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3 posts from May 2011


Alcalá Buses (CIEE ALCALÁ)

AUTOBUSES DE ALCALÁ is the main dealership of the Urban Passenger Services in Alcalá de Henares.


The company carries out its services through the operation of 11 bus lines, reaching each and every one of the city’s neighborhoods with its fleet of 60 buses, all of which are adapted for disabled passengers (with complete floor-lowering, an elevating platform in the central door, handle bars on the doors and 2 speacial seatbelts for wheelchairs with fenders.



Here are the numbers of the different lines:

L1 • Barrio del Pilar (Hipercor-El Corte Inglés) - Campo del Ángel (Los Nogales)

L2 • Plaza de Cervantes – Hípica- Universidad / Hospital

L3 • Plaza de Cervantes – Hípica- Espartales

L4 • Plaza de Cervantes - Cementerio Jardín

L5 • Barrio del Pilar - Centro Comercial la Dehesa

L6 • Barrio del Pilar - Paseo del Val

L7 • Barrio Marañón -  Ensanche- Nueva Alcalá

L8 • Barrio Campo del Ángel - Paseo del Val

L9 • Plaza Estación FF.CC. - Polígono Industrial Azque

L10 • Vía Complutense – Ensanche- Espartales

L11 • La Garena - Puerta Universo



If you want, you may go to this website to see the route.



Each CIEE student will have a free “abono transporte B3” (B3 zone bus pass) which he or she will be able to use to ride all of the buses in Alcalá, and also for the RENFE suburban trains to go to and from Madrid, the buses in Madrid (city) and the metro in Madrid. The number of trips is unlimited.


Alcalá Buses are very safe and eficient. 



There are many cultural activities during the Cervantes Award Week (Premio Cervantes), during which the award is given to the best writer in the Spanish language. This year, as always, the King and Queen of Spain–Juan Carlos y Sofía- and in the presence of the Prime Minister –José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero- will give the award to the Spanish writer Ana María Matute on April 27th. The Cervantes Award is the Nobel Prize of Spanish Arts. Our students in “Contemporary Spanish Women Writers” read a book written by Matute in her honor.


In addition, all the books stores in stayed open that night until 11 PM and offered a 10% discount on all books.


On April 27th we had our last CIEE meeting to talk about going home and re-entry shock/reversal shock.



On the morning of April 28th was the Diplomas Ceremony for Spring 2011 students. Afterwards we had a picnic in the gardens outside the school.




CIEE is proud of its students because the day of Franklin Institute’s Talent Show, three of our students performed for the theater class taught by Dr. Mar Rebollo. Also, the students from the “Contemporary Spain through the Media” class presented the magazine that they made this semester in class, and one of the representatives was from Guilford College.


Final exams were on May 3rd and 4th so the weeks before were filled with work and anticipation, as is normal this time of year.


Our Farewell Dinner was May 4th, right after the exams had ended. Some of the professors, students and CIEE staff joined in. The food was great and everyone enjoyed it. We had a very nice surprise: gifts for CIEE Staff!!!! 






There are still 4 students (from Wisconsin-Madison, Colorado at Boulder, Missouri-Columbia) who are taking a regular university course and will be here until mid or late June. We will take care of them as always, even though they are so independent and well integrated that they probably won’t need it.




Emma Thompson- Soka University- CIEE Alcalá Spring 2011

Study Abroad Corner -

Emma Thompson in Alcalá, Spain (Spring 2011)

Contributed By: The Study Abroad Office-Soka University.

Date: Apr 1, 2011

Emma Thompson Studies Abroad in Alcalá, Spain with CIEE

 For those of you who do not know me, my name is Emma Thompson and I am a proud member of the class of 2012.  This semester I am studying abroad in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, and I am now about a month away from leaving. I decided to share my study abroad experience because my time here has been absolutely incredible.  To say that I have changed here would be a deep understatement because I have done more than just change. I have grown, I have healed, and I have found within myself strengths that I never knew I possessed. Coming here has been one of those profoundly life-altering experiences, and I know that when I return to the United States, I will be a fundamentally different and, in my opinion, better person.



Pensively sitting in the courtyard of the building that my classes are in

 Before coming to study abroad, the thought of living in Spain, in any other country really, terrified me.  I was not ready at all to leave Soka, the place that had become my home, and throw myself into a completely different change of scene.  I cried, stressed out, and felt so frustrated that I would have to do something that I so desperately did not want to do (yes that’s right, I was one of those weird people who didn’t want to go to study abroad).  More importantly, I had absolutely no faith in my ability to adapt to new situations and live happily outside of my loving Soka bubble.  After arriving in Spain, however, I discovered that I am far more adaptable than I ever gave myself credit for.  I have also found within myself not the scared, timid Emma that I expected, but instead an adventurous and carefree Emma.  Before I came here, I doubted that I would travel much and was sure that I would never travel alone. I could not have been more wrong. I have traveled outside of my area every weekend since the first weekend in March, and in two days I am leaving to spend 9 days traveling unaccompanied in Ireland.



Group trip to Sevilla

 Because traveling has been such a large part of my study abroad experience, I would like to tell you about what I think was my most adventurous traveling experience. On March 19th, I went with three of my friends to a Spanish festival called Las Fallas.  For those of you who don’t know what Las Fallas is, it’s a festival that celebrates St. Joseph and it takes place in Valencia, Spain.  Basically, people spend all year creating massive papier-mâché sculptures called Fallas, often sarcastic or mocking in nature, and then they burn all but one of them.  The burning is sometimes accompanied by firework displays that come from within the Falla, so the holiday has also become associated with fireworks.  From the moment we stepped foot out of the bus station, and for the remainder of the day and night, we heard fireworks exploding all over the city. Some neighborhoods set up firework shows that went in a domino effect and they were some of the loudest noises I have ever heard. An elderly Spanish woman looked at me and told me to take my fingers out of my ears because the noise was part of the experience. I didn’t quite buy it. In addition to the actual shows, people just walked around lighting fireworks all day.



One of the Fallas we saw

 Although the constant booming, squealing, and popping sounds we were hearing were a bit shocking and grating, the truly crazy part happened at night. We were under the impression that all the Fallas would be simultaneously lit on fire at midnight; however, one of them started burning at eleven PM. Of course we stood up and went to a better spot to see, and once it was burned to the ground, we decided to just stay there until the other ones were torched at midnight. Much to our dismay and general discomfort from standing up for so long, we reached 12:30 and the biggest, most exciting Falla had yet to be lit. My friend had blisters on both of her feet, so we decided that we should just try to get out and call it good. In the time that we had been standing there, however, the most massive crowd I have ever witnessed formed behind us, and we were physically unable to get out. We tried five different directions and no one would let us out. We then saw some kind of commotion going on about 50 feet behind us and police officers plowing their way through the crowds. Pre-Spain Emma would have surrendered to panic and freaked out about being crushed in a riot. But what I felt as I saw these events transpiring was nothing of the sort; in fact, I felt no worry at all. I had some kind of strange, unfamiliar-situation adrenaline pumping through my veins that allowed my good senses to prevail and be silly to make everybody laugh and feel happier about where we were. This was the moment that most clearly showed me that I am much braver than I ever realized and that I have come to embody the West Coast “chill” that my friends and I joke about.




 Beyond my traveling experiences, there have been many experiences in my day to day life here in Alcalá that have facilitated the changes I see within myself. I had a choice between living with a host family and living in university housing and I opted to live in the “dorms,” or the residencias as we call them. I put dorms in quotation marks because the dorms here are nothing like the dorms at Soka. My dorm here is basically like a house.  The rooms themselves are similar to the ones at Soka, but there are only 4 doubles in my house, and we all share a kitchen and living room.  Although there is a restaurant in the housing complex, it is not like Soka where we have a meal plan, and I have only eaten there once. I feel like the situation that I am living in here is similar to what it would be like to live in the “real world” (minus the financial obligations of course) and I love it. This may sound trivial, but when you have to cook for yourself and you don’t have all of your closest friends living within a five minute walk of your room, you learn to develop a greater sense of independence. I do a lot of things alone here, which is something I am not accustomed to doing in the United States, and I think there is something to be said for being able to do that. Doing things alone, without having the crutch of being with friends all the time, really makes you responsible for your own happiness and it gives you lots of time for inner reflection. 



My wonderful program director Cristina (left) and her assistant

 I would also like to talk a bit about my actual study abroad program.  Alcalá de Henares is a small city located about 45 minutes east of Madrid.  The program in Alcalá is probably the least known of all the programs that Soka offers, and hardly anybody goes to it (I believe I’m the third person to come here since Soka opened). After coming here, I truly believe that this is a loss for the Soka community. My classes here are difficult, but not soul-crushingly so, and my Spanish has immensely improved in the time that I have been here. Of course, I am not even close to being a fluent speaker, but I am quite pleased with the progress I have made in communicating. As for the program itself, I’m told that every semester it has a different vibe. The size of this CIEE program is pretty small (there are only 19 students in my program) so the experience really depends on the type of people that are in it, but the glue that truly holds our program together is our program director. She is fabulous. In the absence of a host family, she has become like my Spanish mother. She is a deeply caring person, who connects with each student on a personal level, and beyond being simply a director, she is a helper, an advocate when we have problems, and a very dear friend. I attribute my smooth transition to Spanish life and my lack of culture shock to her guidance and kindness. I believe that on the list of things that I will miss about Spain when I go home she is at the top.