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Posts from the ‘Santander’ Category

Viva España and Ice Cream!

Tori Chester is a student at UNC Wilmington and an ISA Featured Blogger. Tori is currently studying abroad with ISA in Santander, Spain.

IMG_1231 regma ice cream

Regma Ice Cream Shop

The time has come to talk about what makes Santander the very best study abroad location. Now, I know some of you are in world-famous cities with incredible landmarks, but Santander has something that’s got every single one of them beat: ice cream. That’s right, ice cream. Read more

The Cure for Anything is the Saltwater in Santander

Tori Chester is a student at UNC Wilmington and an ISA Featured Blogger. Tori is currently studying abroad with ISA in Santander, Spain.

IMG_1020 the beach

The view from the top of my run!

Here’s the scenario. You arrive at your study abroad destination starry-eyed, filled with hope and excitement and maybe the tiniest bit of caffeine. You spend the first few excursions running around with that same just-landed gleam in your eyes. You even hop to your first classes with all the enthusiasm of a sugared-up kid on the eve of her seventh birthday, thrilled with the brand-new world of all things study abroad in your future. And then it happens. Read more

5 Tips for Studying Abroad in Santander

Victoria Tonan is a student at the University of Kentucky and an ISA Featured Blogger. Victoria is currently studying abroad with ISA in Santander, Spain.


My roommate, Diane. (on the left) and me (on the right) with our new best friend and host sister, Elena, before dinner.

It has been almost three weeks since I arrived in Santander, and although I am loving life, I have come across a few challenges that could have been curbed if someone would have just enlightened me. So to lessen the challenges of any future “Santander-ian”, I have composed a list below.

1.) Rain, Wind and Sun…Oh My!
Because the city is right on the coast, the climate here in Santander is so fickle. Depending on the time, it can be hot or cold, all on the same day. I have learned that there are three things you should always carry with you : an umbrella, a light coat and deodorant. When walking around all day exploring, or even if you just have class, all three of these items might come in handy. You can be warm in the chilly mornings, dry when it starts to pour and not smelly when you start to sweat. It is a win, win, win!

2.) Keep in Mind Siesta Time
Here in Santander, all of the Spaniards close down their shops around 1:30 pm to go have lunch with their families. This sounds like such a great idea until you find yourself wandering around town at 2 in the afternoon because you forgot. Banks, schools and most local shops close during this time and it can be inconvenient when you need something, so plan accordingly and go to the store before siesta. Don’t worry though, most places open back up around 4 pm, once their bellies are full of delicious lunch.

3.) I will walk 500 miles, and I will walk 500 more
This is important, and I feel so silly saying this, but I had no idea how much I would actually walk while living in Spain. I walk to school, to the beach, to the city center — literally everywhere! Part of the culture is that everything is in walking distance so cars aren’t necessary for daily living. Don’t follow in my footsteps, and be sure to bring super comfy shoes so your feet don’t hate you.

4.) Cuidado! Be Careful!
In Santander, there are many sidewalks but limited grass space for all the dogs walking with their owners. When they need to go to the bathroom, they do so on the concrete, and sometimes their owners just leave it for the poor sucker behind them to step in it. I know too many people who have fallen victim to the dog poop (even me). So when you are enjoying your beautiful views on your walk, look down every once in a while.

5.) Try to Become a Spaniard
Last, but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to befriend the locals. Spaniards are shy at first, but who isn’t? At the university I attend, the Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo, they have a bulletin board that has the names of several locals who want to practice there English. Jump on that opportunity; not only can you practice your Spanish, but you can make new friends! Also, if you have the opportunity to stay with a host family during your time abroad, do it. It has been the best experience for me living here in Santander, because I have truly immersed myself in the culture.

I hope these tips are helpful, and you will not have (hardly) any troubles during your time here in Spain.

Santander and the Smell of Salt Water

Victoria Tonan is a student at the University of Kentucky and an ISA Featured Blogger. Victoria is currently studying abroad with ISA in Santander, Spain.

At the ocean

Looking out at the bay from the Lighthouse of Cabo Mayor

It has now been four full days since I have arrived in the elegant city of Santander, Spain. I started my classes at the Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo (UIMP), and I am all settled in with my host family after a whirlwind of an orientation in Madrid and Toledo. Before I left, I  had been preparing for Santander for almost a year. I chose this program ultimately because of the friendly atmosphere, beautiful city center and, of course, for the ocean. I envisioned going to the beach every day between classes and learning how to surf like a Spaniard, but so far, that has not been the case. With my host family, I live about a 40 minute walk from the Playa del Sardinero. I have classes that take up most of my day during the week, but I’m enjoying the experience for what it is and am keeping an open mind. Read more

Sun, Swords, and Smiles: Madrid and Toledo

Tori Chester is a student at UNC Wilmington and an ISA Featured Blogger. Tori is currently studying abroad with ISA in Santander, Spain.

A beautiful view of the ancient city of Toledo.

A beautiful view of the ancient city of Toledo.

Have you ever been so enthusiastic about something that your hands shake and your smile kind of has a life of its own? Have you ever felt like that for days on end? … Well. It’s day three of living in my homestay in Santander, Spain, and yes. Yes, I have. Read more

Spain & Second Impressions

Emily Bowman  is a student at University of Denver and is an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures  blogger corresponding with the World Affairs Council of Houston. Emily is currently studying in Bilbao, Spain on a Fall 2 Program.

The past few days have been hectic, but in the best possible way. You know that feeling that everything is shifting, moving, changing, and you’re just rolling along with the current? I love that.

I’ve been in Santander for over a month now, and lately I started to feel like I’d set down some durable roots in Spain. This was, after all, the city where I got my first taste of Spain. While Santander is only one short hour by bus from Bilbao, my current locale, I can’t help but feel like my entire outlook on Spain has been altered somewhere in the shift.


I should mention that, as far as some Spaniards are concerned, the two cities are worlds apart. There exists a considerable rivalry between Santander and Bilbao. I have yet to discover exactly where it has its base.

When I first arrived in Santander, it didn’t take long before I revealed to some of my acquaintances there that I would, in fact, be studying in Spain for much longer than the summer term at the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo. I would also be studying at the Universidad de Deusto in Bilbao through the fall semester. To my surprise, some of my acquaintances wrinkled their brows (or their noses) and wanted to know exactly why I planned on studying abroad – studying Spanish, no less – in Bilbao.

I asked my professor, Javier (who is a native of Cantabria, the region of which Santander is the capital), why the people I met in Santander were so put-off by the fact that I would be studying abroad in Bilbao. He told me that there was a big rivalry between the two cities’ futbol teams. While plausible, I don’t buy it, mostly because whenever I’ve spoken with a person from Santander about their futbol team, they have always laughed and informed me that they always lose. I just never got the impression that the people of Santander were ready to get up in arms over their futbol team or their rivals.

The disregard is not one-sided. The very first night I found myself in Bilbao, I was sitting at the table in my host mother’s kitchen chatting with her and her friend who lives in the apartment on the first floor of our building. Her friend commented that I looked a bit tan, so I informed her that I had spent the last month in Santander, a popular beach town on the northern coast. To this, she told me a phrase sometimes heard here in Bilbao: “A Santander, cagar y volver,” which roughly translates to, “Santander, sh•t and return”. Well, then.


What does all of this signify? While I am physically barely 100 km away from the little slice of Spain that I have experienced these last five weeks, in many ways, I realize that I have entered into an entirely new side of the country. Isn’t it always just the way that once you feel like you know something, it changes? I love that. It only means that there’s more in store to discover.

This is a reason why I chose to study abroad in Bilbao. I wanted to become acquainted with a little-known corner of Spain, something else than the bullfights and flamenco dancers. Obviously, if the reactions I have witnessed from the people I have met in both Santander and Bilbao are anything to go by, then I’ve hit the mark. For all those considered, Bilbao is something different, alright.

Admitting My Homesickness in Santander

Katrina Killian is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and an ISA Featured Blogger. Katrina is currently studying abroad in Santander, Spain on the ISA Summer 2 program.

I thought I would be able to hide  from that feeling that seems to sneak up on everyone during their time abroad. You know, homesickness. I’m not saying that I’m superwoman or anything, but I’ve been to college and traveled alone to a few places without it having much affect… I guess my marathon is nearing an end and that opponent has gotten a second wind, because I’m certainly feeling somewhat homesick now!

“ISA in Santander.” Photo by Ana Fernandez, Spring 2012.

Most people in my group had this feeling within the first week that they arrived. I guess I’m an oddball and I feel it now, but it makes sense since I’m almost home and starting to pack, so I know I’ll be there soon. It’s not so much as being homesick, but more that random things remind me of home and make me miss it a little. For example, there are dogs everywhere! I have three dogs at home, so seeing any dog makes me miss them. It doesn’t help that one of my dogs sleeps with me, so I’m already without a sleeping buddy. What confuses me though, is that I see many dogs roaming around here. I can’t tell if they are homeless or their owners watch/walk them without a leash (I’ve seen quite a few walk their dogs without a leash… I couldn’t do that with my nosy dogs!). I start worrying about those dogs, then I remember mine at home.

Of course I miss my zany family. My dad is constantly telling jokes and making people laugh, so on the rare occasions during this trip that I have felt down I’ve wanted him here to help me feel better. My mom and brother are their own special people as well, and I’ve had a few times where I’ve wanted them here or I came across something that reminded me of them.

Another thing I miss a lot is American food! Don’t get me wrong, I love the food here. Some of it is pretty tasty (hello, nata ice cream!)  but my stomach is beginning to reject having bread and a form of potatoes at every meal… which is very sad, to me at least, because I LOVE potatoes. I blame that on my Irish heritage, haha! I am also beginning to get tired of fried foods. So many foods here are cooked in oil! They even cook hotdogs and hamburgers in oil. They were surprised when I showed them how to boil a hotdog :) With all this said, don’t think I’m bashing their food. I could stay here for much longer living off their food and Doritos! Plus who can be homesick for long in such a great country?!

Luckily the ISA staff has been great. Our directors are wonderful and have helped us when any of us had that homesickness feeling creep up. They have helped with other problems too and for finding activities to do during the week. So if you ever need help, your ISA directors are there, so utilize them! They are very nice, I promise!

Euro Cup Dispatch from Spain: Gooool!

Katrina Killian is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and an ISA Featured Blogger. Katrina is currently studying abroad in Santander, Spain on the ISA Summer 2 program.

Wow, what a great time to be in Spain. If you don’t keep up with sports I’ll let you in on what just happened… Spain won the Euro Cup (soccer) for the second time in a row! Actually, they won the first one 4 years ago, then the World Cup 2 years ago, and now the Euro cup again yesterday. That’s quite a feat, especially since most of the media thought that Italy would win. Well, who ever does those predictions is probably crying in a corner as of now, it was a shut out (meaning the other team didn’t score at all) of 4-0. That’s a great score for a soccer match. To top that off, they had possession of the ball for well over the majority of the game.

Our group actually arrived in Santander about an hour before the game had begun. My roommate and I were just getting settled in and unpacked as the game started. Suddenly, all we hear is “Gooool!” and so we immediately went to the living room where our host family was watching TV. We were able to see a replay of the goal, and it was a header! It was amazing to see. As half time rolled by we left to have dinner with our ISA group and our directors. The food was amazing, but everyone’s eyes were fixated on the TV, watching every move. If the ball got close to making a score, the entire ambiance of the restaurant was heightened; I felt what everyone else was feeling, which was an interesting feeling. We all gasped, sighed, became nervous or excited as one large body.

Although Italy didn’t have possession of the ball for much time, there were a few instances when they were close to scoring… most of them missed, but there was one or two that were too close for comfort. Luckily Spain has a great goalie who is quick on his toes! Our group had missed the second goal, but we were able to see the third and fourth goals. Each time a goal was shot there was a video in the bottom corner of the people in Madrid celebrating. It was neat to see, but we were glad that we left Madrid a few days earlier. There’s no way we would’ve gotten sleep that night.

As the game finished the level of noise outside increased, including some random firecrackers. When we were finished with our meal we went outside and us students went for a walk to the beach. Before we could even get to the street we were greeted with car after car honking their horns and holding flags out the windows. People were sitting out of the windows (not suggested) and being pretend matadors with flags for incoming cars (NOT reccomended at all). Although I’m not Spanish, I felt as if I was one of them. Everyone was celebrating and happy. They needed something to keep their minds off of the economy and unemployment, and this was it! Cars would pass filled with people singing the Spanish national anthem or shouting “España!”

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The beach even had some patriots that were so proud that they either (1) skinny dipped or (2) went in the water with only underwear on. They then wore the flag around themselves to show their pride… and attempt to get dry. Everywhere we went was splattered with red and yellow– whether it be clothes, flags, face paint… The people were proud, and I even felt some slight “patriotism” just being there.

I don’t know if I could’ve picked a better time or place to study abroad… and I still have about a month left! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of this trip.

Week One in Santander: Completed

Photo CC Juan Ramon Rodriguez Sosa

Katrina Killian is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and an ISA Featured Blogger. Katrina is currently studying abroad in Santander, Spain on the ISA Summer 2 program.

Wow, has a week really gone by already? Technically it’s been a week and 3 days since the program has begun, but I’m going by our arrival in Santander. This day last week I was racked with nerves and excitement. I was excited to arrive in my destination city along the beach and improve my Spanish all while being nervous for meeting my host family and beginning classes. Would my whole family come to pick me up? What do they look like? Can I understand their accents? Will my teacher be hard? Lots of homework/tests?… The questions seemed endless in my head.

Luckily all of those nerves had positive results. My host family has been great, as well as my roommate. They talk fairly slowly and reiterate anything we don’t understand; we’re able to have 1-2 hour conversations at dinner every night. There’s even a cute little guinea pig named Kobe. It reminds me of the ones I used to have every time he goes ‘eeepp!’ My classes and teacher also turned out great. I got placed into a level higher than what I thought I’d be, so I was nervous about any grammar requirements needed to enter that level. My teacher reassured me that I’m fine and we go over the grammar I don’t know and he wants us to practice our speaking more than grammar anyway. He’s one of the best teachers I’ve had because he doesn’t just lecture– he plays music, has us do games and activities, plays music during exercises. I feel like I’ll learn a lot and I’ll stay engaged, which is good! My culture class is fine too, but slightly boring… I feel like it’ll pick up this week though.

Besides academics, our first week had a whole mess of activities to show us this area of Spain. We’ve gone to some beaches, saw a local palace, went on a tour of Santander, vistied the Picos de Europa and Potes. They all were fun and brought our small group even closer. Our directors call us “The Seven Wonders (of the World).”  A kid in our group has grandparents that live along a beach 20 min by ferry from Santander. It’s a beautiful beach located in Somo and we were able to celebrate the fourth of July with an all-American feast of hotdogs, hamburgers, potato salad, brownies and ice cream, and other stuff… so delicious! We also signed up for a surf lesson that day too; it was super fun and we all managed  to not get crushed by the waves!

In our free time we like to spend time together as a group, which is excellent. When it’s nice out, we all rush to the beach to take it all in. Those days/ hours are cherished here. Why? The north of Spain has lots of beautiful coasts and mountains, but it also rains mucho! Luckily, when it does rain, it’s normally just for a few minutes to an hour at a time, then maybe returns later, but it is fairly cloudy. Don’t let that turn you off though! It’s so nice here, and we’ve managed to have great weather so far; the locals says its normally not as cold or cloudy this tie of year and that it should warm up soon. When it does rain, we are able to go to the town center for shopping and small site seeing, which is nice as well! It’s better than all that dry heat in the south, I would be a leather couch by now!

As of right now, we are trying to figure out what we want to do with our free weekend. It’s a toss up (currently) of Barcelona or Andorra I believe. I’m fine with either! We’ll just have to wait and see.

Hasta Luego Estados Unidos!

Katrina Killian is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and an ISA Featured Blogger. Katrina is currently studying abroad in Santander, Spain on the ISA Summer 2 program.

So far this has been quite a blast. Even though I´ve been here for almost two weeks, the thought that I´m actually in Spain in still creeping it´s way in. The idea of studying abroad, or, just simply being abroad, has always appealed to me– I love being in new places, seeing novel things, trying out what´s popular in other places. So the fact that I am here, without any family members, has put my brain on overdrive. So far I’ve already experienced things different and similar to what happens back in the United States. In fact, it´s happened every day… Let´s see if my memory can remember all of them!

First off, one major difference, besides the fact that they speak Spanish, is that the majority of people live in apartments. When you are in the center of a town, the streets are lined with apartments, and sometimes buildings that are like townhouses. It´s not until you are further away, where it gets more rural, that you find houses. Another difference would be their sense of time. This can be taken in two ways… they eat at later times than we do (which was hard at first, my stomach is used to having dinner at 5-6 pm… not 8-10 pm!); also, everything is at a slower pace. Yesterday I was at a restaurant and it took about 15 minutes for our appetizers to come, then another 25 for our burgers to arrive. They even drink their beverages with ease… I felt like I was scarfing my drinks down in .02 seconds compared to the company I was with!

Which reminds me, meat & potatoes = AIR to Spaniards, or so it seems. Every meal I´ve had includes some sort of meat and potatoes (always cooked in olive oil). I can feel the weight sinking in already! I even ordered a side of eggs with a meal, and that came with fries! Ayyy…

If you come to Spain, also be prepared for lots of talking… they like to talk a lot, and not only that, but they will have about 2-3 conversations at once within the same group at times. It gets crazy trying to figure out who is conversing with who sometimes! haha.

The last difference I can remember is relaxing around the house. If you enter a house in Spain, it is normal to trade in your shoes for slippers or flipflops. They don´t really wear shoes, socks or bare feet around the house.There is also the fact that almost all of the population here (or at least where I live) is brown hair and brown eyes! It´s interesting to see. Some kids are blonde when they are young, but once they reach puberty it seems that the majority of people here have brown hair. When someone doesn’t have that hair color, it’s normally due to dying it! I know someone from here that has blue eyes, and was blonde as a child and said that when he went somewhere he was chosen to go on stage to be asked questions (because they thought he was English). The person on stage talked to him in English and eventually asked him where he was from… they were surprised when he said a Spanish town!

As for similarities, well lots of towns in the summer have parties, close to how some towns in America have festivals-carnivals. Some rides are similar; there´s food stands, games, activities, competitions, fireworks… The whole kit and caboodle. They are entertaining to go to, and I had lots of fun going to the one in the town I´ve been living in. The group I was with even won the paella (national rice dish) competition! So that was exciting…except our plaque broke, haha.

The landscape resembles America´s too, but in a smaller area. The north, where I´ve been, is filled with green land that has many rolling mountains. It´s so beautiful. Then there´s the sea and beaches that line the coastal areas of Spain. Spain is also home to some plain, desert-y areas in the middle of the country. It goes on for hours and not many people live there. You only see scattered settlements and the random run down buildings that used to be for transporting sheep. Their TV shows are also similar to ours, or are American shows that are translated into Spanish. This can be nice for when you feel homesick… They have probably 90% of our shows– CSI, Jersey Shore, 16 and Pregnant, MTV, LOST, … it´s funny to hear the voice overs for some of the characters. :)

Well, I´ll leave it at that. I´m sure I´ll come across many other similarities and differences while I´m here. This is only the beginning after all! I just have to keep remembering that when something is 5 Euros it´s more like 6.25 USD! I keep thinking they are equivalent and that I´m getting a deal for what I buy!



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