Fall 2017 Newsletter: Engineering and Society - Madrid, Spain

Authored by:
Sonia Sales

The Madrid, Fall 2017 Newsletter is here for the Engineering and Society program! One of the things that our students learn almost immediately upon their arrival to Spain is that different cultures have very different concepts of greetings. Students met their Spanish roommates, host families, and Spanish network students by giving “dos besos,” or two quick kisses on the cheeks, accompanied by a hug. So much for personal space, but it also created an immediate sense of trust and becoming acclimated to local cultural customs in Madrid.
Airport Arrival

All student flights arrived on time. CIEE reps waited for students at the arrival terminals and coordinated student transport who took a courtesy vehicle to the city center housing, organized by CIEE. However, two students had bag delays, which was frustrating for them as it took nearly two days to recover their first bag from the airline. With the CIEE travel insurance through iNext participants were covered for buying some temporary clothes and toiletries. Orientation

CIEE staff prepared an orientation activity on the first day that started with introductions and a welcome toast, including a glass of bubbly cava or a non-alcoholic alternative of Asturian apple cider.

The two-day orientation included several components that had sufficient free time to catch up on sleep and eat, but also to keep students awake with interactive features such as walking tours in the historic city center, where the CIEE Madrid offices and classrooms are located, and also learning how to use well-connected and easy to use city public transport.
CIEE staff also covered important aspects of health and safety, academics, housing and cultural adaptation. Special attention and discussion on sexual assault is part of this orientation so that students who study abroad don´t underestimate this occurrence while studying overseas. All students attend a health and safety workshop, together with a group of local Spanish youth, that includes a full review of the bystander phenomenon as well as a discussion on Spanish and American views on consent, public display of affection in public spaces, use of language, catcalling, social media use, and concepts of socialization with alcohol and drugs.

CIEE staff (both male and female) help to co-lead the health and safety workshops and include case incidents related to the GLBTQ+ community. Later on, a separate and optional workshop on GLBTQ+ in Madrid, co-led with student representatives from the host university GLBTQ+ group, discussed queer culture in Madrid, the history of legislation in Spain as well as the general safety in public of anyone who may be perceived as “different.”

All these workshops got very positive reviews from participants. Cultural Activities in September

CIEE staff use past student recommendations, participant evaluations and suggestions from locals to create a cultural agenda each semester.  The Student Life Coordinators works closely with a group of local Spanish students to help plan and deliver educational as well as fun-inspired activities.  CIEE offers at least one optional cultural activity each day during the week, totaling six activities each week.

Students can sign up for any of the optional activities, including cooking class, visits to local organizations, bike tours, dance class, cultural centers, language exchange opportunities:
September Day trip to El Escorial

On Saturday, September 9, CIEE Madrid set out on a day trip to the city of San Lorenzo de El Escorials, an hour north of the Spanish capital near the mountain range of Guadarrama Valley, where students enjoyed a visit to a UNESCO World Heritage site of the Royal Palace of El Escorial, one of the country’s historic religious centers and museum.

Among the museum’s collections is a permanent library exhibit teaching visitors of the rich Arab language legacy, the 16th Century vision of learning as wells as the architectural engineering marvel of the castle that also functioned as the royal family tomb, monastery, military fort and identity of the Catholic royal elites. Students also observed the splendor of the beautiful rooms, antique furniture, and wealth of the Spanish royal family in the 16th century.

Starting Classes at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

After the online registration was completed for the direct enrolment courses, CIEE students completed an on-campus tour of the university facilities, visited the CIEE staff office, library, cafeteria, gym, bank and student activities office.  Some students also signed with the Host University Student Buddy program where they were put into small cohorts with a Spanish student who was eager to show them their campus and act as an additional resource for CIEE students.

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