Diane Frese - 2013 Program Participant

Near the city center, overlooking the Santander port, stand 4 statues of poor children diving into the ocean after coins tossed by citizens.
Near the city center, overlooking the Santander port, stand 4 statues of poor children diving into the ocean after coins tossed by citizens. Photo by Diane Frese

How did you come to study abroad in Santander through ISA?

When starting the process of study abroad, I first narrowed my options by picking out the criteria that were most important to me—location (based off language), classes offered, and surroundings. Being a business student and wanting to go to Spain greatly decreased my options through KU, actually to none. That’s when I started becoming interested in ISA.

The handbook provided by ISA helped immensely! I was able to locate different areas in Spain, what fields of study were offered, and any prerequisites all on one page! The simplicity with a wealth of information was not what I had experienced through other portals. I was 100% hooked when I sent an email about a question I had and received a response email and a phone call the SAME DAY. I knew, with that, not only I but also my family would be comfortable with me traveling outside the country for the first time with a company like ISA.

Not to mention, ISA offered many excursions, a phone plan, AND on-site help if we had any questions. Everyone I worked with at ISA was nothing short of a huge and pleasant help.

You’re from the University of Kansas, what advice would you give to other Kansas students going to study abroad in Santander?

My advice for fellow Jayhawks would be to start early. Don’t be afraid of anything—even trying all the different foods. If you want to experience something whether it’s taking on a blissful Playa Sardinero wave or playing a pickup game of futbol at a local field, do it! Santander has so much to offer, so you have to start exploring early. Also, make personal connections to not only your fellow travelers, but to your host family, teachers, and on-site staff. They are very helpful and you never know when you might want to travel again (even within the US!).

What makes Santander a better place to study abroad than the larger cities of Spain?

Santander had everything you could want! From the 10 minute walk from campus to the beach, to the mountains, to the warm homey feel you just wouldn’t get in a big city in Spain or in any other country for that matter. One aspect of being in a smaller city that some may find difficult is that you’ll hardly find anyone speaking English anywhere. Not to worry, though - going in, I had zero semesters of Spanish under my belt and I survived.

People are very friendly in Santander; maybe it’s the breathtaking Mountain View they wake up to or the dolphins playing in the water in the early morning hours, I don’t know. The city is always active, with locals constantly running, playing a pickup game of tennis, or just walking the city.

Another great aspect was that I was easily able to travel throughout my entire stay, either by the local train or the airport that was only 10 minutes away (with actual affordable flights!). Visiting many other cities in and out of Spain, none of them were able to sway and awe me the way Santander did. For a weekend trip, the bigger cities were wonderful to experience, but for a long stay, Santander is definitely the way to go. It truly was, and will always be my home away from home.

What was your academic experience like?

Through ISA studying in Santander, I was able to obtain 14 credit hours that directly transferred back to KU. I had three classes- two business classes, both taught in English by the same professor (three credits each) and one Spanish class (eight credit hours). I honestly cannot pick a favorite. There were 10-14 students in each class, very different from KU’s 500 person lecture halls, and this allowed me to have a personal connection with all of my classmates and professors. I was able to get very close with my Spanish professor, and I still talk with her every once in a while.

On the other hand, I loved learning business from more of a European perspective. The information taught was useful but most of all, the professors made the class. They understood our motive for studying abroad and were very adaptable to our schedules. We attended dinners, participated in local trivia matches, and shared lifetime memories; Menendez Pelayo International University definitely has a warm, welcoming staff that simply adds to the overall experience. 

What have you gained from studying abroad?

The impact that study abroad has had on my life can hardly be put into words. I learned so much not only about the world, but about myself too. There has probably been very few, if any, days that have gone by that I don’t think about my experience abroad. For a more concrete description: studying abroad has helped me join numerous clubs at KU, receive certificates for Global Awareness, aided in obtaining internship opportunities, helped me build a stronger resume, provided a great conversation starter, given me lifelong foreign and local friends, and an indefinite yearning to continue traveling for the rest of my life.