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SPI STUDY ABROAD - BLOG

San Sebastian Month 2: Weekly Recap

Sunday, July 3rd

Students had breakfast at the hotel and were in the lobby ready to head out of Madrid by 9:30, although it was a little later due to some delayed flights and students arriving later than scheduled. Once we were on the road, we (Month 2) had a nice bus to ourselves! Students entertained themselves the entire way — either by listening to music, reading, playing card games, and lots of chatting! It was a hot and sunny day in Segovia, and we toured the Aqueduct as well as the Gothic-style, Roman Catholic cathedral in Segovia. There, near the cathedral and Plaza Mayor, students had free time for lunch. After lunch, we sang happy birthday (again) to Carson who turned 16! We made our way to the bus, loaded up and headed north through beautiful northern Spain. We arrived to San Sebastian and our homestay families were there and waiting for us outside the Renfe train station. Students matched up with their homestay families and went off to settle into their homes for the next month!

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Monday, July 4th

This morning was our first day at Lacunza, the language school where Month 2 students are taking Spanish classes. We began at 8:30 this morning (which is earlier than usual) because they needed to take a placement test. After the placement tests, students began class! They have class from 9:30-11:00, and then have a 30-minute break. After that, they have their second session from 11:30-2:00. At 2:00, we meet each day to go over announcements for the evening’s activities before students break in different directions. After they leave school, students have time for lunch (either with their homestays, or some of their families send them with a sack lunch in the mornings) and free time. Our activity for today was a walking tour of the city center of San Sebastian. We met at Kursaal near Boulevard Gelateria, and Casey led a wonderful walking tour down the river to point out the 3 main bridges (helpful landmarks), Catedral Buen Pastor, some main shopping streets, Boulevard, Playa Concha, Ayuntamiento, Parte Vieja and we ended at Plaza Gipuzkoa. After that, students were either picked up by their homestays or made their way home for dinner and rest!

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Tuesday, July 5th

Students had class from 9:30-2:00, and then the afternoon activities were a visit to Museo San Telmo (free on Tuesdays!) and a pintxo tour in Parte Vieja – yum!

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Wednesday, July 6th

Students were in class from 9:30-2:00, and then had a choice between going to the cinema to see Buscando a Dory or going kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. The group was split almost evenly and both groups enjoyed their activities. The movie was in Spanish (no subtitles) which was really good listening comprehension practice!

Thursday, July 7th

Students were in class from 9:30-2:00 and then had a choice of taking a surf class or a dance lesson. Students who chose dance met earlier and danced for 2 hours! Students who chose to surf met at 6 and surfed until 8. Both groups seemed to learn a lot and were tired after each activity. Curfew was earlier tonight since we have such an early morning tomorrow!

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Friday, July 8th

Excursion to Pamplona for Fiestas de San Fermin! We met at the Renfe train station at 5:15 AM, and were loaded onto the bus and got on our way to Pamplona at 5:35. It was an early morning and a busy day, but it was packed with all sorts of interesting Spanish culture, fiestas and beautiful countryside! We were with Month 1 the entire day so we were quite a large group. We arrived to the bus station in Pamplona where we unloaded and started walking to the Plaza de Toros. It was quite a task to all stay together but we managed! Most everyone was in the spirit, dressed in white and red for San Fermin. We walked to the Plaza de Toros and were seated by 7:40. The encierro (running of the bulls) begins promptly at 8am and they (the bulls and the crazy people who run with them) enter the Plaza de Toros just a few minutes later. San Fermin begins every year with the chupinazo on July 6th and noon. The first encierro is always at 8am on July 7th and it took the bulls 2 minutes to arrive to the Plaza de Toros. The second encierro was one of the longest ones – and that all depends on whether the bulls make circles, go backwards, get sidetracked, etc. It lasted 6 minutes! After they all entered and passed through the Plaza de Toros, we then watched the “mock bullfights” with vaquillas – I believe there were 6 in total (which is how many bulls fight in the evening) and they came out one by one. There were lots of mixed feelings and emotions watching humans taunting animals and seeing people get injured — definitely not for the weak stomachs. We left the Plaza de Toros after that ended and walked to a little cafe for breakfast — a delicious, not-so-nutritious, breakfast of churros y chocolate! After that, we walked back to the Plaza de Toros and walked the route of the encierro in reverse order. Bars and cafes were starting to crank up but the streets weren’t too packed at that time (9:30/10:00) so it was a good time to take a big group of foreign teenagers through the streets of Pamplona during San Fermin! We ended at where the encierro begins (bull pens) and students had a little bit of free time to shop and buy some souvenirs. By chance, we got to see the children’s encierro which was so nice to see after watching the real one earlier this morning. Children (many with their parents and holding hands) ran while “bulls” charged the streets…the bulls were simply the head of a bull on a wheel barrel. Very easy to watch that kind of light-hearted encierro!

After we finished in Pamplona, we walked back to the bus station and loaded up on our bus and headed to a small little town (like, tiny…only between 100-150 people) in the mountains for lunch. The town was called Guerendiain, and we had a typical lunch at a local restaurant (maybe the only restaurant there?). After our 3 course lunch, we walked a little bit through the town, observed what small town mountain living might be like, enjoyed the beautiful green scenery & flowers in the balconies of homes, and enjoyed seeing the ponies and horses! After that, we were all ready for a siesta, so we loaded up on the bus and headed back to San Sebastian, which was only about an hour away. After we arrived back to SS, students were free for the rest of the afternoon/evening…they could go home, take a real siesta, have dinner with their home stays, and enjoy a Friday evening in San Sebastian!

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Saturday, July 9th

After such a busy day yesterday, today we had a pretty low-key day. We met at 11:00 am at Plaza Gipuzkoa — both Month 1 and 2. We did an activity where students were in pairs or groups of 3 and had different tasks to complete — anywhere between 6-9 tasks. All the tasks were geared to helping students dig deep to learn firsthand about Spanish/Basque culture, language, food through interactions with locals on the streets, in plazas, etc. Students used lots of Spanish and seemed to enjoy the activity! We finished by 2, and after that, we had free time.

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Sunday, July 10th

Free time in San Sebastian – que suerte tienen estos chicos!

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Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

A Life-changing Experience!

Get ready to experience and SPI Abroad program yourself. Learn more about our programs or request more information today.

Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

On-Site Supervision Team Abroad

We hire bilingual high school teachers, university professors, and caring local staff who, as a team, serve as international “moms and dads” throughout the program. Directors actively participate in all aspects of the immersion experience: helping with housing adjustments, checking in on classes, and making sure students are taking advantage of the wonderful excursion and activity opportunities. All SPI staff go through extensive reference checks.

Training & Experience

Directors are selected based on their experience working with teenagers in an international setting, their ability to communicate fluently in the language of study, and their academic & professional background. All on-site staff go through an intensive training process.

Daily Supervision

Students are expected to be respectful of their directors’ guidelines and abide by the SPI standards of conduct at all times. SPI directors and program staff are available 24 hours a day. Directors check in with students on a daily basis in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings; they also frequently monitor all aspects of each student’s progress. Homestays and residence directors are contacted to learn how students are adjusting, and to handle any concerns. Daily curfews are enforced.

Student Behavior Expectations

Since 1996, we have proudly attracted an academically-minded student body focused on improving their language skills and growing from cultural experiences. At SPI, we take our role as teachers seriously — we recognize that we are responsible for guiding students through one of their most life-changing experiences. We expect students not only to abide by our standards of conduct at all times, but also to serve as ambassadors of their local communities, schools, and cities.

No Alcohol Policy

SPI maintains a strict policy against the use of alcohol. Directors check in with students in the evenings; however, parents are expected to review our standards of conduct with their children and set clear family expectations prior to the start of the program with regards to their behavior abroad.

Afternoon Elective Activities

Our meaningful afternoon elective activities make local culture, art, architecture, museums, sports, and attractions come to life! Each program offers a variety of engaging activities designed to combine serious fun with truly inspiring “once in a lifetime” experiences. Electives are not included in the program price, and we suggest students budget $100 per week for participation in these incredible learning experiences.

Common Afternoon Electives

CULTURAL: Cooking, Dance, Art & Architecture, Museum & Theater Visits, Local Sporting & Cultural Events

SPORTS: Surfing, Volleyball, Soccer, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Hikes & Walks

ENRICHMENT: Photography, College Prep (Essay Writing, Admissions Prep), Photography, Guest Speakers

Sample Travel Excursions

SPAIN: Bilbao, Pamplona, Santander, San Sebastian, Guernika, Biarritz (France), Comillas, Picos de Europa

FRANCE: Bordeaux, Bayonne, Anglet, San Sebastian (Spain), St. Jean de Luz, Pyrenees Mountains

COSTA RICA: Liberia, Cloud Forest, Puntarenas, Rincon de la Vieja, Tamarindo Beach

ITALY: Florence, Orvieto, San Gimignano, San Vincezo, Castiglione della Pescaia

Our Screening & Selection Process

Students live with roommates in a local homestay or student residence that is experienced in hosting foreign students. SPI has worked with most participating homestays and student residences for a number of years, and they understand students are there to learn the language and experience the culture. SPI diligently screens each homestay and student residence facility with the following in mind: safety, location, cleanliness, and previous experience hosting students.

HOMESTAY EXPECTATIONS

Most homestays have hosted students for many years and take their jobs and duties as cultural ambassadors very seriously. Our foreign schools also work with each family on a year-round basis to ensure a positive experience is had by each student. It is critical to understand that most homestays come from humble means and different dynamics.

Location of Housing

All housing options are located within a 10-30 minute commute from the school. Students will walk or take the local bus, which is a safe and normal way for students their age to get around in our host cities. The majority of our housing options are located in the same areas where students will be close to each other.

Evening Curfews

Student curfews are set based on what a culturally appropriate weekday and weekend curfew would be for teenagers in the country of study. This is normally between 10 PM – 11 PM on weekdays and a little later on the weekends depending on location and group dynamic. As an important safety measure, program staff diligently monitor student curfews. Specific curfews are listed on each program page for your reference. 

Typical Housing Dynamics

Students are well supported in all housing options and are provided with: meals, a living and study space, laundry service or facilities, linens and towels. It is fundamental that students have an open mind to trying new foods and living in an environment different than “home” to benefit from this transformative experience!

HOMESTAY EXPECTATIONS
Although SPI homestays come in all shapes and sizes, the majority are older couples or single/widowed women in their 50s – 60s who have extra room in their home and are eager to host students. We have found this dynamic provides the best support, the most interaction, and the most culturally rich experience. Some homestays do have children, but students should keep in mind that homestays with children are busier and often offer less interaction — much like a busy American family.

Language Course Overview

The language courses focus on developing communication skills by simulating real-life situations through interactive class activities that include writing, oral expression, film, music, food, and literature.

> 2 Hours – Grammatical Concepts

> 1-2 Hours – Conversation, Culture, Literature, Film, etc.

> Small class sizes with levels 1 through AP/IB

College Credit Opportunity

SPI uses foreign universities and accredited language institutes for coursework abroad. These institutions provide high school students, upon successful completion of their courses, with an official transcript that they may use to petition college credit from their future university or college. Official transcripts are first sent to SPI in September, and then we will mail an official copy of the transcript in a sealed envelope to each participant. You will mail the official transcript packet directly to your U.S. university once you are enrolled.

Credit Hours vs. Credit Granted

Most SPI language immersion programs give 30-80 contact hours, or classroom hours, enabling for a potential of up to 1-6 semester college credit hours by your university. Contact hours are treated differently at every school. Some schools will grant specific class credit for the hours (e.g., Spanish), although most give a general foreign language or elective credit. Normally, 15 Contact/Class Hours = 1 College Credit Hour.

IMPORTANT:  Due to the nature of college credit granting by each individual U.S. university, it is impossible for SPI to guarantee credit for any student.