Four Days in Galicia: History, Culture, and Beauty

This week’s post comes from William Tsai and Morgan Yee, two students from the University of California Education Abroad Program in Madrid. William and Morgan describe the breathtaking beaches, delectable seafood, awe-inspiring architecture, and the rich cultural traditions of Galicia, an autonomous region in northwestern Spain.

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An Excerpt from Insights – Constructing the Other: Migration in Italian Media

The Insights newsletter highlights innovative programs with ACCENT. Today’s excerpt comes from our May 2017 edition. For more Insights, visit our newsletter at:

Students in the inaugural Rome semester for the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism recently joined professor Lorenzo Rinelli for an on-site class in the Esquilino neighborhood, or as Rinelli described, “the only truly trans-ethnic place you will find in Rome.”

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ASU in Florence: Exploring Science Through the Arts

This week’s post focuses on a group of Arizona State University students studying literature and medicine in Florence. When asked about their favorite study abroad moments, the students and faculty gave some truly wonderful responses. We are more than happy to share them below, and wish the students the best of luck as they get settled in back home! Continue reading

California Baptist University Architecture Students Explore Florence

This week’s post features architecture students from California Baptist University as they explore a variety of architectural sites throughout Italy.

This Spring, students from California Baptist University are studying architecture in Florence and Rome. For the Florence portion of the program, they started off with a visit to the Certosa, a monastery located on the summit of Monte Acuto – also called “Holy Mountain”- a cone-shaped hill situated near the village of Galluzzo, a town south of Florence. Continue reading

Studying at a Spanish University

ACCENT works with local institutions to offer several direct enrollment programs, where students at our partner universities have the opportunity to attend classes at Spanish universities. Direct enrollment programs allow students to experience a foreign educational system first-hand. The transition is a challenging and rewarding process. At ACCENT Madrid, direct enrollment students benefit from the support and expertise of our Academic Liason/Programs Coordinator Raquel del Pozo, who assists with course selection, registration, academic advising, and helps students adjust to a different system. This week, we’ve asked Raquel to answer some of the most common questions asked by incoming students about academic and student life at universities in Spain.

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Global Edge: Theater in London

Our first post this year comes from Rona Wang, a first-year student who studied in London for her fall semester with UC Berkeley’s Global Edge program. One of the courses Global Edge participants take is called London: Theatre Capital, taught by Professor Alan Read from King’s College London. In her post, Rona analyzes one of the plays the class attended and describes how studying theater in London has been a truly eye-opening experience.370744_770_preview

UC Berkeley Global Edge courses are designed to let us take university breadth requirements while also learning more about the city we are studying in. One of our London-based courses is called “London: Theatre Capital,” in which we attend a performance every other week, alternating with site visits to places like the Tate Modern to explore what “performance” really means. Continue reading

ACCENT Rome: Students Visit an Exhibition at Palazzo Braschi

Today’s post comes from our ACCENT Rome Study Center, where Assistant Programs Coordinator Alice Mangia describes a fascinating exhibition featuring one of the most complex and influential painters in Baroque Italian Art: Artemisia Gentileschi.

University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) students, faculty, and ACCENT staff recently had the opportunity to visit an exhibition of artist Artemisia Gentileschi’s work with an exceptional guide: UCEAP Professor Cristiana Filippini.  Filippini earned her BA in Art History at the University of Florence and both her img_20161206_174017290MA and PhD at Johns Hopkins University, where her research focused on the 11th century frescoes of  the San Clemente Basilica in Rome. She has since extensively researched Artemisia Gentileschi’s contributions to Baroque art, developing a semester-long course for UCEAP: Women & Art: Women as Artists, Patrons, & Subjects in the Art of Rome.

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Faculty Feature: UCEAP Students in Madrid Interview LGBTQ Activist Mario Blázquez

This week’s post comes from local faculty Jon Snyder, who accompanied University of California students on a visit to COGAM, an NGO that advises and advocates for LGBTQ+ communities in Spain. The students learned not only how nonprofit organizations are structured and funded, but also specific ways COGAM works to better the lives of Spanish citizens and spread awareness across the world.

This week, University of California students on the “Negotiating Identities: Gender and Sexuality in Urban Space” program had a productive exchange with Mario Blázquez, an experienced activist and coordinator from COGAM (Colectivo de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales de Madrid). img_20161115_130500Some 50 students interviewed Mario about his volunteer work coordinating health initiatives for the LGBTQ community, one of the organization’s main lines of action along with education and social work initiatives. Mario kindly greeted us at the COGAM headquarters in downtown Madrid before making his appearance before parliament deputies at the Madrid Assembly that afternoon. Continue reading

Educational Exploration: Guided Walks in London

This week’s post comes to us from our London intern Plamen Momchilov, who describes how visiting a city and learning from a professional guide can be a more engaging learning experience than simply sitting in a classroom.

It has been said that, without a doubt, London is a historically rich city, filled with centuries-old buildings and curious stories to hear. From Roman walls, through Medieval palaces, to Victorian splendor, there is a 2,000-year history to explore within the center of the capital.

Typically, the way that we study a subject (such as the history of London) at a university would be through a series of lectures and seminars. But being physically in London provides a plethora of opportunities to explore endless amounts of interesting sites. It is even easier if you have a knowledgeable guide to teach you about a topic you are interested in while being surrounded by the living history of this city.

In the last month while I attended guided walks, I soon realized that there was more to explore than I had thought. Though I study and live in the area, I felt as excited as the visiting students, who were only beginning to experience London.

Professional Guide Richard Barnett leads a group of students on a tour

I joined a walk with Arizona State University students in Greenwich, where hemispheres meet and naval heritage is the main attraction, an area that has lured various interesting characters throughout its history. Once an isolated village past the outskirts of London, its significance in regards to the development of British naval power is undisputed. However, it is not only scientific research or overseas quests that have attracted so many to the area. Since the Tudor era, Greenwich has enticed royal pleasure-seekers, secret spies, and creative novelists. Richard Barnett, our guide who offered insight into the history of Greenwich, managed to captivate all of us by weaving together narratives of grand architecture, ghost stories, odd scientists, and undercover royals.

Students with an interest in law and the impact of documents such as the Magna Carta would find the area known as Temple fascinating. Hidden between Embankment and Fleet Street, Temple is known to most people through the novel and film ‘The Da Vinci Code.” People well acquainted with Temple’s history can easily debunk the myths put forward by Dan Brown! David Mildon detailed the roots of English law and politics as he guided us around Temple. Middle Temple, the hall in the heart of the area, is like a historic time capsule. It was founded by the Knights Templar and has developed into a secluded legal base, in which many famous people, including several authors of the American Declaration of Independence, received their legal training.

Image courtesy of

Tower Hamlets

The focus of guided academic walks need not be exclusively historic.  As one of the largest cities in Europe, London’s diverse inhabitants face numerous challenges. Natalie Savona, an experienced dietician, has researched the health issues that concern Londoners, particularly those from low-income backgrounds.  Her guided walk around the borough of Tower Hamlets exposed the pressures urbanization and globalization put on the provision of healthcare in London, as well as how social and economic inequalities have had an effect on local attitudes towards public health. She touched on how gentrification across London’s poorest boroughs has had an impact on diet and choice.

Through experiencing these sites first-hand, I have been truly inspired to learn more about this vast city and its people. These guided walks have taken me beyond the traditional learning platforms of lectures, readings, and seminar discussions into a space where I have had a sensory connection to the subject matter, and, as a direct result, will remember the stories I have been told more vividly.IMAG0384

~Plamen Momchilov, Intern at  ACCENT London

An Excerpt from Insights: An Italian Take on Crime & Deviance

Addiopizzo1The Insights newsletter highlights innovative programs with ACCENT. This excerpt comes from our May 2016 edition. For more Insights, visit our newsletter at:

Professor Marco Bracci’s Sociology of Crime course is prompting University of Minnesota students in Florence to study the relationship between crime, culture, and media, focusing on the mafia and some high-profile criminal cases in central Italy, such as the Amanda Knox trial.

The course deals with the most relevant sociological theories on crime as a particular form of deviance, aiming to apply different theoretical perspectives to the study of the relationship between crime and culture in contemporary societies. It is designed to take full advantage of the students’ experience abroad and focuses on Florentine and Italian contexts.

In April, Bracci’s students departed for a Sicily study tour. While there, they met with representatives of Addiopizzo, an NGO fighting the tradition of businesses paying a pizzo or bribe to the local mafia boss simply to be allowed to remain open for trade. The group met with Addiopizzo representative Francesco Fiumara, a lawyer and activist who explained the challenges the organization faces in Sicily, and the organization’s aims which include education, racket prevention, and solidarity. Addiopizzo provides legal support to those brave enough to denounce the extortion, and helps them cope with the consequences, which range from menacing behavior to an escalation of threats and violence.


“I found all of this extremely interesting. It was a very different look at the Mafia and who they actually are…we are used to the movies, like the Godfather,” one student reflected. “Prior to our trip to Taormina, I was already aware of the Mafia, but only in a general capacity. I may have known that different mafia groups impact the economy in their towns, but I did not know the specifics on how exactly they accomplished this.”

Back in Florence, the course continued with a look at the representation of crime in the Italian popular music culture, as well as the violence in and around sport that continues to plague Italian soccer stadiums and beyond.

For more information on how ACCENT students learn about local efforts to combat Mafia influence, see our ACCENT Blog post, “A Visit to ARCI with UC’s ‘History and Culture of Food’ Class.”

University of California Internship Students in Madrid Meet Nobel Peace Prize Winner

As part of the ACCENT UCEAP European Transformations Semester with Internship in Madrid Program, University of California students had the opportunity to meet 1992 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Rigoberta Menchú at a seminar focused on combatting impunity in Guatemala. Aside from obtaining the Nobel Peace Prize for her leadership in national and international social struggles, Menchú received the UNESCO Education for Peace Prize in 1990, the Legion of Honor from France in 1996, and the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation from Spain in 1998. This experience was integral for student Jennifer Solares’ internship at the Asociación de Mujeres de Guatemala (, which hosted Rigoberta Menchú’s seminar at Casa Encendida, a cultural center in Madrid.

Rigoberta Menchú, photo posted on Menchú’s Premio Nobel de la Paz 1992 Facebook Page

The Asociación de Mujeres de Guatemala is a non-profit feminist Spanish NGO created by Guatemalan female refugees, displaced people, and immigrants living in Spain. Currently, it is formed by women of different nationalities with a common objective: the search for procedures which ensure that serious human rights violations of women, especially in Latin America, are internationally known and assumed as a global responsibility.

Menchú among the panelists at the seminar, photo posted on Menchú’s Premio Nobel de la Paz 1992 Facebook Page

The seminar, titled “Crimes Against Humanity: Historical Cases,” was part of the conference series “Women Against Impunity.” Rigoberta highlighted two historical cases between 2013 and 2016. The first case was an assault and fire by police that occurred at the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala in 1980, which left 37 people dead, including Menchú’s father, Vicente. The trial took place 34 years later and culminated in a 90-year prison sentence for former head of police Pedro García Arredondo. Another historical sentence was accomplished in 2016 for serious human rights violations committed in the Sepur Zarco village against women of Q’eqchi origin, who were used as labor and sex slaves for years by the Guatemalan military.

Group photo at Casa Encendida

From left to right, UCEAP students Jazmin Jimenez, Ciclady Rodriguez and at the bottom center, Jennifer Solares. Photo taken by ACCENT Staff Lourdes Ceja and Tania Rodríguez (also in picture).

For Jennifer Solares, the visit by Rigoberta Menchú was the highlight of her internship experience: “If it weren’t for this internship experience, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to see a Nobel Prize Winner.” As a Political Science major with a passion for politics, Jennifer has been able to fulfill her internship goal of working in activism, promoting equality, and assisting women in a non-profit organization. Likewise, UC student Ciclady Rodriguez found the lecture to be very insightful and valuable for her internship at Asociación CONI (, a non-profit Spanish NGO whose objective is international cooperation for development in Guatemala via initiatives aimed at promoting the most disadvantaged, such as women, children, and at-risk indigenous groups.

The historical visit by Rigoberta Menchú deepened students’ knowledge about influential feminist human rights leaders in Latin America, helped them understand significant trials, and enhanced their internship experience in Spain.

~ Lourdes Ceja, ACCENT Madrid

The Business of News

A few weeks ago, Dr. Lisette Johnston, a senior broadcast journalist and producer for BBC World News, gave a fascinating lecture at the ACCENT London Study Center to students from the Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School.

The talk focused on the BBC as a global business and the challenges the organization faces as a publicly funded broadcaster operating in a highly competitive sector crowded with private, profit-driven companies. She argued that despite challenges from competitors and the threats the BBC faces to its funding structure (the BBC’s budget will be cut substantially as part of the government’s latest review of its charter), the organization is leading the sector in its breadth of journalism and in the reliability of its content and coverage.

Dr. Johnston went on to speak about the BBC’s response to changing consumer patterns and habits in the face of the digital revolution. The Internet, she argued, and smartphones in particular, have revolutionized how, when, and where we get our news, and have even driven major changes in the production of content. Because content can be gathered in real time by anybody with a smartphone, journalism has been democratized and has changed for the better; the digital revolution has created a process of reciprocity whereby content is recorded or created by the consumer, then picked up and disseminated through traditional platforms such as BBC News.

The BBC’s challenge throughout this shift has been updating the style and format of their product so that it aligns with digital trends without the BBC losing their reputation for quality or reliability. For instance, how do you turn a five-minute news item into a 30-second Snapchat story while still retaining the quality and comprehensiveness of the original item?

Even with these changes in the digital world, she concluded, people have always trusted the BBC to keep them reliably informed and will continue to rely on the organization for their daily shot of news.

The students thoroughly enjoyed the guest lecture and greatly appreciated the speaker’s time. We look forward to welcoming Dr. Johnston back for future lectures at the ACCENT London Study Center.

Lisette Johnston~Harry Isitt, ACCENT London

Lisette Johnston is a senior broadcast journalist with BBC World News. She has worked as a journalist for 13 years across print, TV, and online (social and mobile), and has spent the past six years with the BBC. She recently completed her PhD in journalism at City University London, having been awarded one of two scholarships in 2012. Her thesis investigated the use of user-generated content by the BBC in their coverage of the conflict in Syria, and how this has affected journalistic practices. Her research has been published in academic journals and in the mainstream media. You can find her on Twitter: @lisettejohnston.


Exiles and Expats: The Irish in Paris

Wilde in 1882

During the 19th and 20th centuries, Paris was the Promised Land to which artists and writers flocked. The Irish Triumvirate of Modern Literature, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett are no exception. These three literary giants came to the French capital as exiles and expatriates.

Everybody is familiar with Wilde: his devastating wit, cultivated dandyism, and self-proclaimed genius – “I have nothing to declare but my genius.” Yet few know of the Wilde who was, as he said himself, “French by sympathy.” Who would have guessed that the young man who arrived in Paris in 1884, staying during his honeymoon at the Hotel Wagram opposite the Jardin des Tuileries would, over a decade later, lament his miserable fate in the dilapidated Hotel d’Alsace: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has to go.” English society wanted nothing to do with a condemned homosexual, dead or alive, so it was the sympathy of the French who laid to rest the high priest of aestheticism. The last stage of any Wildean pilgrimage is the Cemetery Père-Lachaise where the writer is buried underneath a sphinx-like tomb with the inscription:

And alien tears will fill for him
Pity’s long-broken urn.
For his mourners will be outcast men
And outcasts always mourn.

Oscar Wilde’s tomb, by the scluptor Jacob Epstein, at the Cemetery Père-Lachaise

Oscar Wilde’s tomb, by the scluptor Jacob Epstein, at the Cemetery Père-Lachaise

Paris has not forgotten its adopted child of the fin de siècle. This October the Petit Palais will put on an exhibition, Oscar Wilde: l’Impertinent Absolu,” which will explore his relationship with France, his life, and his works.

Sylvia Beach and James Joyce at Beach’s bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, in 1922

Sylvia Beach and James Joyce at Beach’s bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, in 1922

Joyce was only meant to visit Paris for one week in 1920, but he ended up staying for the next twenty years. It was in the City of Light that he was transformed into the luminary figure of European literature. In his own words, Paris offered him “an atmosphere of spiritual effort” which drove him to finish his magnum opus Ulysses. And when the rest of the world was banning the publication of this supposedly scandalous work, it was Shakespeare and Company which dared to publish it in 1922. This landmark publication opened up the path for a new generation of writers, one of whom was Beckett.

Samuel Beckett at a café in Paris

Samuel Beckett at a café in Paris

As a young man of twenty-two in self-imposed exile, Beckett met Joyce, twenty-four years his senior, in Paris. The two developed a friendship, bonding over their passion for the Romance languages, and Beckett even assisted Joyce in the research of Finnegans Wake. While fearing that he would always remain in the shadow of his master, Beckett decided to break free and find his own literary voice. The works of Joyce read like a list of mistresses who had been entangled with a French King, indecently long and astoundingly varied. Whereas for Beckett, it was the nothingness of France – a result of the secularism instated during the Enlightenment – that gave ethereal scope to his literary wings. No writer had managed to say so much in so few words. To the corpus of French literature, Wilde had made the single offering of Salomé, but Beckett bequeathed a cornucopia of works: En attendant Godot (Waiting for Godot), Fin de partie (Endgame), Malone meurt (Malone Dies), L’Innommable (The Unnamable), to mention just a few.

But the question still remains: what was so appealing about Paris to these three gatekeepers of Modernism? Was it the city’s wealth of beauty and depth of history? That is the reason everyone comes to Paris. Perhaps then, it was its bohemian culture and avant-garde scene. That, as one knows, belongs to the Americans of the “Lost Generation,” who sought to escape the bleak depression that had clouded their native land. What was it, then, that attracted the Irish spirit to the French mind? An optimistic Frenchman would say it was the possibility of a place of freedom and tolerance; the cynical one might say that it was the common enemy of the Albion.

~Lily MacMahon, ACCENT Paris


Excerpts from “Dérive in Madrid with UCEAP Students”

This week on the ACCENT Blog, we’re sharing excerpts from a post by one of our program faculty, Jon Snyder. Jon has his own blog on which he writes about the culture, society, and politics of Spain, and on one of his posts, he wrote about an activity he did with ACCENT students from the University of California. Here are a few excerpts from his post!

The urban environment is an accidental assemblage of elements at any given instant—pavement, weather conditions, neon, dogs, pedestrians, shadows, trees, billboards, motorbikes, trash bins, steel and glass, etc.—that together constitute the unique, changing experience of the city. This activity consists entirely in drifting—what the Situationists called dérive—paying attention to spatial assemblages along the way while documenting the urban ambiance and its transitions (thresholds). In small groups, students were asked to observe and record the sights, sounds, smells, and other experiences of the city.

A documentation of the "urban ambiance" of Spain

A documentation of the “urban ambiance” of Spain

The assignment was to wander with no planned expectations for about two hours, ending at an unknown destination announced by text message—the rooftop of the Circle of Fine Arts. Students also received specific instructions along the way that required them to change their route. Here’s a selection of their written observation notes, audio recordings of the soundscape, silent videos, and photographs of the accidental itineraries.

Take the first bus or train you see for four stops. Look for the closest tree and walk in the direction it seems to be pointing. Listen for one minute. Then follow the loudest sound. Photograph it.

Walk toward someone using a phone. When you reach that spot, look for another person. Repeat five times.

Document one thing old, one thing new, one smell and one blue – metro rides –> hot and stuffy, tons of people, but little noise. Every person sits quietly either staring at their phones, reading, or looking at other people. But the lack of noise is truly surprising for the amount of people inside.

Picture store

On one street we stumbled upon a cool antique charity store: we had no idea until today that it was the street of Cervantes and Lope de Vega, which we had totally missed the first time! 

A residential area of Madrid

As we were by Sol, it was interesting how quickly once you got off the main streets and commercial ways, there was almost silence and no people, the residential neighborhoods.


Smells were noted when they were at extremes. One smell noted was when we passed a café or restaurant … However, on the other end, there was very repulsive smell noted specifically from the trash that we passed causing us to change our course.

Pretty Street

One spontaneous reason we decided to change our course was done out of recognition. After an hour or so of wandering we ended up in an area of Madrid that we recognized.


I will always remember this activity because it really challenged me to think about space, identity, and desirable cities.