USAC Spain: San Sebastian

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About

The San Sebastián program opens an academic window on the Spanish and Basque people, introducing you to the rich diversity of Spain and offering a truly multicultural experience. San Sebastián has the highest level of bilingualism of any of the area’s cities: all of its inhabitants speak Spanish, and one third speak Basque as well. In addition to American students, European students also participate in the San Sebastián program.

Read more about our awesome program and sign up for the next available term on the USAC Study Abroad website today!

Highlights
  • Study Spanish and Basque language and culture while you live it in activities such as hiking, cultural events, and the conversation partner program with local students
  • Live in a stunning location on Spain’s beautiful northern coast, twenty minutes from the border of France—with easy connections to Madrid, Bilbao, and major European cities
  • Benefit from San Sebastián’s well-known, cuisine and beautiful beaches. Surf the Basque Country with locals to see why San Sebastián is known as one of the top destinations for surfing in Europe
  • Join excursions in Spain and the French Basque Country to prehistoric caves, mountains, and traditional fishing villages
  • Sign up for the optional Madrid Tour/Field Study and earn credit while exploring one of Europe’s most exciting capital cities

Questions & Answers

Hi Abby - sorry for the delayed response on this. If you haven't received an answer yet, you are pre-determined for a class level based on your prerequisites and classes you've already taken at home. Some things to note is that if you choose to take a class abroad at a level you've already taken at home, you won't receive credit. Also, track four, while harder since it is a 400 level class only...
I had a homestay in San Sebastian and am glad that I did. I picked up the language more quickly, had an adorable host sister, got lots of local tips, and if I ever go back to the city, I will have friends to visit. However, there were times that I experienced some "fear of missing out." I think this is common with homestay students - I sometimes felt like all my friends were hanging out without me...

Reviews

98%
based on 20 reviews
  • Academics 8.6
  • Support 8.8
  • Fun 9.3
  • Housing 9.7
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 1 - 15 of 20
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Sydney
8/10

Review of USAC San Sebastian Fall 2017

My experience in San Sebastian was incredible. I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world, met so many interesting new people, and was completely immersed in a fascinating culture. The city was not only gorgeous, but it was extremely safe and welcoming. I felt very lucky to have studied abroad in Northern Spain, because Basque Country is the most unique and interesting culture I have ever come across. Through my classes, field trips, and personal adventures, I was able to surround myself completely with Basque culture. It will always hold a very special place in my heart, and now that I am back in America, I am very open about my love for Basque people, language, and culture.

How can this program be improved?
I believe there a few ways in which this program can be improved. First off, I want to comment on the disappointment I felt in the communication between the program and the arriving students before the start of the program. I was not able to tell my parents which classes I was taking, where I was living, or much else until the first day of school. Since arriving to a foreign country is already unsettling, it would’ve been nice to have the assurance of class schedule and living address. I also would like to express my discontent in the inflexibility of the program. There were not many choices of classes to start with, and upon arriving, we found out that some of the advertised classes were being cancelled. We were forced to take Spanish for three hours a day, Monday-Friday along with other classes. Let me be very clear when I say that if I had known this was my schedule, I would NOT have chosen this program. As much as I loved San Sebastian, the work load was too stressful for a student of a foreign country. For a student who’s main prerogative was to travel, San Sebastian’s work load made this nearly impossible. And when we did travel out of the country, a lot of the time, we were delayed because of unforeseeable circumstances. These were not excused, but instead condemned by the administration, who responded by docking our grades by a significant amount. It seemed extremely ridiculous to me that we could fail out of a class for only missing 3 classes. Although professors would claim this is a USAC guideline, I had colleagues in Prague and Florence who’s staff was much more understanding regarding attendance. Overall, if I had known my class schedule beforehand, I most likely would’ve chosen another place to study.
Response from USAC

Hi Sydney,

Thank you very much for your feedback on the San Sebastian program. USAC does instill a very strict attendance policy, seeing as we are an academic first program. Our attendance guidelines are in the academic policy which every student receives before they leave. I have passed on your feedback to my team and am glad you enjoyed your time in San Sebastian.
Thank you,
Sara

Yes, I recommend
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Jennifer
10/10

Amazing Experience

The city is absolutely beautiful and the people who live there are friendly. The program offers a lot of excursions that take you to places off the beaten path and you get to experience the country like a local. The professors are patient and very good. The university campus is gorgeous. The best part would probably be the amazing food you can find. There is pinxo pote every thursday night where locals crowd the streets and hop from restaurant to restaurant and eat a small meal at each. Overall the city was very safe and had a ton to do. It is nice and close to the France border so you can make quick and fun day trips.

Yes, I recommend
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Justin
9/10

Trip of a lifetime

San Sebastian, Spain is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It has two different coves, one for relaxing and the other for surfing. The hiking is to die for and the surrounding towns are something you will never forget. The city is not too big but big enough to find new adventures everyday. I missed the cuisine the most. San Sebastian has the top michelin star restaurant and the best food at local bars called pintchos.

How can this program be improved?
One way the program could become better is, having more class trips and local activities planned.
Yes, I recommend
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Madison
10/10

Beautiful city with the best staff!

I chose this city based off of recommendations from people who have visited, and I’m really glad I followed through. The staff here was amazing and soooo supportive and helpful. The staff really wanted to you to succeed and enjoy your time there. I participated in an optional tour and along with that they also took us and informed us about tons of cultural events! The city was beautiful, but the USAC staff is what really made the trip worth it.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing that could possibly include this would be more field trips, although we went on plenty!
Yes, I recommend
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Athena
10/10

San Sebastian

I learned so much while abroad in San Sebastian. Not only did my Spanish improve immensely, but I made so many friends, got to see lots of new places, and learned really cool info about different cultures. San Sebastian is a really small, but beautiful, beachside town. Some may have thought it would get boring because of its small size and limited clubbing opportunities, but it truly never did. I feel so much more independent and brave after studying abroad here!

How can this program be improved?
The scheduling of classes could be improved
Yes, I recommend
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Maggie
9/10

San Sebastian 2017

This program was excellent and I would highly recommend anyone looking to study abroad to choose San Sebastian. The apartments provided by USAC were all in great locations and close to the beach. The city was big enough to have a city feel but small enough to get a feel for within a week or two and the public transportation was convenient and easy to use. I was also able to easily travel to different countries by flying out of Madrid which is a short bus ride away. The culture of San Sebastian is truly unique as it incorporates not only Spanish traditions but it also has a large Basque influence that is interesting. I highly recommend this program, you'll have the time of your life!

How can this program be improved?
Class attendance was very strict for summer sessions and would be nice to be a little more flexible.
Yes, I recommend
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Emily
10/10

The best month of my life

Where do I even begin to talk about the amazing time I had studying abroad! Not only did I learn a lot in my Intermediate Spanish class with an amazing professor, but I loved my time exploring Spain. I couldn't imagine not studying abroad because I completely changed as a person. The amount of growth that endured with traveling to a different culture, and experiencing what it is like to live in countries in Europe. I was fortunate enough to travel to neighboring countries such as France, England, Amsterdam, Italy, and Greece while I was in Europe and I gained so much independence from the experience. Not only was the location amazing and beautiful, but the USAC program was outstanding. The staff was exceptional and friendly. They made me feel so welcomed and supported. They encouraged us to emerge ourselves into the culture. I loved seeing the cultures within Spain and also France when we went on our field trip. Another part that I will never forget is the surfing class that I participated in. I finally learned how to surf and what better place to learn than in the surfing hub of Spain! Overall, the experience was unlike anything and I would absolutely love to travel back to San Sebastian to sight see along with possibly working for USAC one day!

How can this program be improved?
Nothing, I absolutely loved every second of it!
Yes, I recommend
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Domenic
9/10

San Sebastian

My experience with USAC in San Sebastian was great! I had an amazing and very supportive host family and there were always interesting things to do and see with classmates. I felt that my classes were appropriately challenging and would definitely go back if given the chance. I especially liked the chance to go to other parts of the Basque country and also the opportunity to go to France since I had never been before.

Yes, I recommend
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Graylen
10/10

Experience of a lifetime

I hope that my trip abroad to study in San Sebastian won't be the highlight of my life, for obvious reasons, however I honestly won't be surprised if it was. Before I left, I was actually extremely nervous because of how obnoxiously introverted I used to be. But, I decided to just go for it anyway and that was absolutely the best decision I have made so far in my life. I had such an amazing time and was able to learn tremendous amounts about myself and discovered how much more capable I am than I originally thought.

How can this program be improved?
I wish I had constructive criticism to give for this program so they could improve, but I honestly did not have one negative experience.
Response from USAC

Hi Graylen! Thanks for taking the time to let us and other readers know about your experience in San Sebastian. We're so glad to hear you had a great time and lived it up to the fullest! Salud!

Yes, I recommend
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Tara
10/10

Cider House Rules

One of the highlights of studying abroad in the Basque Country was eating dinner at the cider houses in the hills near San Sebastian. Groups of us took cab rides to the restaurants and were treated to a feast. The main event is the cider room, full of giant barrels of cider (all you can drink, of course). The food was incredible - tortilla de bacalao, bacalao with peppers and onions, and huge flanks of steak. I made sure to go three different times while I was in San Sebastian because it was always so much fun, and a great place to speak Spanish. When my parents came to visit me, they enjoyed it thoroughly and remember it as one of their favorite experiences in their entire trip through Europe.

How can this program be improved?
There isn't much to say - the only part that I didn't enjoy was the surfing class, and that was only because of terrible weather.
Yes, I recommend
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Arran
10/10

My Life Abroad

Through USAC, I met the most incredible friends and family. I studied in San Sebastian, Spain for the spring semester. I stayed in an apartment during the semester and was able to set up a nanny/tutoring job over the summer through USAC. The helped me plan everything. I stayed for a month with a family in their home and taught English to their three children. However, this does not describe my experience at all with this family. They brought me into their family like one of their own. I could never show my gratitude towards this family in words. Family dinners, long conversations, games, dancing, laughter. San Sebastian is my second home abroad and I know most students will say the same about the city they studied abroad in. It absorbs you, molds you, takes away your blinders, and shows you the possibilities, the beauty, and the vastness of this life and this world. I will never go back to the person I was before I studied abroad. It has forever changed me into a person I am proud to be.

How can this program be improved?
I have no suggestions for this program.
Yes, I recommend
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Sarah
10/10

Donostia!

San Sebastian is phenomenal. I loved learning about a mix of Spanish and Basque culture. I really enjoyed the TABC program, teaching was one of the highlights of my experience. The staff there is incredible, always looking out for their students making adjustments as needed! I definitely recommend the cuisine course as well as surfing!

How can this program be improved?
More field trips!
Yes, I recommend
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Liz
10/10

Love USAC San Sebastian

Such amazing staff to help every step of the way! Patricia is so helpful with academics and even travel help.

Great apartments and housing help, roommate matching was really successful.

Such a wonderful city! Best 6 months of my life

Yes, I recommend
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Jasmina
10/10

To say the least...

I hate to sound cheesy but honestly, it's hard to put into words the amount of love I have for the memories I made through this program.
San Sebastian is the perfect balance of social enetertainment and nature and everywhere you look you're surrounded by beauty. The locals are treasures in themselves, constantly out walking and laughing with each other, not to mention that I never saw one local out in sweats or looking anything other than a well put together Spaniard. The locals can be quite intimadating at first but once you give them the chance you'll see that they're very accepting and caring (unless you ride a bike/board outside of the bike line, don't do that). But that reminds me, there are bike paths and bike racks located almost anywhere around the city, making for easy commutes full of incredible scenery. Even if you don't bike or board, everything is within walking distance and their public transportation is amazing.
If you're honestly considering studying in Spain, without a doubt, San Sebastian should be the clear choice.

How can this program be improved?
It would be nice to have more group trips. It's really great traveling with just you and your best friends, but it would have been cool to have more set up travel plans with the whole group. It wasn't always easy to get everyone together and the group trips really made that accessible for us.
Yes, I recommend
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Hannah
10/10

A hidden gem, but not for long!

"Location, location, location." Well in that case, San Sebastian should be on the top of your list. For me it was the easy, 15 min. bike rides to class along the beach, the convince of being able to walk to any bar, restaurant, shop, friend's location, beach, museum, amazing hike, etc. etc., that made this experience so special. During your time abroad, you want to be able to wake up every morning with endless possibilities and explorations, and in San Sebastian all of these things are a bike ride, a quick walk, or an easy bus trip away.
What were some of my favorite places to jump out of bed for? The beach and the food, of course. Pinxtos (small plates) galore! Get ready to indulge in some of the best tasting dishes you have EVER tried, or laid eyes on. All of which are in the heart of old town, where you can walk through quaint alleyways, looking down at cobble stone and up at towering, archaic apartments and the occasional breathtaking cathedral. And all of THIS, within another quick stroll from the most beautiful beach along the Bay of Biscay. Surfing, tanning, swimming, beach volley ball...I promise you that here, the possibilities for an amazing day are not only endless, but they are all easily accessible.

I would considering myself very independent, which is why walking through the city and feeling comfortable turning town any street that caught my eye was very special. But the USAC team was always there just incase I needed an extra opinion, special insight, or information on where to rent the cheapest bike or find the best route to France! Whether or not you think you'll need them, chances are you will, and the staff is ALWAYS there.

Bring clothes for all sorts of weather (I could have packed a few extra light coats). Luckily, you are right on the water, an ocean view from many of the apartments, but that calls for some coastal weather. Get ready to learn about an amazing culture, city, country, and also a ton about yourself, and what you are capable, if you chose to be a part of this one of a kind city.

How can this program be improved?
I believe that the program could have organized some better or more special local activities or trips for all of the students, and more towards the beginning of our time there.
Yes, I recommend

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USAC is a non-profit consortium of U.S. universities that collaborates to offer affordable, academic and authentic study abroad programs. There are abundant opportunities to immerse in the culture, history, and academics of other countries providing...