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07/01/2013

CIEE ALCALÁ- SUMMER 2013 (SESSION 2): FIRST NEWS LETTER.

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Our Summer orientation for Session 2 began on Friday, June 28 at the Hotel Campanile in Alcalá de Henares. After the airport pick-up in a private, air-conditioned bus, the group met in the hotel lobby. Some had some sleepy faces after their long flight and others were amazed at the fact that they were finally in Spain. 

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After introductions each student received a name tag and went for a welcome lunch in a local Spanish restaurant with CIEE staff. The menu included some typical dishes such as gazpacho soup or lentejas (lentil beans), but also more international style food such as pasta and steak. The best part was the dessert with a home-made flan that was popular with a lot of students. Students were given a break to take a siesta and met up again for a buffet-style dinner provided at the hotel.

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 On the second day of orientation, students ate breakfast at the hotel and then attended an orientation session that included interactive game simulation with safety issues such as pick-pocketing, misplaced cell phones, catcalls, etc.  Students laughed a lot acting out as if they were standing in a crowded metro train as another student (a former student who attended last summer 2013 session 1 CIEE Alcalá L& C program and this summer repeat with CIEE Alcalá) pretended to be the “bad” guy who steals someone´s wallet.  We showed students some ways on how to keep your wallet and belongings safe.

In addition, CIEE staff places a lot of emphasis on students using their common sense when going out to night clubs or bars and encourage students to use the buddy system. Nearly 80% of the student group are women so we also give attention to women´s safety issue in Alcala and makes sure that all the students understand what we mean by “common sense” through cultural explanations.

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 Students also completed a Spanish listening and grammar placement test and received their course registration forms. After receiving their host family information, housing rules, and a map to identify homestay location, students read their personalized letter from the host mother with a family picture. They also received a IBF nice T-shirt.

After lunch, the group went to purchase cellphones or SIM cards and had a bit of free time to buy other items such as beach towels, bathing suits, etc. Many students are planning to use the public swimming pools that are open during the summer in Alcala.

Afterwards, students waited for to meet their host families who came to pick them up at the hotel in their cars. Students had dinner with their new Spanish families and had time to meet all the family members.

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The next day, Sunday, all the students met at 10am at the Alcala train station. The host families accompanied them to the train station to ensure they would not get lost. Once everyone was together,  Fausto and I travelled with the group to Madrid.

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This train trip is to show students how easy it is to use public transport to get to Madrid city and once the group arrived at Atocha train station Fausto explained the historical architecture of the building and its French links to the Eiffel Tower. 

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The walking tour also passed the Museo Reina Sofia entrance where student received an explaination of El Guernica by Pablo Picasso. The tour also included a stop of the cultural center of La Caixa Forum with its hanging gardens, the Prado Museum with an explanation of the artistic legacy of the painter Francisco Goya, the botanical garden and its origins, the Church of San Jeronimo where students could see a family with their recently baptized baby in a long traditional veil, the Real Academia Española and the former Museo del Ejército and the Puerta de Alcalá.

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The day ended with a group lunch sponsored by CIEE at a local restaurant on the Gran Via. Afterwards, there were three different options: A/ Return to Alcalá (Eero went with the students who did not want to stay in Madrid to Atocha train station) B/ Students who opted to have free time in Madrid to explore the Parque Retiro or go shopping and walk around the city before returning home to Alcala and C/ Studens who opted to continue the Madrid walking tour.

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