Return to the search form Return to your search results

USAC San Sebastian Program

Fast Facts

Sessions Offered:

Fall, Spring, Summer, Academic Year


San Sebastian, Spain




2.5 GPA and in good academic standing

Application Due:

9/24 for Spring, 2/24 for Fall/Academic Year, 3/4 for Summer

Program Cost:

Click the Application tab.

This summer, semester or academic year program offers intensive language study - up to two years of university language requirements may be met in one semester. Additional courses are taught in English or Spanish. The programs are administered by the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), of which the University of Iowa is a member, and enroll approximately 100 students from many U.S. colleges and universities. UI students earn resident credit for this program.

Academic Program

The USAC programs offer courses at every level of Spanish language study. Intensive Spanish language programs for students at the beginning or intermediate level are designed for rapid improvement in Spanish language skills. Students at the advanced level select from a variety of language and literature courses. All courses are taught exclusively for program participants in Spanish by Spanish faculty, with the exception of one or two courses offered each semester (usually in English), by a visiting U.S. faculty member from one of the USAC consortium institutions.

In the summer, this program offers intensive 4, 5 or 9 week sessions which offer Spanish language and conversation courses. Language classes are available to students of all levels of Spanish fluency. As the classes are intensive, one semester of coursework is completed in one month of classes. Students earn UI resident credit for this program. Some courses satisfy requirements for the Spanish major and minor, while others can be used to fulfill General Education Requirements. Students take between 3 and 6 semester hours in session I and between 3 and 5 semester hours in session II.

UI students earn resident credit which may be applied toward the following General Education Areas: Foreign Language, Historical Perspectives, International & Global Issues, Literary, Visual & Performing Arts and/or Values, Society & Diversity. Credit earned on this program may satisfy requirements for the International Business Certificate; several courses may satisfy requirements for the Spanish major or minor. To see an updated list of course offerings for this program, go here.

Program Dates

Spring 2015 session: 1/11-5/25

Summer 2015 session(s): Session I: 5/25-6/26, Session II: 7/1-7/30

Fall 2015 session: 9/1-12/17

For More Information

More information about this program is available on the USAC San Sebastian webpage. Program catalogs are also available at the Study Abroad office on campus. If you are interested in learning more about how this program fits in your academic plan, please make an appointment with Study Abroad Advisor Aubree Compton.


Situated on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, Spain is a strikingly beautiful and diverse country. The country has the second largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, and the largest number of World Heritage cities. Spain’s distinct regions means there is has something for everyone, from lush forests to towering mountains, stunning beaches to vibrant cities, Mediterranean islands and African enclaves. Widely known for excellent food and art, friendly locals, relaxed lifestyle, Flamenco culture, bullfights, fantastic beaches, and lots of sunshine, Spain has been one of the cultural centers of Europe for thousands of years and remains one of the most popular destinations in the world for study and travel.

San Sebastian

Donostia in Basque) is nestled twelve miles from the French border at the foot of the deep green Pyrenees Mountains in the province of Gipuzkoa. It faces a gorgeous crescent-shaped bay bordered by beaches and a port. An ancient city largely destroyed in the nineteenth century, most of San Sebastián is quite modern, while the narrow streets of the Old Quarter preserve the flavor of days gone by. San Sebastián’s spectacular natural setting and its culinary delights have made it a mecca for tourists looking for a beautiful vacation spot paired with wonderful food. You’ll find more Michelin-starred restaurants in San Sebastián than in any other city in Spain, but you don’t have to have a three-star meal in order to eat well. You can also enjoy the excellent and colorful pintxos (tapas) in many of the bars in the old quarter. San Sebastián also enjoys a perfect location for traveling to other countries in Europe or for exploring Spain and the Basque Country. The city itself is easy to get around—many USAC students ride bikes or walk to classes—and has several beaches to enjoy.


Castilian Spanish and Basque are both official languages in San Sebastián and the rest of the Basque Country. Basque (or Euskara) is regularly used in all aspects of life, but is never imposed on non-Basque speakers. Taxi drivers, shopkeepers, service representatives, professors, and homestay families all speak clear Spanish whenever a Spanish speaker is present. Spanish is widely used at the university, and you are advised on which classes are taught in Spanish. While it is not necessary to speak Basque to survive in San Sebastián, you will find that learning a few words can be an enjoyable experience and open doors to making friends.

Universidad del País Vasco

The USAC programs in Bilbao and San Sebastian are hosted by the University of the Basque Country, although the professors as well as the courses are directly affiliated with the program. Some University facilities are available to program participants. La Universidad del País Vasco (UPV) is a decentralized Spanish university with a student enrollment of approximately 40,000 students distributed over three campuses in Lejona, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and San Sebastián. Consortium offices for this program, classes and dining facilities are housed on the San Sebastián campuses. With support from the municipal government and the European Community, the USAC programs have been recognized as centers for the teaching of Spanish language to foreigners. Students from a number of European countries who are preparing to study in Spanish Universities also participate in the program.

Living Logistics

Participants have two housing options: a Spanish homestay or shared apartments with other USAC students and/or international students. Both options are centrally located in San Sebastián. Nearly all housing is within walking distance to the beach, and also very close to each other. .


Homestay placements are a great opportunity for students to immerse themselves into the daily life of a Spanish family. Homestays included three meals per day and provide an unmatched opportunity to speak Spanish and learn Spanish and Basque customs. .


Students also have the option to live in shared apartments with other USAC or international students in a centrally located neighborhood. Students may choose to share a room with another student or pay to have one's own room in the shared apartment. This option is advisable for participants who have an independent lifestyle or prefer to cook their own meals.

The city has an excellent system of public transportation and all housing is within commuting distance of classes. Inexpensive dining halls on campus are available for lunch.


USAC students with a high level of Spanish are eligible to be placed in a non-paid internship in San Sebastián. Students are placed in a Spanish-speaking environment with high exposure to culture and language. Possible placements include: teaching English in local schools, working with Surf-riders Foundation or Please note that placement is not guaranteed by USAC, rather it will be determined by the student's application, supporting materials and an interview with the internship sponsor on site.

Internship eligibility requirements: advanced Spanish level (for Spanish-speaking placements), 3.0 GPA and junior standing at time of internship. A refundable fee of $100 is charged and returned upon successful completion of the internship.

Teaching Assistant in the Basque Country Program (TABC)

Qualified students participating in the San Sebastián program will have the opportunity to get full immersion into the local school environment, meet locals, and have firsthand exposure to the local community. Even if participants aren't interested in teaching as a career, the teaching program is an excellent opportunity to add international work experience to one's resume, give back to local children, and learn a little money while living and studying in San Sebastián. Teaching assignments will depend on availability and scheduling restraints and range from 3-10 hours per week. Students will assist English teachers in class, create real-life situations for students to practice English, and motivate local children to practice their speaking skills.

Immersion Activities

Extracurricular activities include guest speakers, volunteer projects, social activities, informal get-togethers, and conversation partners. Students can hike, bike, surf, and kayak within the city and in the nearby areas. Group excursions to experience traditional Basque sports, music, and cuisine are often planned and announced throughout the semester.

Field Trips

Students are encouraged to participate in the included program field trips. Dates and exact locations are at the discretion of the Resident Director and vary from session to session and semester to semester. Common destinations include:


Travel to the charming capital city of Bizkaia and tour the world famous Guggenheim museum, an amazing structure representing the architecture of the millennium.


Visit the historic city of Burgos with its magnificent cathedral and explore Atapuerca, one of the most important anthropological sites in Europe.

French Basque Country

French Basque Country Visit the memorable city of Bayonne and the stunning summer resort of Biarritz

Province Bizkaia

Visit Gernika, the parliamentary building, museum, famous Tree of Gernika and world famous Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.

Province Guipuzcoa

Visit the mountain sanctuary of Arantzazu, and discover the fascinating geology of the coast.

The Pyrenees Mountains—Iparralde

Hike in the Pyrenees and explore the witches’ cave of Zugarramurdi.




Minimum eligibility requirements include good academic standing and a 2.5 grade point average (4.0 scale).

Next Steps and Application

Steps to Completing Your Application

• Before you fill out any applications, please schedule an appointment to meet with Spain Study Abroad Advisor Aubree Compton by calling 319-335-0353. Your application WILL NOT be approved until you've completed this step.

• Fill out the Iowa Online Application for Study Abroad, you will be charged a $50 non-refundable application fee.

• Fill out the USAC Online Application for Bilbao. Be sure to submit a personal statement as part of your application or email it to

**** Reminder: Do not submit the $300 application fee or transcripts to USAC!

• Return your completed UI USAC study abroad cover sheet with your preferred courses and a copy of your passport to the front desk in Study Abroad as soon as possible.

NOTICE: For the Summer Term, this program has Summer I, Summer II, and Summer I & II options. In the UI online application under “Offering” you will be asked to choose between “Codes” A, B, or AB.

Code A=Summer I

Code B=Summer II

Code AB=Summer I & II

Please be careful to choose the correct session that corresponds to the dates you wish to be abroad. If you need help with this, please consult your study abroad advisor.

Application Deadline

The application deadline set for University of Iowa students is February 24 for fall and academic year programs, September 24 for the spring semester program and March 4 for summer sessions.


To see the estimated total cost sheet for Spring 2015, Click herePDF

For the summer 2015 cost sheet (session A) click herePDF

For the summer 2015 cost sheet (session B) click herePDF

For the summer 2015 cost sheet (sessions A & B) click herePDF

Application Deadline

The online application for the spring session of this program will be available from 8/1 to 9/24. Any supplemental materials are due to the study abroad office one week later.

The application deadline for fall and academic year programs is February 24th. Spring program applications are due September 24. For summer March 4th.

Withdrawal Policy

After applying for a Study Abroad Program, notice of withdrawal must be made in writing to your USAC Program Advisor and the University of Iowa Study Abroad Advisor. The date on which the letter or e-mail message is received is the date by which your costs will be calculated. If for any reason you withdraw after the confirmation deadline and before or during the course of the program, the amount/percentage shown in the following chart represents what you will be required to pay.

Date of Withdrawal Student Financial Responsibility
After Application Administrative fee: $0
Course Fee: $300
After Cancellation Deposit Deadline (varies by program) Administrative fee: $400
Course fee: As determined by the program contract with USAC
After Program Start Date Administrative fee: 100%
Course fee: As determined by the program contract with USAC

Consult with your Study Abroad advisor for any clarification about fees and billing. Note that when you withdraw from a program, any money already paid directly to a program provider and/or a host university will potentially be forfeited. The USAC policy regarding withdrawals and refunds can be found here: USAC Money Matters. Additional penalties for cancellation of airline tickets may also apply. Check with your airline for further details.

Once Accepted into the USAC San Sebastián program:

Students will receive an acceptance email directly from USAC confirming their admission into the study abroad program. This email contains information about logging on to each student's individual USAC Gateway account. Please be sure to check this account regularly, as important documents about pre-departure, visa assistance, housing and much more are posted for participants on a weekly basis.

Pre-Departure Orientations in Iowa

University of Iowa students participating in USAC study abroad programs will have two separate pre-departure orientations on campus:

The first orientation is for University of Iowa students attending this and other USAC Spain programs. During this orientation, students receive information on registering for their program on ISIS, payment and billing, course approvals and other practical matters. Students also have the opportunity to ask questions about academics, Spanish culture and other general topics from someone who has lived, studied and worked in Spain.

The second required orientation is the general study abroad orientation for all University of Iowa students going abroad (called 'TIPS'). This orientation covers many practical matters about living overseas, such as Health and Safety, Communication, Money, Goals and much more. This event is usually held on a Saturday afternoon in late autumn/spring.

On-Site Orientation in Spain

Upon arrival in Sebastián, students will attend a mandatory orientation provided by USAC. During this session, participants will be introduced to the country, culture and academic program, and are provided with practical information about living in San Sebastián. This orientation serves to inform students of issues relevant to their experience and help them make a gradual transition to Spanish life. The orientation includes both structured cultural activities and independent sightseeing. Ongoing support is provided on an individual and group basis throughout the duration of the program.

Optional Madrid Tour

Students have the option of participating in an optional Madrid Tour prior to the beginning of the semester in San Sebastián. Students on the tour will stay at a centrally located hotel and spend four days discovering the history and art of Madrid. Students will take bus trips to the medieval city of Toledo, Valley of the Fallen, and the town of Segovia, famous for its Roman aqueduct and castle. Students will also visit several sites within the city of Madrid.

***Please note that the optional Madrid tour has an additional fee. Students participating in the Madrid tour will be transported to San Sebastián at the conclusion of the tour by USAC staff. Students who do not participate in the Madrid tour will be responsible for their arranging their arrival to the program city.