Spain: San Sebastián - Spanish Language, Basque, Psychology, and European Studies

Video and Photos

on the port facing the city
near old town
Monte Unlia aka one of the best views of the beaches
A view of the city, the water, the beach!
Old Town (Parte Vieja) packed for the rowing races
Taken off a bridge connecting two parts of San Sebastian!


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!

  • 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

New Program: Comparative Studies: Uruguay and Cuba Summer Session

Study abroad Summer 2020 for eight weeks, beginning in Montevideo, Uruguay and continuing to La Habana, Cuba, for a comparative Latin studies program ideal for any student and of particular interest to health, gender and Spanish language students.


USAC Scholarships
USAC Scholarships and Financial Aid

USAC awards over $2 million in scholarships and discounts each year to assist students with their study abroad expenses.

$500 - $1,000

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...


based on 23 reviews
  • Academics 8.7
  • Support 9
  • Fun 9.3
  • Housing 9.6
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 16 - 23 of 23
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Yes, I recommend this program

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

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Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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.
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Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Fell in Love With this City and Program

Loved waking up every morning and going to class with a teacher that is funny, caring, and most importantly patient.

After school I would ride my bike home and pick up groceries from small, inexpensive markets.

People were extremely nice and helpful and I never once encountered a bad person.

Felt very safe walking around at nights or walking around alone in general.

Great bike paths used to get around everywhere in the city.

Beautiful location with many coastal hikes and ruins to discover.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing that I wish could’ve been better was knowing more ahead of time before leaving for San Sebastian. For example, we didn’t know where we were living and we didn’t know when holidays were and we didn’t have class. The reason I would’ve liked to know these things before is because it is much more reassuring to parents and loved ones when they know where you are living and have the address of your place ahead of time before sending you to a foreign country. Knowing what days we don’t have school from the very beginning would be nice so that way we can plan travel trips ahead of time or parents can know when they can travel out to visit.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Rain or Shine - San Sebastian Is One of a Kind

My experience in San Sebastian, Spain will forever hold a special place in my heart. When I arrived in mid-January, it rained for three weeks straight. With that being said, a rain coat, rain boots and an umbrella are essential to flourishing here. However, when the sun finally came out, I saw the city for everything it is - gorgeously antique buildings surrounded by picturesque beaches occupied by some of the most genuine people I have ever met. While abroad I took 14 credits of Spanish. 12 hours were with my class of 5 American students and our fantastic professor Mari Mar and the other 2 hours were from my cooking and surfing class. Because those 2 classes were taught in English and Spanish, I was able to earn credit for them at my home university. I strongly recommend taking the extra courses because they allow you to experience aspects of the Basque culture which are very important to the citizens of San Sebastian. The program director and staff were like a second family to me while I was abroad. When I lost my wallet, they helped me every step of the way to eventually recovering it from the local police station. When I had housing issues, they proactively rearranged and I ended up with an ever better housing situation. I cannot rave enough about my time spent in San Sebastian, but I can leave a quote that best describes my experience: "You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place."

What would you improve about this program?
The only aspect that I think could be improved would be the housing situation. I believe with a more thorough interview process, the program would be able to ensure that all host-families have the intentions for hosting students.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I love San Sebastian

San Sebastian is such an amazing location to experience a different culture! The staff was very helpful and gave great suggestions about how to get involved in the town. I have amazing adventures every weekend hiking around the town and down the coast. On the weekdays I spent afternoons reading on the beach and eating dinner downtown. This is an amazing city and by far my favorite city in Europe!

What would you improve about this program?
The classes had amazing content but may have been more difficult than an equivalent class at my home university. There was a lot of homework or readings in my classes, plus the instructors graded hard. Advice for anyone going into this program, take the minimum amount of units because still want free time to enjoy the city
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Yes, I recommend this program

Most Beautiful Place to Study Abroad

An average day in this study abroad program is usually either an early class and a mostly free afternoon, or a free morning and later class. You get ample time to enjoy the beautiful beach and hiking that the area has, but homework is definitely time consuming in this program. The spanish language classes in particular require a lot of work but luckily you can usually do it outside on the beach, as the sun typically doesn't set in the summer until about 9:30.

What would you improve about this program?
The academics are a little bit too much considering the typical grading scale. They say getting a 90 is essentially getting a 100 in the U.S. You go home and put it on the fridge, which means they seldom give out scores above a 90 and that can be very frusturating for a high achieving student who may have scholarships or their G.P.A. depending on their high grades. It's a wonderful system to use on its own, but combining it with American expectations just results in you not looking as good as you normally do at the end of each course, and the difference can't really be conveyed properly back in the U.S. purely by looking at a transcript.
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Yes, I recommend this program

San Sebastian A+

The USAC program in San Sebastian was very well organized, very well staffed and over all a huge success in my opinion. The office staff and the teachers were exceptionally helpful and went above and beyond to accommodate us, help us integrate into the community, meet people, find internships and share knowledge about the region. Specifically I remember Aizpea helping me on multiple occasions to contact a family to whose daughter I was tutoring English. Cecilia was also very helpful in setting me us with an internship in the local community and was always so sweet and exciting about helping me and talking to me about my experience. I think she would make a really great teacher in that program. The teachers that I did have were also wonderful. They all were passionate about their subjects and about getting us to learn and use Spanish. My track teacher, Asun, is one of my favorite teachers of all time. Even though she was a strict grader and really like homework, she was so warm and honestly wanted us to succeed. We could tell that she actually cared about us and enjoyed coming to class every day. I really appreciate how hard she worked for us and how much she taught me. The location of this program could not be more ideal either, with the beach and opportunities for surfing, hiking and other outdoors activities along with city life. My living experience was absolutely ideal. I live with a host mom, Tina, who went completely out of her way to make me feel at home and get the most out of my experience as I could. She only spoke Spanish with me and helped me learn so much. She even took me on vacation for two weeks with her and brought me to family dinners frequently. I couldn’t have gotten luckier that I did in being placed with Tina. I do think that our classes were more difficult that other USAC programs from what I’ve heard from other students. I felt it was difficult at times to balance all of the extracurricular and fun activities with the expectations of our professors and how strictly they graded. However, we learned so much and I am thankful for how they ran the program.

What would you improve about this program?
I think it would be reasonable for the program to be more lenient with traveling and re scheduling exam dates. I know that it would be impossible for them to make exceptions for every students, but if the teachers are able to give the exam to the students at an earlier time to accommodate traveling situations that cannot be changed that would be reasonable I think.