Author Archives: phall

Exchange group heads to Madrid for the next two weeks!

Our 2018-2019 Short-Term Spanish Exchange group is gearing up for their upcoming departure for Madrid! The group met on Thursday, February 14 to craft some “Group Goals” and “Daily Leadership Roles” for their experience abroad:

  • Group Goals:
    1.) Improve Spanish! (Speak in Spanish to host families and friends; Participate during classes at CEM) )
    2.) Try new things/Get out of comfort zone/have comfort with discomfort (eat new foods)
    3.) Engage with new people (open up to NA classmates; connect with host and host family; be present; be with new people)
    4.) Focus on being present (Limit phone/technology use)
    5.) Document and reflect on experience throughout (photos; daily journal)
    6.) Become a better and more confident traveler (be a traveler instead of a tourist … No starbucks!)
    7.) Learn about a new side of your inner self (have an open mindset)
    8.) Leave Spain with a second family
    9.) Have fun!
  • Daily Student Leadership Roles:
    Leader(s) of the Day
    Social Media Manager (Blog; Twitter)
    Language Police
    Phone Patrol

Follow along on their adventure abroad March 2-16 here on the blog and on our International Programs Twitter feed.

Saying Adiós to CEM

Written by Lily Hackbirth ’19 to recount Friday, March 16, 2018:

Today was our last day at Colegio Europeo de Madrid. In the morning, we got assigned different schedules to attend. Some of my classmates and I went to biology class where we traced our bodies onto a poster board and labeled the body parts with their Spanish names.

Next, we went to history class and learned about important Spanish history, and then got tested on it by a game of Kahoot. Then, our group got split again into five different groups. This consisted of having four of us per class sit in and listen to what the students were learning in their class that day. After that, we had a thirty minute break. During break the lunch ladies put out a snack in the cafeteria for the kids. Today the snack was bananas. After break we had European class. During this class we learned about ‘Internet of Things’, otherwise known as IOT. We were handed a bunch of computer parts and used to do a bunch of fascinating things like lighting up a lightbulb with a censor and setting a censor to create noises when activated. At 1pm we ate lunch. We were served bread, salad, scrambled eggs, and croquetas. After lunch, we had a siesta (free time) until 3 pm. During this time, many people did homework, took naps, or even played basketball and volleyball in the gym. After the siesta, we went back into groups, half of us went to radio class while the others went to learn Hip Hop. For the last hour of the school day, we had a farewell party. We were served Coca-Cola, chips, and torrijas (a common Spanish dessert in Semana Santa). They gave us farewell goodie bags, and we hung out with everyone in the cafeteria and basketball court until school ended. After school, we all went home, and now we have to pack everything up tonight. A lot of us are sad knowing we have to say adiós to our host families early tomorrow morning, but we are so thankful for the great experiences from these past two weeks!

Valle de Los Caídos and San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Written by Elle Lambert ’19 to recount Wednesday, March 14, 2018:
Today we traveled to two fascinating sites that are important in Spain’s history. First, we took a bus from CEM to Valle de Los Caídos. Valle de Los Caídos is an enormous church, but it is more well known as the burial site of the former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. The site also honors the nuns and priests who were killed in the Spanish Civil War before Franco’s rule. When we arrived, we were immediately struck by the massive size of the church and the cross on the mountain above it. The whole area looked a little eerie because of the dreary, rainy weather, but it made for some cool pictures. The inside of the church was equally impressive- it was filled with intricate sculptures, elaborate architecture, and some impressive paintings. We spent some time just walking around to take in all the art and see the entire church. After everyone had finished their tour of the church, a few students made a quick pit stop in the gift shop before getting back on the bus to head to El Monasterio de el Escorial.
When the bus arrived in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Mrs. Winn and Mr. Craig gave us about an hour and a half of free time before our tour of the monastery. We had the chance to walk around the town and also enjoy lunch at a cafe. Even in Spain, the American burger remained the cuisine of choice. After our lunch and free time, we all met in the monastery to start our tour. The tour guide, who spoke to us only in Spanish, explained the various aspects of the monastery. We saw an elaborately-decorated room in which all of the past monarchs of Spain are buried. Next, we walked through the bedroom of King Phillip II, who lived in the monastery. In the Hall of Battles, which depicts major battles of Spanish history, our tour guide showed us an interesting trick, or “trampantojo” about the wall painting. Much like the Mona Lisa, the eyes of one soldier appear to follow you across the room. Finally, we walked through the two most impressive parts of the monastery- the basilica and the Royal Library. The basilica is another church, but this one was even more intricately decorated than the Valle de Los Caídos. The Royal Library contains a multiple of ancient manuscripts and its walls are decorated with paintings of famous thinkers like Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle.
After we finished the tour, we got back on the bus and headed back to CEM, where we had an hour of free time to rest, work, or even play basketball, before going home with our hosts. 

A Day of Classes at CEM

Written by Michael Wakeham ’19 to recount Tuesday, March 13, 2018:
Hola from Madrid! Today was one of our few days without a day trip and with just classes at Colegio. After, yet again, not sleeping nearly long enough, we kicked off the day in chemistry class creating crystals. The science teachers were remarkably good at English. They were able to tell us exactly what to do with our salts, solutions, and hot plates – hard enough to do in a first language, much less a second! We then moved to philosophy class. While I find philosophy interesting in English, listening and discussing whether or not schooling was vital for happiness in Spanish added a whole different experience. In English class, we worked with the students on a project researching different monuments in Ireland.
After a tasty lunch of steak, rice, fried vegetables (the first veggies anyone has even seen in a long time), and fish, we moved on to volleyball in PE class. Although a couple other teams might disagree, my team went undefeated – three wins for three. Finally, we finished in radio class with Marta in which we answered questions from younger students and talked about some idioms and sayings in the Spanish language. Tonight, many of the students are heading to Heron City, one of about six malls that we have been to this trip. They aren’t short on malls here.
Everyone’s excited to take advantage of the rest of the week we have here!

Friday, March 9 – A Scavenger Hunt and Meeting the Mayor!

Written by Shelby Brown to recount Friday, March 9, 2018:

Today we started the day off walking around Las Rozas for a scavenger hunt with our host students, then we had an incredible opportunity to go to City Hall and talk to the mayor.

Afterwards, we had an hour before lunch so we walked around the plaza and looked at the shops. Then we returned to the school for lunch, which today composed of a few different things including arroz cubano, vegetable rolls, and tortillas de patatas.

Then we shadowed our host students for a bit before congregating in the gym for the college fair. There, we learned about college programs in Spain. After school, we all went home with our host families. My host, Alicia, took me shopping at the mall and for frozen yogurt, which was the perfect way to jumpstart the weekend!


Written by Marissa Mejia ’19 to recount Monday, March 12, 2018:

Today, we visited Toledo, the first capital of the Spanish Empire! Fun Fact: Toledo is one of the few cities where three cultures (Muslim, Christian, and Jewish) all live together in peace (Holy Toledo!). Upon arrival, we took a panoramic bus tour around the city before embarking on a tour that, according to my Health app, was worth about 27 flights of stairs. Those of us who are missing sports practices today definitely got our workout in! 

Although Toledo was founded in 192 B.C. by the Romans, little Roman architecture remains. We were, however, able to climb a wall built by the Muslims in the 9th century that has prevented the city from being taken by arms ever since. Throughout our tour, we were greeted by the beautiful sounds of church bells that were often interrupted by people shouting “Coche!” (“Car!”) followed by everyone frantically flattening against the walls as cars zoomed past and squeezed through impossibly narrow pathways. We also saw many examples of “trampa del ojo” or “trick of the eye” architecture, where brick buildings were covered in plaster that was painted to look like decorative stone. Even after our tour guide pointed out this clever painting technique, it was difficult to see that we were not really looking at real stone. We were also able to visit a church that was repurposed into a lavish discoteca (imagine partying in a church!), as well as “La Casa del Judío” (the Jewish House) an underground meeting place for Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. We ended the day with a little over an hour of free time during which many students bought scrumptious foods (including delicious Nutella crepes – 11/10 recommend), went shopping, and visited the Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo. 10,000 square meters in size with an absolutely breathtaking array of artwork and architecture, Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo is the main and second largest cathedral in Spain. Upon entering, one cannot help but exclaim, “Holy Toledo!”. Even though we will be sore tomorrow, today was an amazing day and I toleDON’T ever want to leave Spain!

A Weekend in Madrid

Students and faculty enjoyed activities with their host families over the weekend. This post, written by Peyton Hope ’19, recounts her experiences on Saturday, March 10, 2018:

Today was a full day to relax and have fun with our host families! Molly and Sandra went shopping and enjoyed eating new foods, and Lily had fun watching Dani’s sister at her volleyball game. 

Marissa, Ana, Irina, and I enjoyed a day of relaxation, home-made orange juice, and a traditional Argentina dish for lunch. Shelby tried octopus for the first time, and Parker met up with Kara, who is on a school year abroad in Spain.

Tonight, everyone on the exchange will have fun at the discoteca with their hosts!





Written by Katie Oliver ’19 to recount her Sunday, March 11, 2018:

Today we got to sleep in and enjoy the morning with our exchange students! Michael and Cabot went to a soccer game while most of the girls went shopping in the city. After walking around for a while, many of us ventured off and tried different foods. Molly and I went and got gelato and some girls went with their exchange students to get Nutella-filled brownies. We all enjoyed experiencing new things today especially our adventures riding the train/subway. We later returned to our host families homes to enjoy dinner and relax for the night! 


Classes at CEM

Written by Brian Washington ’19 to recount Thursday, March 8, 2018:

On Thursday, March 8th, we returned to El Colegio de Europeo de Madrid to take more classes. Unlike the classes we took on Monday, the ones we took today were more oriented towards academics; because of this, we were able to get a clearer picture of what our Spanish students’ school experience is like. Throughout the day, we had classes that had us studying the history of Spain, doing math puzzles, cooking Spanish foods, singing, and much more. Although we found it difficult to interpret our class schedules from time to time, we all had a good time overall. After school let out, we spent some time with our individual Spanish students and waited for the day to wind down.