semester the group also organizes visibility campaigns on campus with the participation of students, faculty, and administrators. CIEE staff also support the full participation of all members of the CIEE community in Madrid in these activities regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Gay leganes

Re-Entry Workshop: Preparing for the Return "Home"

Before students started their final exam week, they were invited to attend an optional re-entry meeting with the resident director about how to prepare for life back at home, job interview questions related to study abroad, and strategies on how to deal with adapting back to life on the U.S. campus.  One of the main concerns that participants expressed is how to articulate their semester experience to friends and family while also managing mixed feelings of going home and missing Spain.Re-entry

Farewell Tapas with Music

The semester ended with a tapas and drinks event on campus where a live student musical group, called a Tuna, performed Spanish songs and explained some of the traditions of student music groups. The Head of the UC3M international school said a few words of thank you and hoped that students got to learn about the Spanish education system and will return to their home campus with a different perspective to see the world that we live in today.  Tuna music



Newsletter Spring 2017: Engineering and Society


The spring 2017 semester has started off well with a very enthusiastic and curious group of students. Everyone arrived on time without any flight delays and no lost luggage. This semester, unusually, we have nearly 80% computer science majors in our Madrid program who are taking a combination of direct enroll courses and cultural content electives. ES welcome group

Local Cultural Activities in Madrid

The Student services coordinator manages the cultural agenda and students have access to at least two activities during the week, in addition to day trips and excursions. One of the first activities included a visit to a Spanish photography exhibit on the refugee crisis in Europe. ES exhibit
Other activities so far have included: a guided bike tour, cooking class, photography workshop, a visit to 20th Century art museum Reina Sofia, book club reading, language exchange mixers with local Spanish students, and several walking tours of local neighborhoods. ES in Leganes Kitchen ES 3 ES El escorial

Overnight Weekend Excursion to Sevilla

Students are exposed to some of the country´s most regionally diverse places with excursions outside of Madrid. For the first overnight weekend excursion, students participated in an optional three-day trip to the historic city of Sevilla, in the south of Spain. Students traveled early on a Friday morning in a high-speed train with CIEE staff. The trip included a guided 2-hour biking tour of the old historic downtown on the first day. ES Seville 1
 On the second day, participants entered into the old Cathedral for a two-hour historic visit of Spain´s colonial past. On the last day, students went on a two-hour tour of the royal palace of the Alcazar where participants learned about the Arabic cultural heritage of Spain and saw the film set for Game of Thrones. ES Seville 2 ES Seville 4 ES Seville 3

Health, Safety and Security Procedures

CIEE staff conducts monthly health and safety meetings to test the CIEE alert notification system and review all the health and safety procedures for Madrid, including a review of evacuation plans. During orientation, staff led a two-hour workshop on student risk with all participants by reviewing emergency contacts, warning about local risks/threats, discuss 24/7 availability of staff in case of need and discuss safety expectations. CIEE staff makes every effort to promote an atmosphere of collaborative support and shared example scenarios that happened to previous students. The most common incidents are typically pickpocketing, hospitalization for minor injuries or unexpected returns to the U.S. In addition, four CIEE staff co-led a two-hour session on Bystander Intervention in the local Madrid context to help students gain confidence in making safe decisions when faced with a difficult situation. During orientation, CIEE staff also conduct introductory walking tours of the city center where they explain basic safety tips regarding pick-pocketing prevention at locations such as Puerta del Sol, the subway trains and outdoor terraces. ES in Sol


Visiting Spain´s Controversial Civil War Memorial

By: F. DuBose - Harvard University

I went on a program day-trip outside Madrid with Sonia, our student services coordinator, and some other CIEE students.  We arrived at the national historic site El Valle de los Caídos, or Valley of the Fallen, which is a controversial Spanish Civil War memorial. The size of the construction was stunning. The plaza could easily fit a couple of football fields, and the building stretched out far along the face of the mountain and rose high above us. It was deceptive in its magnitude. In the pictures below you can see the stone structure compared to some tourists. Valle de los CWe explored the far end of the plaza where we could see some towns in the distance and enter the forest that surrounds Valle de los Caídos, but soon turned around to enter the actual monument.  20151023_154331_HDR There was a security gate to pass through just inside the door, with a second door that obstructed a view of whatever was further inside the mountain. After going through security, we entered into a massive hall that reminded me of Hogwarts’ Great Hall from the Harry Potter novels. My first thought was that it would make a great event venue, either for a concert or a ball of some sort. The very center of the intersection was a large communion table on a raised circular platform. On either side of this platform were large stone slabs laid into the floor with flowers placed on them – the graves of Primo de Rivera, founder of the fascist party in Spain, and Francisco Franco, the dictator who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975. 20151023_155138Before coming to Spain I knew very little about Spanish history, but in my time in Spain I observed that there is a very strong negative sentiment toward Franco for what he did. Being mere feet above the corpse of somebody who caused so much pain and suffering in Spain was chilling.  Our group knew that Franco and Primo de Rivera were buried there before we arrived, but seeing their graves in person was still powerful. I took a seat in a pew and was just trying to soak everything in when a man who had been walking down the aisle stopped abruptly in front of Primo de Rivera’s grave and gave a Roman salute – his arm straightened and pointed up at an angle. My heart nearly stopped. The attendant in the church immediately came up to him and told him he could not do that here. The man then walked around the center circle to Franco’s grave and paid his respect, this time without a salute. Sonia pointed out to me that this man´s shirt cuffs and collar had the colors of the Spanish flag and explained that in certain contexts these colors are still closely associated with Franco and his supporters. The man walked into one of the chapels briefly, returned to Primo de Rivera’s grave where he once more paid tribute, and left. I was shocked at this display of support for Franco. Until this point I had only heard negative opinions of him, and while I of course knew in the back of my mind that there had to be some Spaniards who supported him I figured I would never come into contact with those people. If I felt chilled when I saw Franco’s grave, seeing this man’s salute sent a shiver down my spine. I recognize that I do not know enough about what Franco did to his country, but the fact that I have almost exclusively heard Spanish people say they do not like Franco made me uncomfortable in the presence of this man who supports Franco to this day. El Valle de los Caídos was spectacular in a visual sense. 20151023_135719Everything outside is enormous and appears pretty, and the inside of the memorial is incredible in its engineering and construction. Before seeing it, I had heard that many Spaniards would never visit the site and have negative sentiments for it. After visiting it myself and seeing the significance that it still holds for supporters of Franco, I feel that I understand the popular Spanish sentiment very well and would absolutely agree that the monument, while stunning, holds a darker significance.  The amount open space at this War Memorial was overwhelming, especially considering it was carved from the inside of the mountain, and the walls were beautifully decorated with art. At the other end of the hall was a church where Sonia explained that services are held regularly. The layout of the interior was in the shape of a cross, and while we had entered through the bottom of the cross the church was found in the intersection of the two beams. There were small chapels on the two ends of the cross that point to the left and the right, and in the top of the cross there was a choral section. 20151023_155202_HDR