So much happens in a semester that it can be hard to share all of the great experiences with the outside world. Fortunately, our USAC Madrid program put together a newsletter about their semester that discusses many of the opportunities and fun activities that are available to you when you decide to study abroad in Madrid.
From student stories and testimonials to pictures, memories, and advice, if you’ve been considering studying abroad in Madrid, read this!
Service learning and volunteerism: a great way to make a difference!
“In order to complete the service-learning component of the Modern Spanish Culture course this semester, four dynamic USAC students completed over 42 hours of service in Madrid working side by side with their professor, international nuns, local students and community members at a soup kitchen where once a week, they served a full meal to over 100 people in need and once in a food bank (Pan y Peces) where they filled multiple bags with kilos of food for local families to take home. In addition, students also worked in APLA, a Latin American Refugee/Immigration Center where they taught an advanced-level English conversation course to immigrants and staff members every Wednesday evening. These engaging field experiences created a safe environment in which the students interacted with other volunteers and conversed about many subjects including politics, movies, family, holidays, festivals, recipes and other cross-cultural elements, giving them the opportunity to naturally enhance language acquisition skills, learn about the cultural characteristics and society of Madrid while, at the same time, giving back to their hosting community through their service.” —Irina Kappler-Crookston, University of Idaho
“Helping out at the soup kitchen every week, and also at Pan y Peces, has allowed me to see a reality of Madrid —and Spain—that I normally wouldn´t have come into contact with.” — Chiara Veronesi, CSU, Chico
“I have met some of the most interesting and friendly people here – from a French expat to an Argentinian high school student who likes to come each week just to help out (which, for an American high school kid, is rare). The weekly volunteering appointment has given me a feeling of purpose here in Madrid as well as a sense of community.”— Caroline Scott, Univ. of Iowa
UNR journalism student attends communications conference
“The Comunica2 communications conference takes place annually in Gandía, Valencia at the Gandía campus of the Valencia Polytechnic University. Communications professionals and students meet to discuss the development and current trends in online communications, including social media and blogs. Attending this conference in February was an enlightening experience for me in a variety of ways: First, the entire conference was in Spanish, so I was fully immersed in Spanish in a technical setting. Second, I made wonderful connections in the world of Spanish journalism and communications. Third, I was able to partake in a fascinating discussion from topics like media entrepreneurship to censorship of social media content. This exposure to dozens of Spanish journalists and social media professionals will help me be more well-rounded in the Spanish news I consume. Added bonus: The conference allowed me to explore Gandía, Valencia for a day, and who wouldn’t want to stroll along the beach?” —Natalie Van Hoozer, UNR
Fundación Balia—a new volunteer opportunity
This March, USAC Madrid established a new working relationship with Fundación Balia, an NGO which works with at-risk children. The foundation offers families an afterschool program for their children, in order to avoid them being left at home, unattended, and, sometimes, in precarious situations. UNLV student Tsanavi Spoonhunter is our first student to volunteer for Balia and, although her time with the organization has been short, she´s grateful for the position: “I´ve only been at Balia for a couple of weeks, but I´ve really enjoyed my time thus far. Each of the personalities of the children is unique and interesting, which results in a very entertaining three hours– there is never a dull moment. As this semester is coming to an end I feel a bit sad because I wish I had more time to spend with the fundación. Not only have I grown to adore the children, but also the staff. Each staff member has been helpful and welcoming and I’m very thankful for that.”
T-oigo: A volunteer opportunity that continues to triumph
Two USAC students, Lexie Peters, Missouri State University and Emily Herbruck, Miami University of Ohio decided to volunteer for T-oigo this semester, a nonprofit which promotes bilingualism for the hearing impaired. Many of our students have embraced this wonderful opportunity since 2011. In Lexie´s words, “Volunteering with T-oigo has been a great opportunity to supplement my semester abroad in Madrid! It is a wonderful organization that aims to help hearing impaired children improve their English by integrating words and phrases into fun activities and games. I have enjoyed getting to know my student and his family. Together we have done various things including cooking traditional Spanish foods, playing board games and card games, and making crafts. It has helped me improve my Spanish conversation skills and learn more about Spanish culture.”
Three USAC students have spent their semester tutoring young children. Chiara Veronesi, CSU Chico; Andrés Pinto- Pro, UMASS Amherst; and Shirel, Altmann, UMD, College Park. It´s a great way for students to earn some extra spending money, and bring them into contact with a Spanish family. They can get a glimpse of what a Spanish family´s lifestyle is like, and offers an opportunity for new relationships to develop.
As Shirel says, “Tutoring my students in English has been one of the best parts of studying abroad in Madrid. I have really enjoyed it and it’s something I look forward to every week. The families are very friendly and it’s been rewarding having the opportunity to form connections with families in Madrid. I highly recommend tutoring English to anyone who enjoys working with kids and seeks immersion.”
Asociación ICEAS—helping at-risk youth stay on the straight and narrow
“Once a week at ICEAS I have the opportunity to transform myself —from being the student to being the teacher. ICEAS is an after-school program designed at helping underprivileged youth (ages approximately 5-15) exceed in academics and society. For the first hour, I help students with their homework (this is generally their English homework but can also include other topics such as mathematics). In addition, I often play board games with the children or help them with their art projects. The last hour of the class is dedicated to teaching the students about a wide variety of issues from poverty to racism to alcoholism. During this time, I often help to answer students’ questions or further contribute to the conversation.” USAC Madrid is excited to have ICEAS on board as a new volunteer opportunity. Kudos to Jordan, who wrote this piece, and fellow USACer Ella Van Langeveld, New School for doing a great job!
APLA—working with immigrants
Another new volunteer opportunity has materialized for USAC Madrid students— at APLA, a nonprofit which helps immigrants. Julianna Rodman featured on this page, has this to say about her time there:“An aspect that has really enriched my study abroad experience in Madrid, Spain this semester has been my experience volunteering with APLA (Amigos de las Personas Inmigrantes). This organization provides many different resources to immigrants such as the English class that my fellow classmates and I have been organizing and leading throughout the semester. Every Wednesday evening from 6:30-7:30 PM, we meet and practice English. My classmates and I prepare presentations each week on various topics such as American food, Sports, Entertainment, Travel, etc., and then we lead conversations relating to the topic of the week. We always try our best to cater to each person’s English level and are always open to their input about what they want and need. It has been fun teaching them new phrases and vocabulary, but they have been teaching us a lot of new Spanish vocabulary as well; we are all learning and it is nice to be able to help each other out. It is also cool to see the regular attendees gain more confidence each week in their vocabulary, pronunciation, and conversation skills. This experience has given me a lot more perspective and helped me meet some amazing individuals.”
A student´s perspective on APLA
“As a volunteer English conversation instructor with members of APLA (Amigos Pueblos Latinoamericanos) her in Madrid, I have gained a completely new perspective on language learning. Before instructing this class, I had only tutored basic Spanish to other native English speakers. Explaining American culture and the English language and to adults from Latin America is extremely different, and sometimes difficult. By working each week with these men and women from countries like Venezuela, Argentina, and Colombia, I have not only offered an English immersion experience to others, I have gained insight into how I can improve my own Spanish language learning. My favorite experience each week is talking as a group and stumbling upon an English idiomatic expression that the class has never heard before, or explaining the subtleties of the usage of a word. I hope I can keep in touch with the members of this class as their English skills expand in the future.” — Natalie Van Hoozer, UNR
Internship gives UNR student a new perspective on teaching
UNR student Julianna Rodman was keen on doing an internship at a local high school. When scheduling conflicts interfered with this plan, she decided to take the plunge and intern in a local public primary school. “My internship has not only taught me so much, it´s been a lot of fun. Working with two classes of five and six-year-olds, who never seem to lack in energy, as well as working alongside four teachers, I have learned a great deal about classroom management and how to cater a lesson to this particular age group. I´ve found the key is a combination of being prepared, having a positive attitude, and always keeping the students entertained and active. I feel reaffirmed in teaching as my future vocation — it brings me so much joy!”
Day trips and extracurricular activities
This semester USAC students have been busy taking advantage of everything the city of Madrid has to offer. In addition to the semester day trips which are regularly scheduled, the USAC office has also offered other activities for students to enjoy: bowling and a soccer match. Two USAC students, Leo Falcone, UMD-College Park and Kristin Casanave, Appalachian State University, also volunteered to be this semester´s “event leaders.” In conjunction with URJC student Shaila Múñoz, Leo and Kristin have organized a few activities, such as running in the Retiro Park and visiting museums, in an effort to encourage everyone to explore the capital more intensely.
Bowling event at Chamartín bowling alley.
Putting new Spanish cooking skills to good use.
Students enrolled in the Cooking Class have spent a wonderful semester learning about Spanish culinary traditions, and making delicious foods!
Learning about the business side of Madrid.
Students enrolled in Business Spanish have had the chance to visit the URJC´s business incubator, Madrid´s Stock Exchange, and Impact Hub— a world-wide organization which provides a group of coworking and events spaces for a membership community of entrepreneurs, activists, and professionals taking action to drive positive social and environmental change.
A great way to connect with the city.
Students get a chance to explore Madrid, learn drawing techniques, and put them into practice in an urban setting.
Above: Madelyn Parker, Oklahoma City Univ., checks the profile
drawing she´s done of fellow USACers Natalie Van Hoozer, UNR.
Below: Samantha Skarvan, Univ. of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, adds some
last-minute details to her sketch book.
Students dance their Monday and Wednesday afternoons away!
USAC students learn Latin rhythms, as well as some traditional Spanish dances, such as sevillanas.
Capturing Madrid through the lens of a camera.
For their final project, students had to create a visual guide of Madrid through the eyes of a historical figure.