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7 posts from July 2013


CIEE ALCALÁ- SUMMER 2013 (SESSION 2): Valencia by Samantha Walker (Carnegie Mellon University)


So back to the East, to Valencia! With the majority of my time spent on CIEE tours ["not that I don't enjoy seeing the outside of buildings... -Abby] and learning the cultural facts and fantastically old buildings, I got to do and see some really cool things! But really, I did enjoy the tours, especially to the Museum de las Fallas, a tradition of making huge wooden/other material masses (like parade floats) and ultimately all but one piece stays in the museum, to welcome the springtime.
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The first night, me, Katie -my roomie-, Lisa and Kristen made sure to enjoy the traditional foodstuff of Valencia, Paella (without seafood for me), Agua de Valencia (mix of orange juice and white wine, I believe?) and Horchata de Chufa. We also wandered the night streets getting slightly lost but ultimately getting to know the area better, which helped a bunch for the next two days.
And then what all of us were waiting for on the second day: THE BEACH. Ahh, yes. The wonders of the Mediterranean on la Playa de Malvarrosa. But yes, it was great to plunge into the waves, tan in the sand, and even play ball in the water with a more than kind Spanish family. 

Later, getting lost served us well once again on Saturday night: We found a mini-performance of a string quartet and then found a huge crowd of people around traditional Valencian dancers.The best part was that ~ordinary citizens~ began joining in as well. It was also nice to recognize the last song as the traditional song of Valencia, one that Fausto, our ever wonderful tour guide sang to us on the bus ride there.
Luckily, we ended up on the right track to the election of las falleras, kind of like a beauty pageant where women, and even a section for young girls, from all over Valencia strut their stuff in elaborate, gorgeous gowns to represent the community in March during las Fallas. All the women and the gowns and downright detail were stunning! And ~watch out~, the next day we had a mini-tour where Fausto explained more about how the dresses are made, the hairstyles are done, etc. He also mentioned that the woman there, hosting the mini-museum of falla dresses, was actually the designer of them all and was very humbled at his accolades of the styles and hard work put into them.
Due to supreme beach exhaust (and not to mention burrrrrneeeeedddddd skin), only me and Lisa went out at midnight to see the fireworks on the Playa de las Arenas. It was a pretty long show, about 15 minutes, and it was nice to take in the cool beach breeze. After the show, we took advantage of sand that didn't burn layers off our feet!
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More than just a visit to the community in which my Spanish father was raised in, all-in-all, this was a supreme adventure and a great way to start wrapping up my time here in Spain with my Session Two friends and most importantly, the directors here, Cristina, Eero and Fausto. I'm gonna miss you guys so much!
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CIEE ALCALÁ- SUMMER 2013 (SESSION 2): SPANISH FOR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS by Catherine Kuecker (University of Wisconsin Madison) and Nick Heitkamp (Indiana University)


 NICK HEITKAMP (Indiana University)

 After passing through our entire course manual, the classroom portion of our class Español para professionales de la sanidad culminated in our first visit to the hospital in Alcalá. As soon as we arrived we were given our physician assignments and on we went with the tour of the hospital. In two hours we were able to see all the ins and outs of a Spanish hospital. For those who are not aware of the public healthcare system in Spain, there are several distinct differences from those in the U.S. - some that be seen within the hospital and some that cannot. A major difference I noticed that you do not see often in current-day hospitals in my hometown of Indianapolis, for example, was that many of the patient rooms were a large shared area separated by small curtains. However those that reside in these rooms are just as grateful to be seen, if not more so, than patients in America. Why? Because one downfall of the Spanish healthcare system is the period in which one has to wait to be seen and treated. For example, in a part of Spain called Galicia, patients wait up to 82 days for their first visit to a primary care physician. To see a cardiologist, one can wait up to 117 days. 

The highlight of my time in the hospital yesterday was the surgery center, know by Spanish speakers as quirófano. While the hospital was many years older in comparison to the U.S., it's surgery floor has an ingenious design. Shaped as the letter "U", those wearing sterilized scrubs, caps, and masks enter into the middle of unit. Any of the many operating rooms can then be accessed from inside of the "U". When finished, both the patients and the staff must exit the same way, opposite of which then entered, to avoid contaminating any sterile equipment. Cleverly termed "el pasillo sucio" or dirty hall, the patients are then sent to another room as they awake from anesthesia. 

Starting Monday I will begin to work in the hospital for the rest of my time here in Spain! I have been paired with a hematologist who will show me their state-of-the-art laboratory where they do all of their blood work and experiments. I have the privilege of having a wonderful Spanish mother that is one of the heads of nursing in the hospital. With her help, I hope to see as much as I can including surgeries and labor-and-deliveries. While hospitals in Spain are different from those in the U.S. including their organization and their technology, I was able to witness in such a short period of time the huge similarity that they share: passion. Doctors and nurses overall make much less money than those in the U.S. but work just as much. Within two hours I could feel the dedication that the "Madrileños" have for their hospital and their patients - a dedication and passion that may not be shared by American healthcare professionals under the same circumstances. 


CATHERINE KUECKER (University of Wisconsin Madison)

Hospital Internship

Students in the Spanish for Health Professions class devote an entire week (and a good chunk of our overall grade!) to an internship at the Hospital Príncipe de Asturias here in Alcalá. We are matched to a local doctor/mentor based on which area or specialty we are most interested in and then spend a minimum of 15 hours shadowing our assigned doctor at the hospital. I was curious about how I would find a good ‘fit’ for the internship, since as a pre-pharmacy student I am not pre-med or pre-nursing like most of my classmates. I requested a match with either a general/family medicine doctor or a doctor who works in the laboratorio (lab).


We visited the hospital as a group on Wednesday in advance of the Monday internship start date. There was a guided tour of various areas of the hospital and a general explanation of how the internship system works. First, we each received a bata blanca (white coat) and identification badge which are to be worn every time we come to the hospital. Next, we visited radiología (radiology) and saw the different machines (MRI, CAT scan) and also toured ginecología/parto (gynecology/labor and delivery) where the instructor explained the different rooms where women stay throughout the pre-labor, labor and post-labor processes. We also viewed surgery suites; in order to do this, we had to change from our clothes and the bata into sterile green scrubs, a hairnet, and little booties. We looked so professional! During this introductory visit, hospital personnel explained about the air ventilation and the positive air pressure necessary to avoid contaminating surgery suites during operations. We were allowed to look through a window and observe a procedure involving surgery on a patient’s eye! We toured the laboratorio where patients’ samples (blood, tissue, etc) are examined and processed; there were many high-tech machines. We also learned about the general admission procedure when a patient arrives at the hospital and needs care. If it is not urgent, the patient receives a number and waits to be called for triage. The health system in Spain is distinct from that of the United States because it is a public health system.


My assigned doctor/mentor works in family medicine. I received his email address with instructions to contact him to set up a schedule for the coming week. When I returned from the Wednesday hospital visit, I was happily surprised to already find an email from him. He requested to meet the next day in the hospital cafeteria after class to discuss next week. After my midterms, I took the bus over to the hospital for our meeting. I was a bit apprehensive – almost like when I met my host family for the first time.  But (again), I had nothing to worry about! Dr. Nazareno is extremely friendly, warm, and enjoys talking with me. An interesting note:  – he is actually from Argentina, so has a different accent than the Spaniards, but I could still understand him completely. We chatted about Wisconsin, the pharmacy profession, his family, and how he became interested in family medicine. It was a nice way to get to know each other before I start the internship on Monday.


The Health Professions class is very intense, but completely worth the extra effort. In what other Spanish class are you going to have the opportunity to shadow a doctor as part of your grade and gain practical career knowledge? This class is also a big reason why I chose the CIEE Liberal Arts Summer Study Abroad program since it will help me in accomplishing my goal to combine my interest in becoming fluent in the Spanish language with a career in healthcare. I have learned much new vocabulary that will be extremely useful in my career as a pharmacist. I am pleased that my hospital internship will also allow me to work on patient-pharmacist relations and my Spanish communication skills.


CIEE ALCALÁ- SUMMER 2013 (SESSION 2): San Fermín by Nick Heitkamp (Indiana University)

The running of the bulls is the highest profile event of the San Fermín festival, which is held July 7-14 every year. Runners start each bull run, of "encierro" singing a benediction at the statue of the event's patron saint San Fermin, shouting together "viva San Fermín" Gora San Fermín" (in Spanish and Basque). A rocket then signals that all six bulls have been released and the 826 meter sprint begins. Runners must be over 18 yers old and traditionally carry that day's rolled-up newspaper in hand to draw the bulls' attention.
Every year, between 200 and 300 people are injured and 15 people have been killed since record-keeping began. 
CIEE Alcalá staff adviced the students to be sensible and not running. And they followed our recommendations. Here it is the opinion of one CIEE Alcalá Summer 2013 (session 2) student -who attended last year as well on June 2012 to CIEE Alcalá Language and Culture program- NICK Heitkamp

The festival of San Fermín is something that an American like myself has only heard about in stories or seen on TV. We're aware that on a certain day bulls are let loose in the streets while tourists and townspeople alike try to dodge their horns. In reality, this is a festival that very few foreigners truly know about. After this weekend I am one of the few that can say otherwise! But why isn't it something that can be taught? Because of the culture. Because of the history. Because of the tradition. I traveled from Alcalá de Henares to Pamplona to spend a weekend engrossed in the opening ceremonies and festivities of San Fermín. From the moment we arrived at the Plaza de Castillo I realized that this was not something to be taught but something to live. People came from all over the world dressed in red and white in such a way that you could no longer tell the nationalities apart. We followed the river of scarves and found ourselves in the center of El Chupinazo. The crowd held up their red symbol that united the entire town as the mayor announced the commencement of the festival. From that point on it was an indescribable experience that you must live for yourself, one that is etched in the streets of Pamplona and the blood of its habitants. I invite you to travel to Northern Spain to touch the tradition for yourself because there is no other way to understand the festival of San Fermín. 




Classes began on Monday, July 1ST in the Instituto Benjamin Franklin. 

Many things have happened during the first week of July.  With the Instituto Benjamin Franklin activities the CIEE students have been able to go to "Barrio de las Letras in Madrid" (it is a nice neibourghood where some famous writers lived centuries ago as Cervantes and Lope de Vega) and Soria in Castilla-León.
 We should not forget some of the individual trips that the students have taken. One of them was Pamplona on July 7th in order to see some of the running of the bulls in San Fermín.  The CIEE staff spoke seriously with the group in order to tell them that they should not run with the bulls but rather watch from behind the barriers.
While others went  Madrid´s Gay Parade.
Stay tune, please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


CIEE-ALCALÁ- SUMMER 2013 (Session 1): ALCALÁ DE HENARES families.



Me encanta mi señora. Ella es muy generosa y agradable. Ella siempre sonríe y hace chistes, aunque yo no entiendo a veces. Nos gusta ver Pasapalabras y Lo Sabe y No Lo Sabe en la televisión. En el almuerzo y la cena, charlamos sobre cosas cotidianas. ¡Me gustan todas sus comidas también! Mi favorito hasta ahora es jamón con garbanzos, pollo y otras verduras. Me ofrezco a ayudar a preparar la cena, pero ella no lo permite. Sólo puedo poner la mesa y preparar las bandejas para el almuerzo y la cena. Lava mi ropa cada día también. He pensado ya en el día que la tendré que abandonarla. Me siento triste, pero quiero disfrutar del tiempo que tengo con ella. Desearía que a veces hablara más despacio para mí, porque no entiendo todo el tiempo. Me siento bendecida por tenerla como mi mamá española. Ella me llama su hija, niña, su corazón. Ella es mi familia.



I love my host mother. She is very generous and nice. She always smiles and jokes with me albeit I do not understand her sometimes. We like to watch TV game shows together, “Pasapalabra” and “Lo Sabe No Lo Sabe.” At lunch and dinner time, we chat about everyday things. I like all your meals too! My favorite so far is a chickpea soup, chicken and other vegetables. I offer to help her with preparing dinner, but she does not let me. I am only allowed to set the table and prepare the trays for lunch and dinner. She also washes my clothes every other day. I have starting to think about the day I have to leave Spain. It makes me feel sad because I enjoy my time with her. I wish she would sometimes speak more slowly because I cannot understand her all the time. I feel very blessed to have her as my Spanish mother Spanish. She calls me her daughter, her girl, her heart. She is my family.



Amelia Anderson

Indiana University







No tengo nada malo que decir sobre mi familia. Yo amo a mi familia española. Mi madre siempre me pregunta si quiero comer algo más, y ya estoy llena de comida. Como muy bien cada día y me encanta. Me ayuda también con ir al banco para recibir más dinero o prestarme una maleta pequeña para el viaje a Asturias. Mi hermanito es fantástico y me encanta jugar al ping-pong con él. Me siento muy feliz con todo.



I have nothing bad to say about my host family. I love my Spanish family! My mother always asks me if I want to eat something more even though I'm full of food. I eat really well every day and I love it.  My Spanish mother also helps me to go to the bank for more money and has lent me a small suitcase for our weekend trip to Asturias. My Spanish brother is also great, I love playing ping pong with him. I am very happy with everything.


Catherine Kuecker

University of Wisconsin Madison







Me gusta mi familia mucho.  Son muy acogedores.  Mi madre es muy agradable, y se asegura de que yo tenga suficiente comida.  Me gusta la comida, mi madre es una buena cocinera.  Mi hermana tiene mis mismos años más o menos, y me ayuda con mi español y ofrece ayuda con tarea.  Mi madre y hermana me prestan su ropa, lo cual es bueno.  Mi padre habla mucho conmigo, sobre los EE.UU. entonces mis conversaciones con él son muy interesantes.  Mi madre tiene un gran familia que vive en Alcalá también, entonces les conocí a otros personas de su familia.  En general ha sido una gran experiencia hasta ahora.  No hay problemas :)



 I love my home stay family very much. They are very welcoming. My Spanish mother is very nice and makes sure that I have enough food. I like her food, my mother is a good cook. My Spanish sister is very close to my age and she helps me with my Spanish.  She also offered to help me with my homework. My Spanish mother and sister also let me borrow their clothes, which is kind. My host father talks a lot to me about the U.S. so my conversations with him are very interesting. My mother has a large extended family living in Alcala and I have gotten to know other people in my home stay. Overall it's been a great experience so far.



Rachel Johansen

Indiana University





Me encanta Gema. Porque ella es muy joven, podemos hacer cosas juntas. Nosotras fuimos al cine juntas, y asistimos a un concierto con una de sus amigas. Como yo tengo un descanso entre mis dos clases (de 11,30h-15,30h) yo regreso a la casa mientras ella no está allí. A mí me encanta un poco de tiempo libre para mí misma en el apartamiento y hacer mis tareas. Por la noche siempre cenamos juntas, hablamos o vemos una película. Pasamos tiempo con su novio, Igor, que es simpático. Gema tiene mucho que contar sobre todos sus viajes a otros países por el mundo. Siento que yo no pueda decirle cosas importantes, y pedirle ayuda con mis tareas de clase.  Gema me corrige mi gramática y me gusta porque me ayuda a aprender, pero a veces es difícil cumplir un pensamiento propio cuando estoy pensando cómo prevenir errores.  Estoy contenta con mi familia.

I love my Spanish host, Gemma. Because she is younger we can do things together. We went to the movies and a concert together with one of her friends. Because I have a break between my two classes (from 11:30 am-3:30 pm) I return to the house while she is not there. For me, I like a bit of time to myself in the apartment for exercise, etc. In the evenings, we always eat dinner together, chat or watch a movie. We spend time with her boyfriend, Igor, who is friendly. Gemma has much to tell of all your trips to countries around the world. I feel that I can share important things with her and ask for help with my homework. Gemma corrects my grammar a lot, which I appreciate because it helps me to learn, but sometimes it is a little disheartening because I'm not able to get through what I'm saying. I am happy with my home stay.

Lauren Linder
University of Iowa


Familia española de Katherine S.


Orientation Friday afternoon was spent eating lunch (which is a 3 o'clock meal here) and dinner (which is a 9 or 10 o'clock meal) with a small siesta in between. Saturday was a whole new story... Waiting so long to meet them made us all very nervous, as we were not given any information whatsoever about our families before that day. During orientation we were given a photo and description of our family as well as the address of their home in Alcala. After much anticipation, I found out that my host family would consist of a single mom named Matilde and her16-year-old daughter named Eva. I have to say that I was very open-minded coming into the experience of living with a Spanish family, but I definitely was blessed to be placed with this one. They are both pretty talkative which is difficult for me to keep up with right now, but it will definitely help me to learn. Matilde works at the Universidad de Alcala de Henares which is where I go to school. She is a very sweet woman and I really appreciate how patient she is with my limited abilities in Spanish. She is a very good cook and prepares all three meals for us every day. Eva is very smart and spends a lot of time studying. She is a dancer which I think is really awesome, and she attends modern dance classes across the street from our building. Like me, she loves taking photos and said that she would help me to better understand my camera and help me improve my photography skills. Matilde said that they have hosted students for close to 8 years and that she got involved with the exchange program because she didn't really want Eva growing up as an only child. It sounds like they have really enjoyed doing this, and I am really glad to not be the first student they have hosted.
     Their apartment is really great, and I am very comfortable here because it is so inviting. We live on the 12th floor which is the very top, and the view from my window is gorgeous. I'm not facing the historic district of Alcala where all of the interesting architecture and plazas are, but I can see small mountains in the distance, and I love being able to see the "everyday life" of Spain happening outside my window. My most favorite parts in el piso (our house) are the little pieces of art all over. Matilde has A LOT of books, and they cover any empty space that might have ever been. There is also a pencil drawing of Matilde done by one of her friends and a painting of Eva as a young girl that I just love amongst many other treasures. The home just has so much character, and I am really thankful that they have welcomed me here.


Katherine Schlimm

Indiana University

CIEE-ALCALÁ- SUMMER 2013 (session 1): Katherine Schlimm impressions.

Katherine y su indentificación


This is an amazing blog!!!!!!






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. 



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.





 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.







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.


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. 


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.



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.