When studying abroad in Spain, people usually expect to hear Barcelona or Madrid. For me however, it was Santander.
Santander is the capital of Cantabria and is on the northern shore of Spain. When I first arrived, I was taken away by its beauty and climate. However, despite how much I love Santander, it has not always been easy dealing with homesickness or language barriers.
I really didn’t think I was going to get homesick. Even now, I sometimes question that what I feel is homesickness, but whatever it is, I think it’s important to address. This is a once in a lifetime experience. Not only am I a first generation college student, but I am also struggling to work to pay my way through school. Thanks to scholarships and the support of my manager, I was able to be here and enjoy every second in Spain. Of course I would feel guilty feeling anything but euphoria at my time in Santander. My advice: don’t worry! It is important to enjoy your time while abroad, but don’t feel guilty if you get overwhelmed once in awhile. It is normal and you are not alone. Take time to take in your surroundings and get ready to live your best life! Not only is the site abroad going to be a great experience, but the programs UT have are amazing. Like my program director would always say, “No pasa nada, estamos en España!” Do not worry, we are in Spain!! Now onto funner parts of my experience.
First and foremost, the beaches. Santander has beaches like no other. Beautiful water, temperate climates, clean sand; I cannot brag about the beaches here enough. Everywhere I go, I get to see silhouettes of mountains on the sea. It really feels like I’m living in a movie! This however leads me to my first tip: bring sunscreen! Even if it’s not triple digit weather, you want to protect yourself, especially if you’re going to be a frequent visitor of the beach. Even if you aren’t a beach person, there is an outdoor complex along the shore called Centro Boutin. It’s an outdoor movie theater, park, recreation center, and port all in one. Also, carnivals and fireworks are held at Sardinero Beach so you won’t have to get in the water to enjoy the beach. Not to mention there is a beautiful hike along the coast that takes you to a lighthouse.
Second is the food. Spain is more than tapas and paellas. Although foods are more carb heavy, they’re very fresh. Ice cream is such a big thing here as well! They have a lot of non dairy options to choose from. Despite some misconception, Spanish food is not spicy at all. For those who are like me and appreciate spicy foods, I recommend patatas bravas. It’s not spicy, but it’s as close as you’re going to get.
Third is the people and the environment. I was always warned that people wouldn’t be friendly here, but I haven’t really had much issue with people being openly hateful. If you are cognizant that you are a visitor and respect the country, all will be well. Everytime I go out, the locals are rarely on their phone and genuinely take time to enjoy one another’s presence.
As cliche as this may sound, studying abroad helped me grow so much as a person. The experiences and memories were all worth it. Living in a country where you don’t know the culture and language is scary, but you will grow immensely.
This post was contributed by Lisa Duong, a 2018 Global Ambassador.
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