SPI 2015 Students Share Their Favorite Memories

“It was the beginning of week two, and my roommates and I decided to finally try out the the Italian gelato/ice cream place everyone was raving about in the next town over. We walked over after dinner and ran into some of our friends. We sat down and joined them. For about an hour, we sat and talked over ice cream. A few days later, we planned for the group to come and do what we did not too long ago. Most of the group came, and I just enjoyed myself to the maximum. I found out so much about my peers and we had a blast! Although it doesn’t seem that important or big of a deal, it was great to know I had a number of people who were just like me and I could relate to. I never wanted that night to end.” –Kathryn Destin, Costa Rica ’15

“My favorite memory from the trip was our hike to the Picos De Europa. It was so special to eat lunch on the mountain, listen to music, talk with friends, and take in the spectacular scenery.” –Madeline Zandhuis, Santander ’15

SPI Santander students enjoy a day in the mountains!

“Every evening, the majority of us would hang out on the Piazza del Campo, often called as the most beautiful square in the whole world. Eating gelato, talking, and laughing, it made Siena feel like home.” –Nathalie Bussemaker, Siena ’15

“One memory that I will never forget is going to the ice cream shop near the souvenir shop. Our first day there was amazing, because we always were together at night and went to get ice cream, even though it was cold outside. We all were so fascinated by the different kinds and were sampling different flavors. We all would share our opinions about the flavors we tasted to help one another figure out which one we wanted. We all ended up ordering different flavors and staying at the shop waiting for each other to get our ice creams and, let me tell you, having 25 students order ice cream with 2 workers was quite a long process. We all ended up sitting together and eating our ice creams. This gave us time to get to know one another and spend time together because it was our first night in Monteverde. We literally came back to this shop about 4 more times throughout our time there, and it never got boring because we would always go with one another, and that kept it fun and was a good time to enjoy the Costa Rican scenery.” –Lulu Atik, Costa Rica ’15

“I have so many amazing memories, but one of my favorites was a simple picnic on the beach with my favorite people. It was a Sunday, and on Sundays there is this amazing market in the center of town with rows and rows of authentic French food and pastries. My friends and I decided to take advantage of our day off and stock up on some of our favorite foods, grab a picnic blanket, and relax on the beach (having conversations in French!).” –Sofia Assab, Biarritz ’15

Exploring the many delicious culinary options in Biarritz.

“We had the most amazing time on the beaches of Costa Rica. I remember Surfing for the first time in my life, and actually being able to stand up on the board. I also remember Jet Skiing for the first time. I loved it so much. I loved Costa Rica so much it was the best summer I ever had.” –Alexander Tristano, Costa Rica ’15

“Honestly, it may be the simple things; enjoying time with my host mom and her family, the train rides with my friends, the time we went ziplining. I really cherished the time I had in France overall and can’t just share one anecdote that was a defining moment in the trip because as a whole, I got so much out of it!” –Anjali Valentine, Biarritz ’15

“I’ve got way too many for this little box — it might be just leading everybody else thought the streets and metro system of Paris, or walking on the railings of bridges when everyone else thought it was a bad idea. Actually, it might be the 5 minutes of bromance when I found out that I could stay a month. Man, there are just so many. Maybe it was when the counselors said that they would love for me to work the next summer. Maybe the best was getting moved to first class on the flight home.” –Ty Ellard, Biarritz ’15

SPI Biarritz students on top of the world during a day trip to Spain!

“On Sunday (our free day), my roommate and I went to the beach and walked around town for a few hours. Around one we went back home to put on a change of clothes and shower before heading back out with other friends. As my roommate was getting ready, I took a towel out into the back yard and laid there and read. After about 5 minutes my host mom came out with nail polish and make up and jewelry. We painted our nails and talked for two hours about our families and French culture. We didn’t end up going back out, but we became so close to our host mom.” –Drew Morgan, Biarritz ’15

“I think the festival on La Playa Zurriola was very memorable. I dug a fire pit with my bare hands like a dog, built the fire, danced really awkwardly, burned a dollar, and dived rolled over my and many other fires on the beach. Totally worth it. Would do again. Everyday.” –Alexander Davis, San Sebastian ’15

SPI San Sebastian students soaking up life and culture at the Noche de San Juan festival on the beach.

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.


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!

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.