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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.