Hiking, biking, climbing, and archery!

Written by Molly Brown ’19 to recount Wednesday, March 7, 2018:

¡Hola! We started the day having breakfast with our host families and then met at the school. From school we took a short hike and then split into three groups; my group first went to rock climbing. We did that for around an hour and half; Brian and Emme were really good climbers. Brian liked it so much that he stayed! My group then went biking and it was very fun and had a great view but a lot of us got to taste some Spanish dirt on the hills and trenches (we fell)! We then ate lunch on benches in a pretty park and then we went to our last activity which was archery. The instructor explained everything in Spanish and we even had a competition! We then all walked back to the school and played soccer and basketball until 5 pm, when their school gets out. After school we all split up but then most of us went to Heron city, a big shopping center with mostly restaurants, to get pizza and gelato for dinner!

We had a great third day and our Spanish is already improving!

Touring Madrid: El Gran Via, Plaza Royal, El Centro, El Museo de Prado

Written by Emme Pike ’19 to recount Tuesday, March 6, 2018:

We started our second day in Spain off with a fun adventure to Madrid! After getting a good night’s rest and eating breakfast with our host families, we boarded the bus and traveled to the country’s capital. We had an awesome tour of the city, as we strolled down el gran via (the city’s main touristy area- kind of like time’s square in NYC), learned about the plaza royal (the royal palace), did some shopping in El Centro (the center of Madrid), and browsed in El Museo de Prado (one of the most famous art museums in the country).
In between our tour, we had thirty minutes of free time which some spent going to local churro and chocolate shop, checking out the local market, or getting a quick pick-me-up at the Starbucks on the corner.
After our tour of the capital, we went back to CEM and had a little bit of resting time until our students were ready to go. The school ends at 5 pm, but the students can choose to take an extra class and get done at 6 pm. After classes, a lot of us went to el centro en Las Rosas (a big mall in the town that a lot of our host families live in). As we browsed the three-story megamall, we realized how far away from home we were – this was no MacArthur mall. We laughed and watched the Real Madrid game as we enjoyed our dinner in the mall. Overall, it was the perfect second day!

Our first day in Madrid!

Written by Austin Sisino ’19 to recount Monday, March 5, 2018:

On Sunday, March 4th, 2018, the Spanish Exchange embarked on our journey. While the 24 members were gleaming with smiles, Michael Wakeham and I left our teary-eyed mothers because we will be gone for 14 days (both of us still don’t understand moms). The flight and layover in Atlanta went smoothly as everyone mentally prepared themselves for the long ride to Madrid. Even though it was an overnight flight, the most somebody slept was Molly Brown with 1 ½ hours and that’s because she had a neck pillow and a sleep mask. After watching multiple movies such as “Daddy’s Home 2” and “Murder on the Orient Express,” and also attempting to find the perfect resting position on the airplane (turns out, that is non-existent) we finally landed. As if we have been traveling together as a group for years, getting out of baggage claim and customs was a piece of cake. Our ease of traveling should be credited to the two student leaders of the day, Emme the leader, and Brian our counter/pacesetter.

After taking a bus to Colegio Europeo de Madrid we were welcomed with awe from the little kids. They waved and talked to us or just stood in terror as if we were aliens. The school itself is quite different layout-wise than NA with 4-5 stories, a Judo room, and outdoor basketball/soccer courts. The first thing we did as a group was create Pointillism art with Señora Ruth. She is still trying to figure out if Michael drew a cat or dog and who drew the best seagull – Zane, Chipper, or Neil. After our group had lunch that consisted of fish, meatballs, salad, and bread, we had some free time on our hands. With running on no sleep for more than 24 hours, the girls headed to the library for a nap, while all the boys played basketball for at least 2 hours. Kenneth was showing off just a tad by dunking on me and my fellow teammates. The Spanish students looking through the window have never seen anything like it.






At 3:00 pm we all convened in the gym for fencing and judo lessons. All the students now know proper fencing techniques, chokeholds, armbars, and takedowns, so watch out! By now we were all beyond sleep-deprived and delusional, but we tried our best to stay awake so we can quickly overcome jetlag and get on this time zone. At 5:00 pm our students came to pick us up and take us home. I played soccer, video games, and talked with Nacho after school. However, all of us were not used to the fact that Spaniards have dinner around 9:00-10:00 pm. My meal was a traditional Spanish meal that consisted of chicken, potatoes, and a lot of bread. It was quite challenging to communicate to my host parents as they speak little English, but everyone likes a good challenge. If this is just a taste of what our time here in Madrid is going to be like, then this will be a trip of a lifetime for everyone.

Group prepares for spring break departure

Our 2017-2018 Short-Term Spanish Exchange group is gearing up for their upcoming departure for Madrid! The group met on Thursday, February 15 to craft some “Group Goals” and “Daily Leadership Roles” for their upcoming experience abroad:

Group Goals:

  1. ​I​mprove Spanish​! (Talk in Spanish to host families and friends​; Participate during classes at CEM​​)
  2. Try new things/​G​et out of comfort zone (eat new foods)
  3. Engage with ​new people (open up to NA classmates; connect with ​host and host family)
  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
  7. ​Have fun!​

Daily Student Leadership Roles:

  1. ​Leader​(s)​ of the Day
  2. Caboose​/Sweeper​
  3. Navigator
  4. Social Media (Blog; Twitter)
  5. Camel
  6. Photographer
  7. Language Police
  8. Counter
  9. Weather(wo)man
  10. Phone Patrol

Follow along on their adventure abroad March 4-17 here on the blog and on our International Programs Twitter feed.

Hiking La Majada de La Pedriza

Written by Jordan Blackwell ’18 to recount Thursday, March 16, 2017:

Today we went on a hiking excursion ​to La Majada de La Pedriza. ​The view was amazing. The long and exhausting hike had great rewards at​ ​​the top where we were able to see streams from the ice caps, different rocks, and even mountain goats! Our guide presented many obstacles on our trail and helped make our last excursion very enjoyable.

Today capped off what​ has​ been a remarkable two weeks for our group!

Puzzles, Fencing, and Soccer: A Day at CEM

Written by Zach Minor ’18 to recount Tuesday, March 14, 2017:

We started the day off as usual as we all caught each other up on the events from the previous afternoon and night. After that we accompanied our hosts to their first class of the day. We found ourselves understanding Spanish a little better as we could relate the words to those of English when we went to math class with our hosts. After math class we all went to a Spanish class and had a little lesson about greetings. Next, we went back to our hosts classes which for everyone was technical drawing. It was interesting to be in the class as we all watched them learn how to draw cubes with pictures of sides that they had to put together. It was like a little puzzle that they had to solve and created some great conversations as we all worked with our hosts to continue developing our bond.

A “friendly” game of basketball ensued at the school’s 30 break. More classes followed until lunch where we further assimilated into their culture by eating more Spanish cuisine. Following lunch we had the privilege to learn fencing from a teacher. We all had fun with the sport and had a little tournament with teams of 5 which resulted in Jordan, Alex, Griffith, Xander, and Zach’s winning. The fencing lesson resulted in everyone having fun and enjoying the time with each other after spending time in the classroom.

Our time after school was fun as everyone came together to watch Josh practice with the Spanish soccer team and to cheer him on while talking and enjoying the time with each other. Days like this will last in all of our minds as we got to hang out and have fun with the sunset in the background.

Visiting Toledo

Written by Mila Colizza ’18 to recount Monday, March 13, 2017:

Although temperatures were predicted to hit 60° F in Toledo today, the wind chill combined with an overcast sky and occasional bursts of rain made for cold weather. Hiking boots and a winter jacket turned out to be good wardrobe choices for this journey, especially as the streets grew steeper. That said, no amount of biting weather could detract from the beauty of the historic city as our bus pulled up for a panoramic view. We drove down the left bank of the Río Tajo where it curves around red-roofed homes and stretches out to meet the remains of the Toledo’s walls.

We entered on foot at one of the city’s two remaining historic gates, where we learned about how the puertas were strategically built for defense from foreign invaders. As we walked through the narrow cobblestone streets, we absorbed the layers of nearly two thousand years of culture. We saw Roman stones that had been repurposed in Visigoth structures and overlaid by Arabic architecture or Catholic imagery. We saw cathedrals built by Muslims with distinctive keyhole openings and our guide pointed out ceramic tiles marking the streets of the Jewish quarter. In America, there exists no such amalgam of cultures and religions. We have no historical sites that reach quite so deeply over so many centuries and so many people. The magnitude of it is awe-inspiring to say the least.

What interested me the most, however, is the juxtaposition of the ancient with the modern. As we stood admiring the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, which the Muslims built in 999 BCE, several motorcycles and cars zipped by. The plastic signs outside of touristy stores clattered in the breeze. Dogs barked at us from behind a grate. Everywhere I found harsh reminders that no matter how constant, how solid, how ancient Toledo seems, it is still susceptible to the interminable progress of human civilization; and, although the current public restrooms, for example, are an unfavorable and ­– I think we all agreed – unpleasant addition to Toledo’s living history, there is something about the city, the frilly shops selling plastic fans and mazapán and the vans winding their way through too-narrow alleyways, that draws me in. As humans of the twenty-first century, we are accustomed to only being semi-aware of our surroundings. We put our headphones in and keep an eye on our phone or we read a book for the hour-long bus ride, but Toledo commanded our full attention with all of its beauty and all of its imperfections.

A Weekend in Madrid

The students enjoyed a weekend of various activities with their host families. Here are a few snippets to recount their weekend:

As a group we explored el parque del retiro and went boating. After we went to TGIFridays and enjoyed a meal watching Real Madrid’s rival FC Barcelona lose. (Zach Minor ’18)

It seems like I have gone shopping every day since I got to Madrid, and this weekend was no exception. When I asked Valeria, my exchange student, why there are so many malls here, she replied simply, “Because we like to shop.” (Mila Colizza ’18)

Over the weekend Leire, Valeria, Mila and I had two sleep overs. We went to the discoteca on Saturday, and on Sunday we celebrated Valeria’s birthday by going boat riding, going shopping, and having dinner at Friday’s. (Erica Washington ’18)

​We began our weekend with a Friday night slumber party where we ate cookies, lounged in our pajamas, and bonded with our Spanish hosts. The following morning we went our separate ways and got ready to head to Madrid for a Spanish discoteca. The discoteca is a common Saturday night activity for teenagers to gather and dance to popular songs. We had a blast listening to new songs and learning dance moves from our friends! (Aven Parker and Anna Mirovski ’18)

A Day of Classes at CEM: Judo, Spanish lit, Dissection, and Flamenco

Written by Bascombe Traywick ’18 to recount Friday, March 10, 2017:

We realized this morning that today was our second to last day ​in classes ​at Colegio Europeo. We ​knew it was important to enjoy our time at the school and we did. When we first came to school this morning, we split up into Judo and Spanish literature classes.​ I​n Judo, Señor Daniel taught the class pins, submission holds, and throws​, and he used me as his partner​. ​As we learned more moves, ​JB tried to tackle me​, but he ​blocked his shot, got a front headlock and hit a standing gable to pin JB easily​ (or perhaps not so easily)​. ​Using his skills as a linebacker, ​JB exacted r​evenge​.​ Xander learned he need​ed​ to stick to soccer.

The other class watched and discussed a Spanish movie. After a study hall and a break, all the Americans went to a lab class taught by Mr. Jose Bañales. We dissected a fresh pig’s heart. Some classmates had to overcome their squeamishness, but everyone participated and learned more about the heart. ​After a brief introduction, we cut open the ventricles and found the valves, cardiac muscles, and all the chambers of the heart. Reagan even learned the true meaning of tugging on the heart strings, as the heart really does have some bands in it that look like strings. ​From ​12-2pm the group attended classes with our ​Spaniard hosts​.

Heart strings.

After lunch and recess, we began flamenco class, the highlight of the school day. It was taught by a student, Anatalia. The dance was difficult to learn, but once we got the hang of it, we had a great time.​ Anatalia also performed a dance for us, and we clapped wildly with appreciation at the end. It was so special of her to share her love of her country’s traditional dance. ​

A Zipline Adventure

Written by Braden McMahon ’18 to recount Thursday, March 9, 2017:

Hola amigos!!! ​We spent our fifth day ​in Spain ​at the adventure park with our Spaniard host students! ​W​e began our day by meeting at the school dressed and ready to go for a day of fun! Our Spaniards out​-​shined us in a quick game of knockout and soccer in ​Colegio’s courtyard before the bus arrived. Our bus ride was filled with amazing views of the beautiful mountains and different parts of the c​ountryside​. We arrived at the park and took advantage of the view b​y ​taking lots of pictures! Once in the park, everyone put on their harnesses and ​received ​a briefing from one of the instructors. ​W​e all practiced unhooking and clipping to make sure we were well-prepared before we started our journey. We climbed and zipped our way through the trees and across a shimmering lake. After all five rope courses, we finished our excursion with a picnic ​of​ delicious sandwiches and pineapple juice provided by ​C​olegio. The bus arrived to picked us up and take us back to school. After our thrilling adventure, we ended our day outside enjoying the beautiful weather!