This semester through CIEE I have been taking classes on Politics and Terrorism, the Camino de Santiago, and Spain through its Popular Culture. Personally, I have loved all of these classes and am very impressed/surprised with how much I have learned. The work load for each class varys in regards to homework, but each class has "major" assignments which all include A mid term, A large research paper, a presentation, and a final. However, each class is taught very differently.
Politics and Terrorism is a very hands on class. Each day in class you will be engaged in debates and discussions on various topics ranging from how to define a terrorist to studying every minor detail of the ETA. I really enjoy this class because it seems very active. Every day is different and there is hardly a feeling that you are being lectured. Also, it's interesting to hear other peoples opinions on a very important topic in todays age. Outside of the classroom we continue to discuss and debate through a blog where we can post different topics and current events. Also, after studying Islam and its politics (history and basic concepts) we visited a mosque and were able to spend two hours speaking to a muslum. Here we were able to ask questions about the treatment of women in Islamic countries and other questions regarding this religion. To say the least it was very interesting to hear from an individual like this because of his different perspective of this religion. Our teacher, Jaime M. Nieman Gonzalez, is very knowledgeable about all topics discussed in class and enjoys having everyone participate in class. He is a great teacher and I would recommend this class to anyone because you will honestly learn a lot.
The Camino de Santiago is a very worthwhile class to take as well. At first, I thought I was going to only learn about the religion of Spain, but in reality, I feel like I have also learned a lot about the culture and by participating in this class I think I have a better understanding of Spain, its origins, its importance on religion, and culture. The class itself is very interesting and never boring. This class consists of many powerpoint slides, video clips, lectures from the teacher, and also discussion. We also take group quizzes (they don't count, just to review and make sure we are understanding what we are currently learning) and I really like this since you learn A LOT during this class. The mock quizzes are actually really fun and it's rewarding to see and realize how much you have learned. Also, I have been surprised by how much I hear about the Camino de Santiago outside of class. My host father loves to talk about the camino de santiago because he completed part of it, there are a lot of movies/tv shows that incorporate it, and also it just seems to be a general topic in the streets or bars. Outside of class we receive occasional homework assignments that is to prepare us for our next class. Also, we recently went and saw a movie at the spanish cinema that was called "The Way" which was about the Camino de Santiago. It was really fun to go as a class and it was free (CIEE payed for it!). Our teacher Juan Antonio López Luque is incredible and is a extremely talented teacher. I was very surprised to learn today that this was his first year with CIEE! Thanks to him I have learned more than I could have imagined about the history behind the Camino de Santiago but also about architecture, the different caminos, life in the middle ages, feudalism, and the culture of Spain. I can also say that in general he is a great guy who really cares about what he is teaching and is very passionate about it. Overall, great teacher!
Spain through its Popular culture has of course been an incredible class. I love this class because inside the class we learn everything from the symbolism of the spanish flag to the music and fiestas of Spain. If anyone is going to be partaking in the liberal arts program through CIEE take this class! It's really rewarding/cool to learn about what really makes Spain what it is and then to see it everyday outside of class. This class has really allowed me to understand Spain a lot more and has actually made me feel more comfortable here since I feel more apart of the Spanish society. The class is taught by watching numerous spanish movies that capture different aspects of spanish society or history (for example sexism or machismo in spain), lectures, and powerpoint slides. Outside of this classroom we have gone to a nearby restaurant to have tapas and visited a museum that discussed the art and history of Alicante (all free and payed for by CIEE!). The professor for this class, Luis López Belda, is awesome! A very friendly and outgoing teacher, I have obviously been able to learn a lot about the Spanish culture through Luis, but he has also taught me a lot of spanish slang words which has helped me with my proficiency in spanish.
Granted, i can not speak on behalf of every class offered by CIEE, but these three classes have been incredible and I feel that I have learned a lot. Granted the area of studies are very interesting but I think what really makes all these classes so great are the teachers. They all are very different but all of my classes have a very relaxed and good atmosphere in which I can learn (even when everything is in spanish). All the teachers here are very patient and will do anything to help you succeed in and outside of the classroom, you just need to put in the time and effort. With this said, don't expect the teachers to take into consideration too much that you are not fluent in spanish, they grade just as hard here as they do in the United States even with the language barrier so be sure to leave a lot of time to study and to do the term papers.