Bianca Sassow - 2013 Program Participant

Flagship of the Spanish Armada setting sail in Santander, Spain

Bianca and her peers were able to watch the Flagship of the Spanish Armada sail out on it’s journey back around the world.

Why did you choose Santander for your international program?

I chose Santander so that I could fully experience Spanish culture, without all the tourist influence in the south, and also so that it wouldn’t be too hot since I went in July!

Why did you select SPI Study Abroad over other high school study abroad program providers?

It seemed, and was, very straight-forward and easy to get to. My parents really liked how they dropped me off at one airport near home, and the SPI Abroad onsite staff collected me from the airport in Madrid.

Where did you stay for the duration of your program?

I stayed with another girl in a mid-size apartment. We had two separate bedrooms with more than enough storage space. Our hostess was very kind and welcoming. The apartment was about a 10-minute walk from school and right next to the town center so we could all meet up for ice cream in the afternoons and do a little walking around.

Santander town center kids ride

Bianca hanging out in the town center with friends

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

Normally, I woke up at about 8:20 a.m. which gave me enough time to get ready and walk to the school, which started at 9:15 a.m. Lessons typically lasted until 11 a.m., when we had a hour break. There was a great cafe in the university with delicious snacks where we usually chatted and drank morning coffees. Classes then ended at 1 p.m.; we would walk home and eat lunch with our host family. Most afternoons there was an activity, like surfing, or we might go out on a walk to the beach, and other days we would do a little shopping in the town. There was enough free time to go out each night and get our homework done for the next day.

What is your most memorable experience from your time studying abroad in Santander?

On the first weekend of our stay, we went up to the Picos de Europa National Park. Once we had taken the gondola up to the mountaintop, there were some areas of unmelted snow and ice that we had a lot of fun sliding down on our three-hour hike. We spotted a meltwater lake, and at the end of the hike when we were worn out we went for a swim, it was so refreshing. Thankfully, our clothes had dried by the time we were back in the coach bus at the mountain base.

Picos De Europa National Park in Santander, Spain

Bianca visited Picos De Europa, where the view was amazing.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a high school student in Santander?

Definitely the communication. It was so difficult to communicate doing everyday tasks at first, it really made you notice the holes in your vocabulary. Even though it was hard, I really improved my speaking ability and by the end of the fortnight, I could understand much more domestic tasks and everyday vocabulary.

What advice would you give to other high school students interested in studying abroad with SPI Abroad?

Bring walking shoes to wear every day! Converse or sandals are a recipe for blisters, and the hiking boots are definitely too clunky to wear around the town. You do way more walking than anybody in my group anticipated.

Why would you go back to Santander if you have the chance?

The town was very safe and easy to navigate, and the experience as a whole made such a huge difference to my current Spanish speaking ability. I loved how freely we were treated by our coordinator and trusted as adults, we could go around the town or to the beach in our free time, which was amazing. My host mother was also very welcoming and I would love to return again.