Photos from “A Mary-Go-Round: My Study Abroad in Spain”

University of California student Mary Zhou is just beginning her adventure in Madrid. As a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship, a U.S. State Department-sponsored program, Mary is participating in the Gilman Service Project to help promote Study Abroad. As she travels across Madrid, Barcelona, and Segovia, Mary will be submitting a series of photos and short anecdotes on Facebook and Instagram, and we are delighted to share some of those photos here. Continue reading

A Taste of Barcelona

This week’s post comes from Texas Christian University student Olivia Paulson, who was so moved by her trip to Barcelona that she filmed and edited a short video capturing her favorite memories of that fantastic city. Olivia introduces her video with a few short words on what inspired her to go beyond merely taking photographs, instead opting to bring Barcelona to life for her friends and family. 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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The Madrid Río Project

This week’s post is shared from the class blog for the University of Minnesota Cities on Water program. The program, which focuses on the architectural design of European cities, teaches students how natural water formations play a big role in how cities are developed and designed. Join student Leslie Johnson as she describes how the unique design of the Madrid Río Project allows Madrid’s locals to enjoy both a high-speed motorway and a scenic river walk in the same place.

We are already two weeks into our stay here in Madrid through the University of Minnesota’s Cities on Water study abroad program, facilitated through ACCENT, and time continues to fly by! The program comprises a mix of landscape architecture and architecture students from UMN, and we’re studying different aspects of Madrid’s urban design.

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Advice from the ACCENT Madrid Question Box!

We always enjoy hearing from students about how studying abroad has changed their lives and given them a fantastic learning experience. Our ACCENT staff in Madrid have enjoyed hearing from students so much that they have set up a Question Box, where students can tell us (anonymously or otherwise) what made their study abroad experience special. Here are just a few responses from students, accompanied by a short introduction from Madrid Programs Coordinator Bethany Remington. IMG_20170123_191456_707 Continue reading

Learning Through Service: Students Spread Literacy in Madrid

Today’s post celebrates the excellent volunteer work done by ACCENT students participating in the Heritage Spanish Class, a course designed for native Spanish speakers. Students in this course were not only able to further develop their language skills, but also put them to good use, serving as volunteers with a local non-profit organization. Service learning abroad is a unique and inspiring way for students to engage with their host community. 

Several varieties of Spanish-speakers studying together in one class, with remarkable differences in oral and written skills and different Hispanic cultural backgrounds: this is a typical Heritage Spanish Class. Heritage Spanish courses are designed for American students who grew up in Spanish-speaking households. Each semester, we offer our Heritage students a different course, adapted to their individual needs. This semester, Professor Carola Saiegh and I designed a Service Learning course, supported by ACCENT Madrid Study Center Director Vanessa Rodríguez and UCEAP Spain Center Director Laura Marqués-Pascual.

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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

Celebrating ACCENT’s 25th Anniversary!

October 31st, 2016 marked ACCENT’s 25th birthday! To celebrate, our Study Centers in Europe have been throwing parties in appreciation of 25 years of successful cooperation with schools, students, and our partners abroad. ACCENT Paris’ Lily Mac Mahon describes the festivities that took place at our Paris Study Center.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of ACCENT, and all 5 Study Centers — spread across 4 different countries — have been celebrating! The team and students in Florence got to enjoy some delicious ACCENT-themed cookies and here in Paris, we tucked into a classic French fraisier (strawberry cream cake) and a chocolate layer cake! screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-14-09-44 Before the celebrations began, Ray Vernon, the Executive Director, gave a wonderful speech about the history of ACCENT, from when it started as a small company with only a few programs in Paris and Florence, to its current status as a successful study abroad program provider for schools across America. In a world where learning foreign languages is becoming perceived as seemingly inessential, and people are experiencing fear and uncertainty, Ray explained why it is so important for students to “take back the message that it’s still a fantastic experience and that study abroad is still very special!”screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-14-04-48The celebrations were a great way for our students to get to know the staff and ask them questions about their experiences at ACCENT. When Adrien (our academic liaison in Paris), who started as an intern and has been with ACCENT Paris for over 12 years, was asked to describe the best thing about working at ACCENT, he said: “Having contact with students keeps you young inside; and as a French person, it’s really nice to see the students making Paris their home after only a few months, learning how to adapt to another culture, some actually become quite French themselves!”

During the last 25 years, ACCENT has helped 50,000 students (over 10,000 in Paris alone) facilitate their study abroad experiences and has partnered with over 100 universities on  2,450 programs. In the words of Ray, the ACCENT team would like to “thank all the students from the bottom of our hearts for coming this semester.” This semester, and semesters moving forward, ACCENT is thrilled to continue to support and encourage students in their intellectual pursuits, personal growth and cultural understanding.

~Lily Mac Mahon, ACCENT Paris

Click through our gallery to see how other ACCENT Study Centers have been celebrating our 25th anniversary!



Students in Madrid Visit the “Centro de Acogida Temporal para Inmigrantes”

In this week’s post, Programs Coordinator Tania Rodriguez from our ACCENT Madrid Study Center describes an eye-opening excursion University of California students took to a local shelter for displaced immigrants. Students had the chance to see how the organization was run, what services they provide, and listened to the residents tell their stories. After visiting the shelter, many of the students came away with a new outlook on homelessness and the economic vulnerability of immigrants.

On October 3rd, Professor Mary Kate Donovan and students from the UCEAP Contemporary Spain Program participated in a study visit to Centro de Acogida Temporal para Inmigrantes San Blas as part of their course “Immigration, Ethnicity and accent-blog-madrid-entry-18-photo-1Nation in Contemporary Spain.” Continue reading

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

Night Ride to Morocco

Enjoy this Student Feature, written by one of our UCEAP program participants in Madrid. This personal narration of a bus ride to Morocco will give you a glimpse of the moment every study abroad student has when they find fellowship in unfamiliar surroundings.  

I’m currently in route to Tanger, Morocco, enduring a 12-hour bus ride from our starting point in Madrid; it’s a long journey, but it’s easier to bear with my new tribe. This tribe is not only made up of a spectrum of personalities, but an array of experiences. We each left our home campuses, where many of us constructed new homes away from home, and now must rely on each other to reestablish that same comfort overseas.

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How is it possible that we can grow so comfortable with strangers we’ve just met, and yet, when we pass familiar individuals in our daily routines, we never say a word to them? For example, back in the U.S., every Monday after my 8 a.m. class, I go to a little café on my school’s “Science Hill” to purchase an Americano and biscotti. After my purchase, I inevitably run into the same girl, always in a rush and unable to open the door with her hands full of lab gear; I usually reach her just in time to open the door. It’s an established Monday morning routine, and yet, never once have I actually communicated with her, other than to offer a polite smile.

On this bus ride to a foreign land, I’m surrounded by strangers—people I met just two weeks ago—strangers-turned-friends, who depend on my presence as much as I depend on their presence to feel safe. This ride, this hour, this minute, this recognition—it’s the privilege of making friends abroad.

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As I sit here writing under a blue LED light, with the waning lights of Madrid behind me, my new tribe sleeps soundly, resting up for our weekend endeavor. In this moment, I recognize the tendency of human beings to establish a sphere of comfort no matter where they go or who they meet. This night ride to Morocco is the first of many adventures that we as a tribe will experience together before we return to our familiar home campuses, to our old hometowns, or to the new homes we’ll create with the help of those we meet along the way.

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~Paolo Monera, UCEAP 2016 – ACCENT Madrid

Madrid Moments!

In this week’s Madrid Moments! post for our “Live Like A Local” series, staff at our ACCENT Madrid Study Center reveal two of Madrid’s hidden gems, places that only a local would think to suggest.

If a student or faculty were to ask us to recommend a place in Madrid that only a local would know about, we would suggest a visit to Casa de Campo, the most important public park in Madrid. Originally a private hunting ground used by the Spanish royal family, Casa de Campo was declared a Royal Forest by King Fernando VI. This park is comprised of 1,772 hectares of natural space (more than five times the size of Central Park!) and houses various facilities, including an amusement park, a zoo, and an aerial cable car.   Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 12.12.06 PMVisitors can spend a sunny day boating out on the lake, enjoying any of the outdoor restaurants surrounding it, running or biking around the endless paths tangled throughout the park, or just relaxing in the park’s beautiful surroundings.

For the nature-lover, it is an ideal place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city!

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For further information on Casa de Campo, follow this link to the Spanish version of “Zoom” News


C. pic 5 pick 2Another favorite hidden treasure in Madrid is the Cerralbo Museum, one of the most beautiful museums in the city. A walk through the museum offers visitors the opportunity to see how an aristocratic family lived in the late 19th century and to view the unique collection of more than 500,000 traditional pieces collected by Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, XVII Marquis of Cerralbo. Highlights of the museum include paintings, sculptures, drawings, coins, medals, weapons, armor, jewels, ceramics, and furniture created by European artists from the 1500s to the 1900s. And the architecture of the building alone is as impressive as the masterpieces contained within.

Located near Plaza de España and the Temple of Debod, the Cerralbo Museum is one of the greatest lesser known museums in Madrid.

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For those of you hoping to practice your Spanish language skills and to learn more about the museum, check out the following links: Guía del Ocio / una Ventana desde Madrid

~ACCENT Madrid

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.


Madrid Moments!

What other places in Madrid does our ACCENT team love? Tania Gonzalez in our Madrid Study Center shares a few of her favorites in this “Live Like A Local” post.

EL Jardín del Angel – Calle De Las Huertas, 2

Imagine a secret green space surrounded by tall buildings in the center of a bustling city full of tourists. That is “The Angel’s Garden” in Madrid. Though it looks like a garden, it is actually a florist’s shop that was founded in 1889. The vintage atmosphere of this place is charming. In the midst of the small hidden garden decorated with wooden furniture, there is a sweet little greenhouse, and plants everywhere. This is definitely a beautiful place to stop by for a bit of relaxation in the middle of a long day.

The history of this place is also very interesting. According to their website, for 300 or more years, the place was the site of a cemetery where famous writers like Lope de Vega and Cervantes were buried – that would have been right beneath where the greenhouse is today! The cemetery was closed around 1889 and the San Sebastian church near by decided to rent the land to the Martín family. The family opened a flower shop and have since passed the shop down through the generations for over 100 years!

Cuesta de los ciegos

There is a slope of steps that starts at the Calle de Segovia and goes until the Calle de la Morería. It lasts 254 steps and makes a winding path through one of the most historic parts of Madrid. It is Cuesta de los ciegos or, “The Hill of the Blind.” It’s a peculiar but fascinating place that’s prompted legends even as far back as the 13th century, one of which involves St. Francis of Assisi helping to give sight to two blind beggars through a miracle involving olive oil. Sounds mysterious, no? Look it up and practice your Spanish reading skills by clicking on the following links!: Secretos de Madrid and Arte en Madrid.

~Tania Gonzalez, ACCENT Madrid