Interview: Santander, Spain through the Eyes of a Local!

By Graham Cruise, ISA Spain Site Specialist

I was given the great pleasure of conducting an interview with Santander native and ISA Program Manager, Gloria Trueba, about her home town (Read more about Gloria’s experience on the ISA website). Here’s what I found out:

Hi Gloria, can you first give us a little background about yourself?

Hello everybody! My name is Gloria Trueba and I work for International Studies Abroad. I started working for ISA in Salamanca, which is where I got my undergraduate degree in English-German translation. I later worked for ISA in Santander as a Student Coordinator, in Brussels as Resident Director, in Madrid as Director, and currently as a Program Manager in Austin, Texas.

When I was a student, I had the opportunity to study abroad for a semester in Dublin and I LOVED it! Working with ISA has given me the opportunity to help other students have a great experience too. When I relocated back to Santander, my hometown, as Resident Director, it was a great experience because I was able to re-discover my home through the eyes and experiences of my students. Now, I have moved to Austin and I am discovering a very different part of the study abroad experience.  It has been a few years since I started working in the study abroad field and I still think it is a fascinating and awesome experience for anybody.

What is one aspect that makes Santander unique from the rest of Spain?

There isn’t just one aspect, but many: the landscape, the green grass, the cliffs, the dark blue sea, the big waves and the golden beach. And in the background: mountains! I absolutely love it!

Is there a part of the city that you like the best?

My favorite part of the city is going up to El Faro, or the lighthouse. There is a little cafeteria with huge windows, surrounded by the cliffs. It has amazing views, especially when it is windy and you can watch enormous waves smack right up against the rocks.

What exciting opportunities will university students have in Santander during the summer? Are there any celebrations or fiestas?

One thing that is exceptional to Santander is that you can take a little boat trip around the bay to take in Santander’s surroundings.

Sunbathing is something else, as Santander’s beaches are fantastic.

Also, you can’t miss the San Juan Bonfires, where people guide little boats adorned with bright lanterns towards the beach and ignite massive bonfires. During the festivities, people grub on delicious grilled sardines that are caught on site. The night isn’t finished until they set off brilliant fireworks that are reflected in the ocean.

During the summer, we celebrate the Baños de Ola, which is a reenactment of the late nineteenth century when the European upper classes would come to enjoy El Sardinero beach, which became a popular summer destination for the bourgeois.

In the early 1900’s, thanks to a health initiative that linked swimming in the ocean to good health, the Spanish elite would come take advantage of this up-and-coming city-resort to swim and show off their fashionable bathing suits. To commemorate the city’s history of high-fashion and splendid beaches, the people of Santander embrace their past and play old-style games, while wearing their traditional swimming garb.

Be sure to check out the Festival de la Virgen del Mar which offers free cocido (traditional stew), and the Semana Grande De Santander, which, as its name suggests, is a huge festival with something different going on every day. Throughout the week, festival-goers can enjoy live music, a fair that rests along the beach and innumerable places all across the city that open their doors to serve delicious tapas!

What are some of your favorite dishes in Santander?

You cannot go to Santander without trying rabas, which is our special name for fried calamari. They are fantastic! Also, be sure to try mejillones (mussels) and gambas a la plancha (shrimp on the grill). In short, all the seafood and fish is unsurpassable, since it is so fresh.

In winter, all the soups and stews were my favorites, like cocido montañes (beans with cabbage, ribs, chorizo and morcilla).

And for desert: a super big Regma ice cream! Regma is a very well-known bakery and ice cream shop in Santander that you definitely do not want to miss!

What was your favorite part about growing up in Santander?

Being able to walk everywhere, including along the beach. I miss how close everything is; you could go shopping and stop off at these little cafes along the way. Try some of the tapas and then continue your journey around the city. I used to meet up with my friends downtown, where we would go for a stroll and catch up, while trying to figure out where to go and what to do for the evening.

Are there lots of activities to do in the summer?

Yes! There are almost too many things to list them all!

Santander is very close to the mountains, so once you are tired of sunbathing and surfing, you can take a bus to Picos de Europa and go hiking (which is an included excursion in the ISA Summer 2 program!) Once you get to Picos de Europa, you can take the cable car to the top of the mountain and hike down for a few hours before you get to Potes, a little village that has some of the best food around!

You can take a bus and go to Asturias or to the Basque Country (excursions to Bilbao and San Sebastian included in the Summer 2 program). You can explore all the different beaches that surround the area, like El Sardinero, La Magdalena, El Camello, El Puntal, Laredo, etc.

You can also visit the Cave of El Castillo, which is a chain of 40,000-year old caves with paintings that date back to over 20,000 years ago, which houses the oldest known cave art in the world!

Furthermore, you can wander the cobbled streets of Santillana del Mar, a historic and quaint Spanish town. A visit to this town is also included in the Summer 2 program!

If you are lucky enough to experience them, there are beautiful fireworks on certain dates all throughout the summer.

What are people in Santander like and what do the people like to do?

Like all Spaniards, the Santanderinos or Cantabros, like to socialize a lot. On the weekend, we like to meet up downtown with our friends and eat some tapas before we go for lunch.

We like to take long walks along the bay, smelling the ocean and visiting our Palacio de la Magdalena, where we can watch the penguins and sea lions swim about in the coastal outdoor zoo. Palacio de Magdelena

We like to dress up on Sundays and go for walks, and we like that they say that people in Santander are always well-dressed. We love our port with all the little boats.  We are proud of our beaches, our cliffs and especially our food!

Learn more about Santander and how to get started on a study abroad program on the beach!


Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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