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SPI STUDY ABROAD - BLOG

San Sebastian – Month/6 week – 6/30-7/8

San Sebastian Study Abroad 92
San Sebastian Study Abroad 92
The program has begun and we have a great group of kids ready to engage in the Spanish culture! Below is a recap of our first week:

Saturday, 30 June

This was a busy day of arrivals, with students arriving in San Sebastian throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening. Day 1 orientation information was presented. Students who had arrived by early afternoon were taken on a boat tour of La Concha Bay while they waited for their fellow students to arrive. By the end of the day, all students were introduced to their host families and given an opportunity to see where they would be living and settle-in/unpack.
Sunday, 1 July
The host families escorted the students to their meeting point for the day, the school entrance, to help the students learn how to get to the school for when their classes start on Monday. Day 2 orientation information was presented. The students were then escorted to a nearby restaurant for a 3-course meal together. After the meal, the restaurant treated them to a mystery game to discover who “stole the Crown Jewels of Spain”! Then the students were guided by the SPI directors on a tour of San Sebastián to give them an opportunity to orient themselves in the city and learn about its different neighborhoods, beaches, river, and mountains, as well as learning the four meeting points that would be used to meet before activities throughout the remainder of the program. The walking tour ended with a stop at Café Santa Lucía where the students were treated to their famous churros and chocolate! Students were then escorted home once again by their host families to continue to help them learn how to get home to their homestays.
Monday, 2 July
The first day of classes! After being escorted by their host families to the school one last time, students were given a placement test to evaluate their level of Spanish and place them into the appropriate classes. After school, the SPI directors guided the students on a pintxo tour in the neighborhood known as La Parte Vieja (the Old Town) which is famous for being dotted with countless pintxo bars. Students were treated to all kinds of pintxos, such as the traditional tortilla de patata (Spanish potato omelet) and even some more exotic options like sea urchin, which turned out to be a favorite! After the pintxo tour the students were given free time until curfew to explore their new surroundings.
Tuesday, 3 July
After school, the SPI directors led the students on a walk up Monte Urgull, one of the three mountains in San Sebastián. It is located in the center of the city with an impressive statue of Jesus Christ on top, overlooking the city. The directors led the students on a tour of this soothing pocket of nature in the middle of the city with its chirping birds, soft ocean waves, and green canopy. Students marveled at the views of the city and beaches from the various lookout points on the mountain, taking photographs from the ruins of the centuries old fort that once stood on Monte Urgull, protecting the city from its enemies. After the tour of Monte Urgull, students were free to explore and return to their homestays for dinner.
Wednesday, 4 July
Happy Independence Day! After classes, the students met up with the SPI directors for a visit the San Sebastián Aquarium. Students first passed through the non-living part of the aquarium which detailed the Basque Country’s long and storied relationship with the sea, including detailed ship models, descriptions of life at sea, artifacts from the history of Basque whalers, and various other relics like boarding sabers, daggers, axes, and other such things that bring to mind images of pirates and treasure! Next the students entered the living part of the aquarium where they were able to see everything from tiny bobbing jellyfish to massive bull sharks which swam overhead as the students wandered directly through the tanks in a glass underwater tunnel which offered a 360-degree experience!
Thursday, 5 July
The afternoon activity for today was an optional activity. Students could choose between having the afternoon free or taking a 90-minute surf lesson with one of the local surf schools. A majority of the students opted for the surf lesson. After changing into their wetsuits and receiving their surfboards, students were guided to the Zurriola Beach to first go over the basics of surfing and safety on the sand before entering the water, such as how to paddle and how to properly stand up on the board. They then entered the water to receive further instructions and make their first attempts at surfing! Many of the students were successful at standing up at least once as an SPI director remained on shore to watch and take photos. Many of the students who chose not to do the surf lesson were gathered on the beach to relax and watch their peers.
Friday, 6 July
This afternoon students were given a list of tasks to complete as part of a scavenger hunt! After meeting in the center of town at Plaza Gipuzkoa, the students were broken into teams of 4 and given several tasks. The teams to complete the most tasks, to complete the tasks in the most detail, or to show the most effort would be awarded prizes. Tasks such as “how do you get a driver’s license in Spain”, “how has San Sebastián changed in the last several decades”, “how and where do you mail a postcard and buy a stamp”, etc., encouraged students to explore the city and interact with locals in Spanish.
Saturday, 7 July
Saturday, no school today! The students met with the directors at 9:55 AM for a bus trip across the nearby French border to the towns of Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Biarritz, both of which are located on the coast of French Basque Country. The students found it very interesting to see the same Basque culture they had become familiar with in San Sebastián, but in a French setting rather than a Spanish one. Saint-Jean-de-Luz’s cathedral was once the site of a royal wedding between King Louis XIV of France and the King of Spain’s daughter, Maria Theresa, which forged an alliance between the two countries. Saint-Jean-de-Luz was chosen as the site of the royal wedding because it is roughly halfway between Madrid and Paris. Students were free to explore this quaint seaside town with its colorful white and red buildings. Many of them bought macaroons, a famous sweet delicacy from this region. Students then re-boarded the bus to continue on to Biarritz, which was once a favorite vacation spot of the rich and famous, such as Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. Students were free to explore this beautiful coastal city, and several students opted to join the directors on a stroll along its craggy coast with views of the famous beaches and fancy buildings. Students spent the afternoon exploring, shopping, tasting ice-cream, and buying some other famous treats like Gateau Basque, a traditional Basque pie filled with custard or, as is typical in the French part of Basque Country, black cherries which grow in this region. Everyone then boarded the bus one last time for the trip back to San Sebastián where they were free to enjoy the remainder of their evening and have dinner with their host families.
Sunday, 8 July
Sunday Funday! No classes today, and no planned activities. The students have the full day to explore, eat, shop, sunbathe, and swim as they like. But back to school on Monday!

A Life-changing Experience!

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

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

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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.