I had an amazing opportunity to head to Madrid, Spain to attend a CIEE for an International Faculty Development Seminar (IFDS). I attended the seminar because I am leading an initiative to develop study abroad courses for our pharmacy school and hope to teach two electives in Valencia, Spain next summer. The seminar was entitled Learning while Leading: Supporting Intercultural Development through Study Away. Dustin tagged along to keep me company while traveling (thanks to Delta miles!) and he ended up working with a colleague in Madrid the whole week while I participated in the seminar.
We arrived in Madrid around 10am (Spain time, 4 am EST) on Sunday after an overnight flight which neither of us got much sleep. It took about an hour to get out of the airport and through immigration/customs. I’ve done two overnight flights before but this one made me way more exhausted than ever. It might have had something to do with the teenager next to me that kept getting up about every 30 mins and chatting very loud when she was in her seat during the flight. We decided we couldn’t really function without taking a nap, so we took about an hour nap and then went out to the flea market called El Rastro; this market is opened every Sunday in an area of town called La Latina. I bought some Spanish shoes called espadrilles and we got a small bite to eat.
After the market I got ready to attend the Orientation/Welcome Dinner and Dustin worked from the room and headed out for Thai take out at a place called Lemon Grass.
On Monday the conference session in the morning focused on setting the stage for intercultural learning. We discussed the literature on study abroad programs and they highlighted more recently literature supporting the importance of facilitation of intercultural activities in addition to the immersion experience. I really liked this quote they shared, it sums it our discussion very nicely,
People don’t learn from experience; they learn through reflecting on experience. –Thiagi.
We also discussed the core intercultural competencies, developing intercultural learning objectives, and figuring out the faculty/facilitator role in intercultural learning for our students. We then created vision statements for what we want to be as intercultural learners and facilitators.
After the morning session, we split into two groups for lunch. Spaniards like many Western European cultures have a large lunch in the middle of the day and even many stores (especially small businesses) shut down for “siesta time.” Many go home have lunch with their families, take a nap, then return to their stores around 4:30 or 5 pm and stay open into the evening. In the afternoon one of our seminar leaders led us on a walking tour of Madrid to less touristy neighborhoods, the goal was to become familiar with our immediate surroundings and to consider the role of diversity in study abroad and recognize the cultural differences even within the “host” culture. We did see a few touristy sights along our way, but then spent some time reflecting in a neighborhood that is home to a large immigrant population.
Dinner was on our own, Dustin and I walked to grab something quick for dinner since we were exhausted and ended up with some quiona salad and ice cream (dairy free sorbet for me).
On Tuesday the morning seminar was on self-awareness and how we make meaning. We practiced framing and frame shifting. We also learned a technique called Describe, Interpret, Evaluate to use when evaluating new situations and to use with our students. We had lunch on our own so I went with a group of people from the seminar to the same Thai Restaurant Lemon Grass that Dustin tried on Sunday.
In the afternoon, our seminar group headed to Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, a local university where we talked to Spanish higher education administrators to learn more about higher education in Spain and to consider the relationship between education and culture, how this affects the student experience abroad, and how we as educators can help students learn from and through these differences.
We went to dinner as a group and had some Spanish tapas, there wasn’t much protein for me since I can’t eat eggs right now, so I went again for Tapas with Dustin afterward at Cantinia La Traviesa. We had patatas bravas (potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce), Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Prawns), and croquettes. The restaurant was very good, some of the best traditional Tapas I had there. But after three days, I was pretty much over the quantity of potatoes in this culture, ha! I was craving some green veggies!