Monday, June 25, 2012

The Ciudad Real bunch had a full week of classes and fun activities!  The week began with some of the students’ first exams and writing assignments in their classes.  The students are growing a lot in their knowledge of Spanish culture, geography, ability to read literature in Spanish, listening comprehension, and their fluency to express themselves correctly in both spoken and written forms.  Outside of the academic realm, the students have divided themselves into theater and choir groups and have enjoyed acting and singing in Spanish.  They are now embarking on the endeavor of creating and/or selecting pieces for the end of course program for the host families.  As you can see in the pictures below, they have also enjoyed playing sports this week.  There are a variety of activities, including yoga/pilates, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and frisbee – or what seems to be our group’s favorite activity called “frisbee fútbol,” which seems to be a fun combination of ultimate frisbee and soccer. 

We celebrated our first onsite birthday this week, during which the students’ host family surprised the birthday girl with a cake to share with the whole group!

Though we did not travel on an excursion this week, the students enjoyed a couple of optional evening activities here in Ciudad Real.  First, the students went to the theater to see a movie of their choice, such as Snow White, Men in Black 3, Project X, among others.  Most were surprised by the cheaper price of tickets and typical movie refreshments and took full advantage!  A few were also excited about the Burger King right next to the theater and took a moment to indulge in American fast food.  

The following evening, a small group attended a local dance school’s end of course festival.  They were able to see the school’s instructors perform a variety of traditional Spanish dances, such as flamenco, tango, sevillana, and tango.

This week the group is looking forward to a very short week – only three days of classes followed by our overnight trip to Córdoba and Granada!  Needless to say, we are all anxiously awaiting the trip and pictures will follow upon our return!   

Monday, June 18, 2012


On Friday June 15th, the students had their first excursion to Toledo.  Armed with a list of important items to find from their culture teacher, we embarked on an all-day adventure through one of Spain’s most popular cities.  Here is a shot of the city itself and the whole group upon arrival! 

Together as a group, the students first toured the Monastery San Juan de los Reyes.  The instructors were thoroughly impressed with the students’ ability to maintain silence during our visit as requested by the monastery due to the monks who still live there.  All were impressed by the elaborate details of the architecture and the beauty of the building itself.  Here are some interior shots of the monastery. 

Following the monastery, we continued on to the Synagogue del Tránsito.  This museum highlights the life and influences of the Jews in Spanish culture. 

After visiting the synagogue, we visited the Museum Santa Cruz, which highlights some well known Spanish artwork, including that of El Greco. 

The group continued on to Toledo’s main cathedral.  All were impressed by the highly elaborate and detailed architecture and the treasures housed inside the cathedral itself.

Our day concluded with the Church of Santo Tomé, which houses El Greco’s famous painting “El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz.”  While I would love to share pictures with you all, pictures were not allowed of this amazing work.  Below you see a shot of the exterior of the building and the group waiting to enter.

In addition to touring, the students had some free time to explore the city of Toledo in groups.  Many returned with a variety of souvenirs, including the swords, jewelry, and other craftsmanship for which the city is famous.  Though it was a long day full of a TON of walking, I think everyone would agree that it was a great day spent in Toledo and a wonderful way to conclude our first full week here in Spain!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

This blog entry comes at the start of the second full week for everyone in Ciudad Real.  The students have adapted well to the Spanish lifestyle, having to deal with new foods, new families, new routines and schedules… basically new everything!  The students have gotten to know each other well through regular classes and afternoon activities such as choir, theater, and sports.  Below you see some pictures of the students outside our “comedor” where we eat lunch each day.  In addition to our regular sports day, many of the students have started playing frisbee or soccer after eating while others are content to chat in the shade and avoid the heat.

The students were able to experience the magic of soccer and the love for the national team when Spain defeated Ireland 4-0 on Thursday night.  They are anxiously awaiting tomorrow evening’s game against Croatia, which will hopefully send Spain to the next round of the Euro Cup!  The week concluded with our excursion to Toledo, which I will include in my next entry!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Look Out, Ciudad Real - Here We Come!

After a long plane trip from Chicago to Madrid, all of the students and instructors were reunited at the airport.  Having started speaking only Spanish upon landing, the students experienced the process of arriving in a foreign country and answering the questions of passport officials in Spanish - a fun experience to say the least, but all went just fine!  After claiming their bags (which also all arrived without problems), we all climbed on board the bus for a two hour bus ride to Ciudad Real.  Though most were extremely tired, we enjoyed our first views of Castilla - the windmills, the images of Don Quijote, and the beautiful landscape.  Below, you see everyone's smiling faces on our first offical bus photo! :) 

Upon arrival in Ciudad Real, the host families awaited our arrival.  The students spent the weekend with their families, hopefully using the siesta to recover from jet lag and watching a little EuroCup soccer.  On Monday, the students returned to school.  Their families accompanied them on their first day and the instructors sent them running through the city on a scavenger hunt to get to know Ciudad Real.  They have had an introduction to all of their classes and are looking forward to Friday's trip to Toledo!