The Skidmore in Madrid program begins with the pre-departure orientation held on the Skidmore College campus in Saratoga Springs, New York, during the semester prior to studying abroad. Our Director in Madrid, Susan Sánchez Casal Ph.D., visits the campus to meet with each student individually and also with the group as a whole. During her visit, students receive the following materials:
- General pre-departure handbook
- A copy of the "Guía del Estudiante," a booklet designed and edited by the program containing important practical information
- A pre-orientation guide in English containing "General Information," "Rules and Regulations," and "A Brief Orientation to Spain"
- A phrase book "Hablar en Madriz," designed to help the students with the colloquial use of the Spanish language in the specific situations they will be encountering (family, university, shopping, telephone etc.)
- Addresses of pen pals from the University. Prior to their arrival in Spain, students on the Skidmore Program receive the addresses of Spanish students that also study at the University and who are interested in getting to know English-speaking students. Students make initial contact by correspondence with their Spanish pen pals before arrival to Spain. Once they have started the program in Spain, they attend a tapas and wine party that is organized by the staff so that both groups can get to know each other. The Spanish students help facilitate the integration of our students in the University and into Spanish culture as a whole, while Program students help the Spaniards with their English.
Upon arrival in Spain, students begin a three-day orientation held at a town of historical
importance near Madrid (usually Segovia for the academic-year group or Toledo for
the spring group). There our students have their first contact with Spanish culture,
architecture, cuisine and language, as well as the opportunity to meet the program
staff and other students.
The days are filled with sessions that deal with topics pertinent to students integration into Spanish culture, including the Spanish family, Spanish friends, travel opportunities, city transportation in Madrid, safety concerns, money handling, cultural differences, etc. The academic and administrative aspects of the program are closely reviewed and explained.
Upon returning to Madrid, students are picked up by their host families and continue their intensive orientation period, including lectures by UAM professors; guided tours of the city and its museums; a day trip to El Escorial; theater attendance; and sessions with UAM students to help in course selection.
A lecture series given by a selection of professors from the Autonomous University of Madrid will present Spain from different perspectives-literary, historical, economic, political, and artistic-giving students both informational content as well as practice at note-taking in Spanish. This access to UAM professors is also helpful to the students in making their decisions about course selection at the University.
Excursions and Activities
Excursions and cultural activities are an integral part of the Skidmore program. We plan guided trips of historic cities that are led by experts and serve to expose students to some of Spain's historic and artistic treasures found off the beaten tourist track.
In the past, we have visited the medieval Castilian towns of Pastrana and Sigüenza; the Andalusian cities of Granada, Úbeda, and Baeza to study the remains from their Arabic past; the wine country of La Rioja situated along the Route of Saint Jacques; the Renaissance towns of Cáceres and Trujillo; the medieval city of Guadalupe; and the Roman ruins in Mérida.
In addition to our excursions, we offer a monthly lecture series at our program center that is presented by Spanish cultural and political figures who speak about current topics of interest. The lectures are followed by a reception with tapas and refreshments to provide students with informal access to the speakers. For example, a playwright might be invited to speak about his or her play that students have seen that month; a politician would explain an upcoming election; or a philosopher could offer insights into current national issues.
Because we strongly believe in the benefits of independent exploration, we encourage our students to take advantage of the many other cultural opportunities available throughout the city. To this end, we subsidize a variety of extracurricular activities and cultural travel for our students. Attendance of plays, films, exhibits, concerts, and lectures supplement students' course work.
The Program provides a monthly list of cultural activities in Madrid that students
are encouraged to attend with their Spanish friends or family and whose costs are
fully reimbursed. These activities include visits to art exhibits, theater and dance
productions, Spanish films, Spanish concerts, and lectures. The program also reimburses
students (up to a determined amount) for tickets to attend one professional soccer
game, one opera, one Flamenco show, and one bullfight each semester.
In addition, students are encouraged to pursue extracurricular activities of their choice. In the past, students have chosen to use their allowance to cover pool or gym memberships or cultural activities, such as ceramics, guitar, cooking, or dance lessons.