The Best USAC Spain Program for You – How to Choose

Is Spain your dream study abroad destination but you’re not sure which location is the best USAC Spain program for you? No matter which location you choose, you can spend a summer, semester or year indulging in tapas, learning how to make authentic paella, visiting Mediterranean beaches, and exploring ancient cities you’ve been seeing on the travel channel your entire life.

With five locations, we’ve got you covered from northern to southern Spain, so no matter what type of experience you’re looking for you’ll find it in Alicante, Bilbao, Madrid, San Sebastián, or Valencia. So here’s a little help choosing the best USAC Spain program for you.

Alicante

City

USAC Alicante students
USAC Alicante students

Alicante is a modern city located by the Mediterranean Sea which provides daily access to sandy beaches, blue waters of the coast, sunny weather, rich history, and lovely monuments. Located in the southeast coast of Spain, this medium-sized city is lively and affordable. If you’re not one for winter then Alicante’s average year-round temperature of 72 and 300 days of sunshine a year will keep you smiling.

In Alicante you can participate in your typical ocean activities – swimming, windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling and plan to spend a majority of your days outdoors with the locals. Alicante is also well connected to Spanish and European cities with an international airport and high-speed trains that can get you out of the city anytime you’d like.

University

USAC Alicante students in the Sailing the Mediterranean Sea class
USAC Alicante students in the Sailing the Mediterranean Sea class

The University of Alicante hosts more than 30,000 students and 4,000 international students. You’ll study at one of the most beautiful campuses in Spain with gorgeous landscaping, modern architecture, and a modern sports center, indoor swimming pool, and other facilities.

Immerse yourself in Spanish culture with volunteering opportunities, internships, direct enrollment at the university, workshops, conversation partners and Service-learning program. You can also participate in local clubs like hiking, soccer, basketball, cinema, and participate in the Teaching Assistant Program in local schools and/or private families. You can enroll in courses with other Spanish students at the University of Alicante, with advanced language proficiency.

For academics, choose from courses in Spanish Language, Linguistics, European, Mediterranean, and Gender Studies. You won’t want to miss the Sailing the Mediterranean Sea class and the Spanish Cuisine class.

Field Trips & Optional Tours

USAC students stop for a group shot in Granada during a USAC Alicante field trip
Group shot during the Granada field trip

No study abroad would be complete without some field trips. You can choose to participate in a variety of field trips that are included in your program fees including Valencia, Tabarca Island, Altea, Fuentes de Algar, Benidorm, Guadalest, Calpe, Barcelona, Cabo San Antonio and Javea, Granada.

You can also opt-in to participate in the Madrid Optional Tour and Field Study for an extra fee where you’ll get to explore the famous capital city. You can take the general tour or earn credit participating as a field study.

Bilbao/Getxo

City

USAC Bilbao students sit in front of a fountain in the city of Bilbao during a semester study abroad
USAC Bilbao students in the city

If you’re a foodie who likes the beach, then the USAC Spain program in Bilbao is a great choice. Located in Spain’s northern coast, one hour from France, you’ll get a taste of the Spanish and Basque Country. Bilbao and Getxo (where most housing is located) are situated in beautiful green mountains that face the ocean, making it possible to hike in the morning and go swimming in the afternoon. A medium-sized city, Bilbao is walkable and easily bikeable. It also happens to be home to the famous Guggenheim museum.

Getxo, where most students live, is a charming, coastal community popular for its beaches, lively nightlife, and diverse cultural activities. It is well connected to downtown Bilbao by subway.

University

USAC Bilbao students learn how to cook traditional Basque cuisine in the Basque Cuisine class during a semester studying abroad in Bilbao, Spain
Participating in the Basque cuisine class

Studying at the University of the Basque Country (UPV) means attending one of the highest ranked universities in Spain with a total enrollment of 35,000. USAC facilities, offices, and classrooms in Bilbao are located at the University’s Business School in downtown Bilbao.

You can easily integrate into the local culture through the Teaching Assistant in the Basque Country (TABC) program, Basque cuisine course, and “intercambio” language exchange partners. You can also choose to direct enroll in classes with local students.

An intensive language approach allows you to complete one to three courses (4-11 credits) of university foreign language in only one semester. Bilbao students of International Business will also find 6 courses taught in English each semester. You can take your academics to the next level by interning or volunteering in the areas of communications, marketing, at NGOs, sports, management consulting firms, and more.

Field Trips & Optional Tours

Students visit the city of Oviedo for a field trip during their semester studying abroad in Bilbao, Spain
Group shot of USAC Bilbao students in Oviedo during a field trip

The Bilbao staff will assure you’ll never be short on things to do. Every Friday you can partake in cultural Fridays where the staff offer a unique cultural immersion experience in and around Bilbao. Included in the program fees are field trips to the French Basque Country and San Sebastian, Urdaibai and Oma, Bordeaux, and Asturias.

You can also participate in optional tours or field studies, like a 70-mile hike across the medieval pilgrim path of Santiago, or a four-day tour to Madrid.

Madrid

City

USAC Madrid students take a tour of the city and stop to take a group photo in front of the Egyptian Temple
Students pose in front of the Egyptian temple in Madrid

The capital of Spain, Madrid is known as one of Europe’s most vibrant and affordable capital cities. If you’re looking for a large city filled with culture, entertainment, cuisine, and sporting interests then Madrid is the best USAC Spain program for you. Madrid boasts some of the finest art museums in the world (often free for students) and has successfully preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets while implementing a modern infrastructure.

If you’re hoping to spend your weekends traveling, Madrid is a great launch pad to other cities in Spain and Europe. The melting pot of all Spain’s regions, there’s never a lack of things to do, see, or experience in Madrid.

University

USAC students in the Drawing Madrid class
USAC Madrid students partaking in the Drawing Madrid class

The Universidad Rey Juan Carlos is a young, public university with about 35,000 students distributed among four campuses. USAC classes are held at the campus located in the Vicálvaro neighborhood and are easily accessible via the subway. The campus combines old and modern buildings and has a new, modern library, along with a gym, computer lab, and two student cafeterias.

As for academics, there’s a focus on Spanish Language, and Spanish and European studies including art history, Spanish cinema, photography, and drawing.

Field Trips & Optional Tours

Group shot of USAC Madrid students in Salamanca on a field trip
Group shot of USAC Madrid students in Salamanca on a field trip

In Madrid, field trips are part of the learning experience. You can choose to participate in organized field trips to places around Spain including Toledo, Las Hoces del Duraton, Segovia, El Escorial and The Valley of the Fallen, La Granja de San Ildefonso, Salamanca. For a small additional fee you can participate in the Basque Country and Andalucia Optional Tours.

San Sebastián

City

Students who are studying abroad stop for a picture on the beach in San Sebastián
Students on the beach in San Sebastián

San Sebastián is an inviting, walkable, lovely coastal city with rich culture, cuisine, and outdoor activities available. Located on Spain’s northern coast, twenty minutes from the border of France, San Sebastián is another great place to experience Spanish and Basque culture. With 180,000 people, San Sebastián is small enough to be friendly and comfortable, while still offering abundant cultural activities all year round.

San Sebastián is the ideal location for students who love the outdoors and want to be near the beach. Often called the “Paris of Spain” for its architectural style and sophistication, you can learn about Basque and Spanish culture by participating in festivals and class trips. Not to miss is the International Film Festival in the fall and a well-known Jazz Festival in the summer.

University

Students learn from local surfing professionals how to surf during their study abroad term in San Sebastián, Spain
Students participate in surfing class in San Sebastián, Spain

Take intensive language courses and earn up to two years Spanish credit in one semester at the Universidad del País Vasco (University of the Basque Country; Euskal Herriko Unibersitatea). The campus boasts 12,000 students and offers immersion opportunities in student university sports and organizations with local students. You can also immerse in the local community through volunteering and internship opportunities, practicing your Spanish with a local language partner and directly enrolling in Anthropology and Psychology classes. San Sebastián has a minor focus on Psychology. Each semester two Psych classes are taught in English and shared with the University of the Basque Country.

Seeing as you’ll be studying in the surfing capital of Europe, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to take a surf class for beginners with great local instructors.

Field Trips & Tours

Students take a photo at Valle de los Caídos, Valley of the Fallen, during a field trip to Segovia on their study abroad in San Sebastián, Spain
Students take a photo at Valle de los Caídos, Valley of the Fallen, during a field trip

When you study in San Sebastián you’ll have the option to participate in field trips to Province of Guipuzcoa, The Pyrenees Mountains, Provence of Biscay, French Basque Country, Santander and Santillana del Mar, and Burgos. You can also join excursions in Spain and the French Basque Country to prehistoric caves, mountains, and traditional fishing villages.

Sign up for the optional Madrid Tour/Field Study and earn credit while exploring one of Europe’s most exciting capital cities.

Valencia

City

Students in front of the Valencia City of Arts and Sciences
Students in front of the Valencia City of Arts and Sciences

The second largest USAC Spain program location, Valencia is a coastal city perfect for the outdoorsy student looking for a combination of beach life and the big city. A bike-friendly city, you can spend the days exploring on two wheels, experiencing Valencian cuisine (birthplace of paella) , the multitude of museums and cultural center. The City of Arts and Sciences is a center point of the city. This complex comprises five main elements: an interactive science center (Principe Felipe Science Museum), l’Oceanografico (Europe’s largest aquarium), a performing arts venue focusing on opera (the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia), an IMAX theater and planetarium (the Hemisferic), and a large outdoor exhibition zone (the Umbracle).

In spring, you have the opportunity to experience and participate in one of the best festivals in the world, Las Fallas. Las Fallas stands for Festival of Fire, the celebration is held in commemoration of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, and to the coming of the spring solstice. Each community in Valencia comes together and creates their own wooden structures representing different characters or images. Once the sun sets, the city lights up as the structures are set on fire and the celebration continues.

University

Students studying abroad in Valencia, Spain can take chemistry classes and learn in labs
Students in the lab during Chemistry class

Valencia is the ideal location for STEM students. La Universidad Politècnica de València (Polytechnic University of Valencia) is ranked in the world’s top 200 universities for Engineering, Technology, and Natural Sciences. An American style campus, UPV has great sports facilities like gyms, swimming pool, climbing walls, beach volleyball and more.

The campus is car-free, includes more than 30 acres of green spaces, and has numerous cafés and terraces where students can enjoy a quick or leisurely meal while enjoying the Mediterranean climate.

You can participate in internships and volunteer opportunities to further enhance your academics. And we definitely recommend taking the windsurfing class for a unique experience you simply cannot get back home!

Field Trips & Tours

Students studying abroad in Valencia take a field trip to Barcelona
Group shot on the Barcelona tour

Take your studies outside the classroom with included field trips, optional tours, and field studies to locations in and around Spain. Included field trips for the Valencia program include visiting La Albufera, Peniscola, Sagunto/Sierra Calderona, Xativa, Denia.

You can also opt for the optional tour and earn credit doing a field study in Barcelona or Madrid.

When finding the best USAC Spain program for you, it’s best to start with asking yourself whether you want to be in the Basque Country or the Spanish country.  If you’re heading to the Basque country and want a small, beach town vibe then head to San Sebastián. If a bigger city known for its museums and food is more your style than plan a term in Bilbao/Getxo.

If you’re still looking for that beach life but with a more Spanish culture, then head to Alicante. If science and a bigger yet still authentically Spanish city are your preferences consider Valencia, and for that big city vibe that has a little bit of everything, head to Madrid!