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Changing Lights


Name: Laura Gaylord

CIEE Alicante Program: Liberal Arts

Semester: Fall 2015

Home School: Boulder University

The town I grew up in doesn’t have a single stoplight. So, when I found myself waiting for the pedestrian sign to turn green one night after walking home from having a late night “café” with some friends on the bulevar I had to laugh at myself for waiting to cross when there wasn’t a soul in the street. It was funny to me that the lights would continue to change even though they had no one to change for.

I told myself when I first got to Spain that I would do something new everyday— try a new food, find a new street to walk home on, get to know a new place in the city. In fact, this was the reason I left the comfort of my house to meet my friends at a new bar.

Some days this promise to myself is easier to fulfill than others. Most of the time I do something new here without even meaning to—getting lost and stumbling upon a beautiful plaza, my mom cooking bolas del mar for dinner, meeting Spanish friends and trying new customs to fit in. But after a while, like in any place, I found myself falling into a routine. I know the fastest way to walk home from el mercado, my favorite playa San Juan tram stop and where to get the cheapest cañas. I have to push myself a little further to be uncomfortable again in an environment that was once so foreign— a comforting notion in itself. After a full two months of something new everyday I have still managed to make myself feel like I belong in a world I used to know nothing about.

Not only has doing something new everyday given me some of the best sunsets I have ever seen from the top of Serra Grossa or helped build unforgettable friendships but it has given me a new perspective through which I see the world around me. Things that were once so new have become normal and things I used to know as normal I see in a new way.

These days as I walk home on a deserted street I still find myself stopping to watch the lights change. Only now, it is to admire how they go on changing even though no one is giving them cause. I realize that my experience in Alicante has continued to change me whether myself or anyone around was noticing.




OFICINA PAINT2 Un nuevo programa, nuevas caras, nuevas experiencias y nuevas historias que contar. En breve nuestros nuevos bloggers nos contarán cosas familiares, divertidas algunas, sorprendentes otras y todas muy personales.

Desde aquí les damos la bienvenida. Welcome guys!

CIEE Study Center Alicante, Spain


I absoutely love my host family. We have lunch and dinner togethere almost every day and my spanish has improved immensly. I live with a single mom and her and I are very close. We talk about everything which especially helps broaden my spanish vocabulary! My homestay experience has been incredible so far. The home cooked meals are phenomenal as well. My cousin came to visit me 2 weekends ago and she fell in love with Alicante. She currently lives in Munich, which is very cold, so coming to Alicante for the weekend was the best vaccacion shes had in years! She had heard very little of the city before coming and fell in love with it just like me when she got here! I went to the archeology museum, castillo, beach and different tapas while she was here! So far Alicante has been wonderful and can't wait to write more about it :)

Ilana Leuchtag


Activities with Host Family

Being in the Liberal Arts program allows you to develop and improve your spanish skills very fast. I realized how much I learned today when I was with my Host family. I can completely hold a normal conversation about anything it feels like now and I have to say it felt pretty good. By improving on my spanish skills so much I feel like I was able to open up a lot of doors with my family. For example, with my spanish family we enjoy going out to get churros with chocolate, go to a local restaurant with friends to play cards, going to the spanish movie theater, helping my father with working in his country house garden, and much more.

(here is a pic of my pop delivering his olives)


Today I was fortunate enough to go to the Olive oil factory with my father. It was really cool and fun to see how they produce olive oil in Spain and how natural it is! Also, it was a great experience to have with my spanish father because he is very passionate about growing and producing his own food. We drove about an hour out of Alicante, delivered the Olives, and left with a bunch of money (he decided to sell his olive oil this time). When we got home we put all the christmas decorations up as well to surprise my spanish brother when he gets home. Overall, a very successful day!


CIEE Classes: Politics and Terrorism, Camino de Santiago, Spain Through its Popular Culture

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.


Sevilla Trip with CIEE program


This weekend our whole program, including all the levels here in Alicante, visited Sevilla. We travelled by bus, a 7 to 8 hour bus ride, and arrived Friday night. We quickly checked into our hotel and went to a Flamenco show. It was incredible to see, it was great to view this performance since it really captures the culture of Spain. Following the show we had dinner (we didn't have dinner all together, but instead CIEE gave us 40 euros each to take care of our meals for the weekend) and then continued to explore Sevilla. The following day we visited many places, including palaces, churches, and other hot spots in Sevilla, all accompanied with a private tour (the tours are with your program alone so there is usually one tour guide for 20 people). Needless to say, the program trip to Sevilla was awesome and basically everything was included; flamenco show, tour guide, and the 40 euros given to buy food throughout the weekend, breakfast was included at the hotel. I really enjoyed traveling to another part of Spain with my program because I really felt like I got to see a lot of that place, rather than traveling alone and trying to organize events all on your own. It was nice to have someone else do that for me and just made the weekend that much more enjoyable.


MIdterms week!

Last week we all had a series of midterms through-out the whole week and let me tell you it got a little hectic. I had my spanish midterm on tuesday at 9 am, tuesday I had my spanish for business at 1 pm,  and had my history of art on thursday at 4 pm. I really didn't worry too much about my spanish and business midterm only because I had to worry so much about my art one... I really don't feel like I learn a whole lot in that class since the teacher's way of teaching is pretty much lecturing the 2 hours of class without any breaks, I really feel overwhelmed in this class. I studied really hard for this midterm since he gave us a lot of info right before the test... my classmates and I have had some issues with him in this class so we are trying our best to study really hard to pass this class. I really wouldn't recommend this class unless you really need it. not only is the class really long and boring, the class has no interaction at all.


Friends in alicante


The friends I have made within CIEE are awesome! and I wouldn't replace them for anything  you really bond and connect, and like Charlie said earlier we are great friends ( you really learn a lot from everyone here.) I really have enjoyed meeting so many people here in spain but not only spaniards, I have also met people from the different states and have gotten really close to them. I have probably made some of the best of  friends within CIEE.  Something I find kind of funny is that when we all travel and we go our separate ways we honestly miss each other and can not wait to come back "home" and see everyone again. 

You will honestly make lifetime friendships here. I couldn't have chosen a better place to study abroad. 


Classes in Alicante

After a month you really adapt to the city, classes, people, somewhat of the culture and such... and you really select the path you want to follow. My classes are not super hard but it does take a while to adapt to the spanish. Being in the Liberal Arts program we have 3 classes with CIEE and one direct enrollment with the University.  My direct enrollment is Introduction to Public Relations which can be sort of challenging since we take notes in spanish and my hand isn't used to writing as fast (some of my notes are written in spanglish) I think having a direct enrollment is helpful, because that way you really have the ability to make spanish friends, and really practice your spanish. 

CIEE gives you different classes for you to choose from, for example: Spanish for business, Spanish Art, and Conversational Spanish are the classes I am taking. 

I honestly recommend taking conversational spanish because you really learn the spanish slang, and how students, young people really speak. My professor really knows what she is teaching, and knows every possible word/expression out there for everything.  My spanish art class isn't what I expected, therefore I am not really content with that class but I do find some stuff kind of interesting ( if you decide to take this class, be prepared to sit for 2 hours straight just looking at pictures and listening to the professor.) 

The CIEE staff is really nice overall Eva, Felipe, Manolo, Beatriz, Paco... WOW! They really know what they are doing. They help us so much with everything... If we have any sort of questions or just need something...  they are on it like no-one's business. 




Life in Alicante, Spain (Homestay)

(view from my apartment)


Deciding to live with a home stay can be a hard decision for some; it's very nerve racking to think you will be living with complete strangers you don't even know while having a language and culture barrier. However, for me, the decision to live with a home stay family was one of the best choices I've made here in Spain.

By living with a home stay family, you really get to live in a spaniards daily life. You see how spanish family members and friends interact with one another, you hear the spanish language constantly, you eat spanish dishes daily (lunch and dinner mostly, there really isn't "breakfast" here), and you get the opportunity to become part of another family.

My proficiency in spanish has improved drastically while living in my home stay family. Each day I learn new spanish words by either listening to my family or asking questions. Take advantage of your family, ask them how to say different sayings or words because they are more than willing to help. Also, remember that this family has agreed to have you, so they know you will not be fluent. Don't be afraid to ask them for help. I recommend bringing a small notebook, that way when you hear/learn new words, you can write it down with the english translation so you won't forget it later. It's a great idea because at the end of the program you can look back and see how much you learned as well.

From my experience, the spanish food is great in a home stay. You really get to try dishes that are not common to taste in the United States. I have had paella, shrimp, veggie burgers, fried vegetables, soup, many different types of fish and meat, pasta, cheese, eggs, beans, and bread. The difference in the food is that it is all fresh, or home grown. My family has a house in the country side where they grow many different types of fruits and vegetables (they also have hens for eggs). I really lucked out with my home stay considering my padre studied cooking in Italy for a couple of years (Sorry, but I don't think this is common for most home stays).


However, it's very important to know that here in Alicante, seafood is VERY popular. If you don't like seafood it doesn't mean you shouldn't come to Alicante, but I would tell your home stay family if you don't like it or not sooner rather than later (same goes to vegetarians). At least try it though, because that is part of the fun while studying abroad, have a open mind. You never know, you might like it!

I think the most rewarding part of my home stay so far is that I feel apart of this family and not as a guest. I help the family with dishes and cleaning up after eating, I help walk the dog, and also am currently learning the family prayer which is stated before each meal. This may not seem really fun, but it makes me feel apart of the family and immersed in the spanish culture. My best advice is to just assume that this is your family in the United States and becoming comfortable in your house and around your spanish family will be a lot easier. Granted, David is right with the fact that in a home stay it is a lot harder to make spanish friends your age, but at the same time you have a family (you could also have siblings that are around your age which is really fun since they will take you out and you can meet their friends). With a family, you can learn all about their past, what it was like growing up in Spain, and you can also watch spanish home videos with your family (which is pretty funny). However, as for the night life, you won't be spending time with your parents out in the barrio or the puerta.

With that said, by becoming apart of a family, you need to realize you have responsibilities! This means that when you're brother or sister is studying for a test, you can't be blasting music in your room (for the most part the apartments aren't very big so your own personal space is really just your room). Also, it's very important to eat at home with the family for almost every meal (meaning you have to leave the university for lunch and come back to the campus if you have class again, which can be annoying). Furthermore, some friday or saturday nights you may have dinner with other families or friends from spain, so going out with your friends right away might not be possible (you can always meet up with them after).

Overall, deciding between the dorms and a home stay is a very tough choice, but in the end it is about what you want to get out of your experience in Alicante. As you can see, David and I had very different set goals before coming to Alicante, so that's why we chose different living conditions (despite this we are great friends).  Think about what you are looking to get out of your study abroad experience and I'm sure you will be able to decide easily (more or less).