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.

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