Anna Shipman - 2013 Program Participant

Visiting the San Sebastian aquarium

One of Anna’s first days in San Sebastian, it was pouring so she went to the city’s aquarium with other students

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study in Spain mainly to improve my Spanish, but also to learn more about a new culture and to broaden my horizons. I also knew that I wanted to do it in college, and thought this opportunity would help me figure out how long I should study abroad in college and where I would possibly want to go.

What were your housing arrangements like in San Sebastián?

I lived with a homestay, where I shared a room and bathroom with my roommate. My host family lived pretty close to the school and my host mom usually lived by herself in the apartment. We ate most meals with our señora, which allowed us to have many conversations in Spanish.

What was a normal day like as a high school student in Spain?

A normal day consisted of having a light breakfast and then walking to school around 8 a.m.  After about four hours of class, we’d go to our homestays for lunch and then take a nap since most businesses close during the afternoons. After siesta, I’d either meet up with some friends or go on the scheduled group activity, and then go home for dinner. After that, depending on the time, I’d go back out and meet friends for ice cream.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in Spain?

The language barrier was a huge challenge. I went to Spain after taking only two years of Spanish. Although a lot of the people spoke at least a little bit of English, it could get frustrating trying to explain what you wanted or needed.

Ordering at Boulevard Helado

Boulevard Helado - one of Anna’s favorite places to get an afternoon snack

What are the top reasons you'd go back to San Sebastián if you had the chance?

Probably the ice cream, I had at least one cone per day. Secondly, the city itself was so cool and every day I would see something new. Also, the people there were so nice and patient with my not-so-strong Spanish skills. San Sebastián is such a great city to learn the language, and there’s so much to do there when you have free time.

Would you recommend your SPI Study Abroad’s program in San Sebastián to others?

Yes! The program makes you grow up a little, since you’re basically on your own, and your language skills improve dramatically being immersed in a homestay environment. Studying abroad is both amazingly fun and very educational. I’ve already recommended two of my friends to SPI Study Abroad and they both have loved their times abroad!

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

I would probably return to Spain, but go to Barcelona. Everyone I know that has visited Barcelona has loved it, and every picture that I’ve seen is gorgeous! I’d also love to study in Italy or somewhere in South America if I get the chance!

Did you experience any kind of reverse culture shock when you came back to the U.S.?

I had gotten so used to taking a siesta after lunch, during my time in Spain, that it took awhile for my sleep schedule to get back on U.S time after I returned.

Bumper cars at amusement park at the top of Monte Igueldo in Spain

An afternoon when Anna’s group took a tram to the top of Monte Igueldo and went to an 20th century amusement park

What was the most memorable experience you had while studying abroad in Spain?

My most memorable experience was the San Juan festival. There was a huge bonfire in the city and other smaller bonfires along the beach. It was such a fun night and made feel like less of an American in a foreign country.

How has studying abroad impacted your life?

Studying abroad has made me a much more global person. I have gained so much respect for other cultures. It allowed me to make new friends that I am still in touch with. My Spanish also improved leaps and bounds, which made high school Spanish much easier when I returned!