Author Archives: phall

A Day of Classes: Spanish History, Language, Judo, Cooking, and Art!

Written by Josh Gould ’18 to recount Wednesday, March 8, 2017:

We spent the day today at CEM. In the morning we went to a Spanish history class and learned about the mid-1900’s to current Spanish political history. We were shocked to see a picture of President Eisenhower with the Spanish dictator, Franco. ​Our teacher also explained how the country transitioned from a dictatorship to a democracy under Alfonso Suarez. They have a king, but it’s a constitutional monarchy.​ To test our new knowledge we played KAHOOT!, a game which we also play in the US.

Our group then split up to attend either a Judo class, where many of us learned self-defense techniques, or a Spanish language class. In the language class we divided into groups to participate in a “What Am I? Game” where students tried to guess what other students were using only antonyms, synonyms, and homophones. While trying to play the game in Spanish was hard, we enjoyed the company of our fellow students.
Afterwards, we went to a Spanish cooking class where we learned how to make ‘Tortillas De Patatas’. It’s a mix of eggs, potatoes, and onions, with salt and olive oil. ​We hope to make some for our parents when we return as a thank you for this wonderful trip!​

After the cooking class, we split off into two groups to go to classes with our host students. Some students went to an English class while others attended a French class. Then we went to lunch, which was delicious. We had options of chicken, pizza, French fries and bread. After lunch we attended an art class with Señora Ruth. We made stamps out of recycled materials and paint. It was awesome. After the class we went and spent more time with our exchange students in class.

First day at CEM

Today’s post, written by Reagan Richardson ’18, recounts Tuesday, March 7, 2017:

Today was our first day at Colegio Europeo de Madrid! To start off the day, we all went to the kitchen and the cafeteria served us churros with hot chocolate for breakfast. The churros came fresh out of the fryer and the hot chocolate is a lot thicker and richer than American hot chocolate. After breakfast we took a tour of the school. All of the classrooms have windows so we could see the teachers giving their lessons, which I thought was really cool. Afterwards, we had a 30 minute break outside at the basketball courts. Since the entire school has a break then, a lot of younger kids came up to us and asked us so many questions about America. We tried our best to answer them in Spanish, but we finally had to speak in English because they could not understand us. Next, we had a technology class with Señor Calvo. Since the school has ipads instead of computers, he showed us interactive apps that the school uses, including an app where you can see the human body by hovering a camera over a t-shirt. We also got to use virtual reality glasses, which are very disorienting. After his class, we went to lunch which consisted of chicken, deep-fried eggs, and a salad. I loved how we had an hour to eat. Since I am used to eating quickly at Norfolk Academy, a lot of Spanish students had to tell me to slow down. After lunch we played a game of futbol. Even though I wasn’t really that good at it, I still had fun trying to play. We had such a great time playing on the courts that before we knew it, it was the end of the day. I had so much fun at Colegio and I can’t wait for another day there tomorrow!

First Day in Spain: Touring Madrid

This post, written by Alex Twelves ’18, recounts the group’s first full day in Spain, Monday, March 6, 2017:

On Monday​, March 6,​ the ​Spanish Exchange group ​met at Colegio ​Europeo ​de Madrid before going into the city. In Madrid, we ​started at the Royal Palace and its Cathedral, built in the 19th century, and walked to the Basilica Pontificia de San Niguel, built in the 13th century. The history of Spain is incredible. We continued to walk through the city, passing by Town Hall, Plaza del Sol​, and the Parliament. We had an early lunch, thanks to CEM, of pepperoni sandwiches, tortillas patatas, fruit, and water, before we entered the ​Museo Nacional del Prado, The Prado Museum. As we walked around the museum, we saw famous works by El Greco, Goya, and Velazquez. ​Some of us remembered a particular painting from Mr. O’s MEH class, Las Meninas, by Velazquez. ​We could appreciate the perspective of the artist’s work as we also were reminded of the different meanings: political, artistic, and reflective. ​Surprisingly, we ran into another Norfolk Academy family not on the Spanish Exchange, reminding us that our world is so small. After walking around the museum, we took to the streets again. Señor Bunn and Señora Hopkins gave us an opportunity to shop freely in small groups on Gran Via. We jumped into stores such as Adidas ​and Ale-Hop and peeked into a “futuristic​”​ McDonalds. After heading back to the schoo​​l​,​ part of the group played basketball while waiting for their host students. The group continued to go to the main mall in Madrid, where many American students were questioned by the Spaniards for being hungry at 7 o’clock. We shopped, ate, and hung out in the mall for a few hours before getting home at around 9 pm for a late dinner to conclude the day.

Students prepare for time abroad!

The Spanish Exchange student group met on Wednesday, February 22, to prepare for their upcoming time abroad. They worked together to craft a “Group Contract” of collective goals for their two weeks abroad and also developed “Daily Leadership Roles” in order to really own and guide their experience. Only a few days left until departure to Madrid!

Ziplining at Tirolinas de Guadarrama

Written by Hannah Barcus ’17 to recount Wednesday, March 17, 2016:

Today we went to Tirolinas de Guadarrama, an adventure park. It consisted of rope courses, ranging from easy to difficult, and zip lines, several of which hung over a huge lake. First, after we put on our harnesses, we went through pre-training. After all of us were able to prove we were ready, we began the ropes course. Unless you were near the front of the line, the wait seemed endless. Once it was your turn, though, the ropes course seemed so quick. Some of the ropes were challenging, but all proved to be fun. I believe everyone can agree that the zip lines were the favorite part of the course. They went at a high speed over a giant lake, and the landings were fun to watch. The adventure park was overall a really fun (and tiring!) experience.

Tuesday at CEM: Dissection and Fencing – What a combo!

Written by Chessie Scott ’17 to recount Tuesday, March 15, 2016:

Today I took one of the few remaining, daily, morning walks to school up the dreaded hill, in the chilly Madrid morning air. At CEM, we enjoyed another school day filled with interesting and different classes. They take many different subjects and we each get to experience a new type of class every day. Today I had Technical Drawing for the first time. I had no idea what it was or what I was doing, but I sat in the back trying to follow along with the teacher. After we attended the first two classes with our hosts, we met for a third class, just Norfolk Academy students with the Science teacher for a hands-on lab class. In our lab class, we not only had the opportunity to dissect a cow heart, but the opportunity to dissect a cow heart with instructions all in Spanish! The teacher was really helpful and good at explaining everything to us slowly so we could understand how to follow the procedure (but for those of us with weak stomachs, all we really noticed was the fact that he was really not afraid to stick his finger right into that Superior Vena Cava and point out the different parts of the heart and their functions). All in all, the class was pretty fun and interesting, despite the smell of chemicals and the bloody lab coats.

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After the first three classes we had a break, which for me was a walk down to the café for a mid-morning snack of coffee and a torija which is a slice of bread dipped in egg then soaked in milk, fried, and sweetened with sugar and cinnamon. Torijas are typically sold in bakeries around this time of the Holy week. After the break, we reconvened in our meeting spot at the library and rested for a bit as a group. After about an hour rest, I attended my first philosophy class per request of Emily, who by now has gone to about ten philosophy classes and really seems to enjoy them. In today’s class they discussed beauty and how they saw it and addressed each of the senses individually and how they could sense beauty that way. I spent a lot of time trying to understand what the teacher was saying, but I was surprised at the end when I realized that I knew what was going on for the entire time more or less! Safe to say, I was pretty proud.

After lunch, we met for a fencing class. We learned the basic steps of fencing before the coach split us into teams to duel it out with our new fencing skills. The class was pretty fun, but guaranteed it was a lot more fun for the students who got to watch us chase each other with blue and red, plastic swords.


It was yet another successful day at CEM but sad to say, one of our last.

Monday in Toledo

Written by Lily Clarkson ’18 about Monday, March 14, 2016:


Like every school morning, we all met at CEM. We left around 9:00 for an hour bus ride to Toledo, our trip of the day. Once we arrived, we took a ride around the perimeter of the city and stopped for a beautiful view. Along with a full view of the city, we also stopped near the old entrance that which had a tall medieval type bridge. After taking multiple pictures, we ventured into the city as a group to visit the large cathedral in the heart of the small city. The cathedral had many intricate details including beautiful gold which Toledo is known for. Next we took a quick walk through the cathedral’s museum where on the way we were able to see the bell tower. After the cathedral, we split into small groups to venture the city and shop. Katie, Molly, and I decided to try to find the Convent of Saint Isabel de los Reyes where we heard there were artists selling and making jewelry, plates, and other handmade objects. Unfortunately, we soon discovered that it was a tourist trap to a gift shop. After taking a quick stop to have a light snack, we ventured to Calle Comercio where there were multiple souvenir and clothing shops, and food. We bought fans, bowls, magnets, and more for family members and then stopped for lunch/snack at 2:45. After enjoying some grilled chicken and French fries, we bought some gelato in a cone and began to walk back to the plaza to meet the rest of the group. While in the plaza, Katie and I facetimed our Spanish class (along with señor)! At 3:45 we left Toledo for the bus ride back to CEM where I am currently sitting right now!

A weekend in Madrid

Our students spent the weekend with their host families, exploring Madrid and its environs. Several students and the faculty leaders traveled to Segovia – a city with a rich architectural legacy, including medieval walls, Romanesque churches, a former royal palace and a Gothic cathedral. Its iconic ancient Roman aqueduct has more than 160 arches, most in the original mortarless granite, and stands above Plaza Azoguejo in the heart of the city. Here are some pictures from various excursions this weekend:

Friday in the outdoors

Written by Sarah Keenan ’17 to recount Friday, March 11, 2016:

Today started out as normal as every other day. It began by waking up, having breakfast, et cetera, but the fun part came after the hour bus ride to the Guadarrama Mountains. Now, we were told we were going to be hiking, but hiking to me is like a flat mapped out trail in nature. If you were like me and thought it would be a nice stroll, you were wrong. The rocky mountain terrain stretched 7,965 ft high and our two hour trek up the rocks made this seem much higher. Our two guides, Felix and Guillermo, led our group of 20 up through the sometimes challenging routes, and back down with only minor scrapes and bumps along the way. After we had reached the top, our journey down was much easier. Following brooks and paths made by the multitudes of people who had trekked the mountain before us, we found ourselves in a small village and only had another “20” minute walk that actually took about 40 minutes for our group to get back to the bus. We stopped for lunch which was nice, and many people made a B-line to the small store there for more water.

After the hour ride back to the school and the naps many of us took, we were ready for the 20160311_152650Poetry and Music concert the school set up. One of the teachers that had earlier joined us at an art museum played a major role in the production, and even sang in the performance. Although only few of us could understand what was being said, it was still a very cool experience to watch and see as the performers took pride in what they had prepared. After the show, many people and their hosts were ready to go home while others still had another class or two left in their day.

The Friday vibe was all around! What a fun day!