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SPI STUDY ABROAD - BLOG

San Sebastian – Summer 2

San Sebastian Study Abroad 135
San Sebastian Study Abroad 135
It is amazing how quickly two weeks can pass when you are engaged and having fun — we are doing just that! Read below to see a recap of our time in San Sebastian:
Saturday:  It was an exciting day of comings and goings with the first session of students leaving and Summer 2 getting to San Sebastian and getting the first views of the city.  The first arrivals headed out to see the city and do a boat tour of the city’s three beautiful beaches.  Later arrivals had a quick orientation and played some games as well as explored one of the city’s community centers, the Tabakalera.  Finally, all the students ended up with their new host families and enjoyed their first dinner and night in San Sebastian.
Sunday:  The group met up on Sunday morning for a introduction and orientation meeting next to the beach and a welcome lunch.  We had a Menu Del Dia, a typical spanish three course meal in a local restaurant.  We then walked around the city on a tour to learn more about the history and culture here in Basque Country, Spain, and getting to know important sites where we will meet throughout the program.  We finished off the day eating Churros y chocolate in the Old part of town.
Monday The group met at 9am at the school to have their first classes and placement tests.  After finishing classes, the students had free time to go home for lunch and to the beach before meeting to go up one of the city’s three mountains, Igeldo, to the quaint little theme park above, and some jaw dropping views of the city.  Some of the students finished off the night with a night out to dinner.
Tuesday: Pintxo tour
After classes in the morning, we had some free time for lunch and to go to the beach or shop.  And then We met up to try the local tradition of eating pintxos (like Spanish tapas, but even tastier).  The students tried a lot of different things, including vegetarian options like Salmorejo (a cold veggie soup), and tortilla de patata, as well as some new flavors like pulpo (octopus), viera (scallops) and erizo (sea urchin)!
Wednesday: Clase de Cocina
Wednesday brought another culinary experience (food is one of the most important parts of the Basque Culture, along with the language), with the Basque cooking class.  The students caught the bus to the next town over, Pasaia, to visit the lovely port and take a little boat across the harbor to the restaurant where they would be cooking.  Then they were able to cook all parts of their dinner- from the pintxos (appetizers) to the fish (de-boning, de-scaling, and cooking) and meat dishes, to the desserts- which they decorated themselves.  Finally, they were able to eat and enjoy all of the hard work they had put in by eating the dinner.
Thursday: Micro teatro
We went together to a mini (interactive) theater performance this night.  We had a great time watching “Capitan Euskadi”  (Captain Basque) tell us about himself and give a silly performance in Spanish.  Some of the students were given questions to ask during the play and were laughing along (even when they talked so fast that it was hard to catch the words in Spanish!).
Friday: Monte Urgull
Friday we did the short hike up Mount Urgull to see some fantastic views of the city, as well as a basque/San Sebastian history Museum.  The students loved taking pictures up by the big statue of Jesus and looking down on the city and pointing out their homestay houses!  We even got a little turned around on the way down when our students started leading the way, and we almost ended up on the top of the mountain again.  There are many paths to choose from and they didn’t choose correctly, so we took the scenic route down!
Saturday: Excursion to Biarritz
Saturday we took a bus as a group to France!  The first stop was San Juan de Luz- a small coastal town with a lot of character.  We did a loop around the city, stopping to describe some of the most interesting sites, including the church, the main square, the bakery where the macaron was invented, and the gran plage (beach!).  The studentss then had free time to explore the city and shop.  A group of us went to the local market and bought some authentic foods alongside local french people and got some of our first experiences having a conversation in three languages! (Spanish, French and English).
Then we went to Biarritz and looked around the city as a group.  We hit the main sights and then had time to go to lunch, or the beach as well as climb around some of the amazing rock formations that are along the coast in the city.  Many of the students stopped in some of the shops, and almost the whole group grabbed a last minute crepe before getting on the bus back to Spain.
Sunday: Day of Rest
Sunday we had a free day, where many of the students went to the beach, explored the city, played some cards and hung out with host families.
Monday: Hondarribia
On this day we got up bright and early to start the second week of classes.  In class, the students had a scavenger hunt around the school’s neighborhood, where they needed to find some items and ask questions of locals! After going home (or out) for lunch the group met near the public bus and hopped on one to Hondarribia, the last city before the French-Spanish border!  We had a great tour, given by two of our students, and then had free time to explore the city and get some pintxos!
Tuesday: Dance Class
Tuesday we started off with classes in the morning, and  in the afternoon almost the whole group participated in the optional activity of dance class! They learned Salsa and some other Latin dances, and it looked like a blast!
Wednesday: Zumaia
Hump day! We finished our day of classes and headed to Zumaia! Many students recognized some of the sights from popular show Game of Thrones. We enjoyed hiking around the area and beach and then headed back to San Sebastian on the bus. Students are living like locals – exploring and using public transportation as well!
Thursday: Surfing and Microteatro
Still loving SS , students are really getting to know the city. It is crazy we only have a few more days! Today we had a few activities for those who chose to participate — surfing in the afternoon and Microteatro in the evening. Students enjoyed the waves and then we headed to watch the monologue at the Microteatro about a woman and an unexpected friendship.
Friday: Last Day of Classes and Fiesta de Despidita
LAST DAY OF CLASSES! Students have definitely improved their language skills over the last two weeks. It is so fun to see how each students inhibitions as they apply to language fade away in an immersion experience like this. We thanked our teachers today and then enjoyed our farewell party where we received transcripts. Tomorrow will be a sad day as we will be saying goodbye to our new friends and home.

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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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.