The summer after my sophomore year in college, I took the biggest leap of my life. I studied abroad in San Sebastian, Spain for 6 weeks. I hadn’t heard of it either.. I knew I wanted to go during summer because it would put me ahead of schedule with my college classes rather than possibly set me back if I failed. I knew I wanted to go to Europe and the only other program was in Prague, so I signed up to go to Spain because I knew a handful of Spanish, yet none of any other European languages.
Seemed logical at the time. I should’ve made less assumptions and really researched SanSe because it’s part of Basque Country, an area in Northeastern Spain near the French border. I also packed pretty much only tank tops and shorts because I was thinking “Oh yea, fun summer laying out on the beach of Spain, drinking wine before I was legal in the US, let’s only pack one jacket and one pair of jeans.” Needless to say, the very first day, I popped into the first shop I saw, bought an umbrella, heavier coat, and jeans. I’m from Seattle, so I was disappointed to arrive to chilly, rainy weather at the end of May. It stayed this way for the next 2 weeks or so, then it was exactly how I pictured it until we left in early July. Sunny, 80s, and the absolute perfect location to have the best summer of my life.
I didn’t know Spanish, didn’t know anyone I was going with, and didn’t care about any of that. There were about 30 of us, all just wanting to have the same cultural, international experience. Going there alone forced me to make friends, be social and outgoing, and find myself. Not to say I didn’t know how to make friends and was a homebody before Spain, but when you’re in a foreign land, you bond with the people you share the experience with. I can still say to this day that, even though we all live miles or states apart, I know I can always call these people and they will be friends forever. If there is one thing I could teach people before I die, it is to study abroad.
While I was in SanSe for class, we were able to have a full three-course meal with wine for €11 then wander to Zurriola beach, or Z beach as we called it. It was on the eastern-most beach, closest to Parte Viejo (Old Town) and where everyone would go to surf. La Concha beach was the main, central beach. For us it was a bit too family-oriented and busy all of the time, as it was where the aquarium and spa were located. Plus, many of my friends were staying with families, who lived more on that side of town, while a handful of us were staying in the “Residencia” (dorms), which was on the opposite side of town and closer to the western-most beach, Ondarreta. Also on the western side is Mount Igeldo. You can ride the funicular (a train) up to the top and take in the amazing views of both the city or the Bay of Biscay or enjoy the affordable amusement park, where I think it was only €2 for a mini roller coaster. I could really go on and on about my love for this city…
During my time there in 2010, San Sebastian had just been elected as the European Culture Capital for 2016. If there was ever a time to go, next year would definitely be it! This is the link to the tourism website for a complete list of what there is to do in SanSe.
Update: Visit Euskadi posted this video to their Facebook page in celebration of San Sebastian being the Culture Capital next year! It really highlights all of the great selling points of SanSe.