España is for Students: An Inside Look into Study Abroad in Santander

Caitlin Barnett is a student at California Lutheran University. She studied abroad with ISA in Santander, Spain.


1. Describe the place where you studied abroad in 150 words or less.

Where do I begin?! Santander is an absolute paradise. It’s unique because it’s a peninsula. From what I’ve heard, and what I experienced while I was there, it’s a place where Spainards go for vacation. That speaks volumes in and of itself! It also makes a lot of sense considering the seven different beaches that grace the peninsula, the bustling nightlife of “el centro” (the city center or downtown), and the lush green hills that add to the natural beauty of this place. The food is incredible, not to mention some of the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten (Regma, go there!). Santander has it all: a calm and peaceful atmosphere, and the hustle & bustle of life in small city. There is so much to learn and exlore!

IMG_12662. What was your day-to-day life like as a student?

To be honest, I did a lot more walking that I thought I would be doing. However, getting to spend practically every day and night with my host family was by far the most rewarding part of the trip. It’s amazing how quickly you can develop relationships with your family. I also attended the university each day and took many classes. While I did spend a lot of time in school, it wasn’t overwhelming or too much work. Going to class is such a small portion of the entire experience, however; it was still incredibly beneficial for me. The classes were so much fun but challenging and the teachers were amazing and really helpful. The university in Santander, la Universidad Internacional de Menéndez Pelayo (the “UIMP,” as everyone calls it) is great.

IMG_10413. What was the “vibe” of your city?

I would say that the “vibe” of the city is really relaxed; everyone is just enjoying life however they can. It’s a relatively smaller city, and I believe that’s part of Santander’s charm. It’s very casual and almost seems like everyone is on vacation. One of the best things I noticed, however, was that there was a certain familial atmosphere: in the plazas, along the beaches and throughout the city, families can always be seen spending time with one another. But if you’re looking for a younger, more lively vibe, that can be found in downtown where there are numerous amounts of bars and clubs to enjoy.

IMG_13914. What types of activities did you do with your friends in your city?

We spent a lot of our time exploring different beaches and finding cool places to hang out. We hung out at the beach, went surfing, tried to learn how to use the bus system, went shopping and discovered many awesome restaurants and bars. However, my roommate and I did spend a lot of time with our host family, too. They were kind enough to take us on mini-excursions throughout Santander and even into neighboring cities. We spent a lot of time hanging out and getting to know them. If you’re lucky enough to be placed in a family like ours, it will completely change your trip for the better!

5. How much Spanish was spoken your city (as opposed to Catalan, English, Arabic, Basque, Klingon, etc)?

As far as I am concerned, Spanish was the only language spoken in Santander. I never had much trouble communicating with the people there. However, travelling a few hours away to Bilbao or San Sebastían, for example, is a whole different story! It’s helpful to know that in Spain they refer to regular Spanish as Castellano, and that’s the only language I spoke while I was there in Santander.

IMG_03916. How many hipsters did you see in your city?

Honestly, I don’t recall seeing an overwhelming amount of them, but they were there. I think it’s safe to say that they’re almost everywhere nowadays! But if you’re looking for a city filled with them, Santander will likely not be it.

IMG_03627. Did you visit other cities in Spain? If so, what would say made your city unique? Why should a someone study there?

I did! I flew into Madrid and stayed a few days there, then went to Toledo for a day. Throughout the trip, I also traveled to Bilbao and San Sebastían.

Santander is unique because it offers such diversity in regards to the different types of atmospheres you’re looking for. The natural beauty of Santander left me speechless. The beaches are marvelous. The shopping is great. The amount of bars, tapas & clubs is endless. The architecture is stunning, even though it’s not as old as other cities in Spain, which is an interesting story in and of itself that adds to the great history of Santander. The people are friendly and there’s always something new to do. But honestly, I think Santander is the perfect place to study abroad through ISA’s summer program because the month that you are there is filled with festivals and carnivals and activities. There is ALWAYS some sort of celebration going on, whether it be the festival of los Baños de Ola or the fiestas of Semana Grande. Santander is just full of so many amazing opportunities to be fully immersed in the Spanish culture.IMG_1381

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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.

3 thoughts

  1. I am pleased to know that Santander is such a great place to study. I knew already that it had a great university, but I am pleased to have found out more! I will be considering it as an option for my year abroad (starting a French and Spanish degree at the University of Bristol shortly).

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