Exchange Diaries: San Sebastian, Spain

Life at Universidad De Deusto

Everything you want to know about life, study and play in the Spanish city of San Sebastian.

Welcome to The University of Wollongong's Exchange Diaries, where you can find out what it's like to study abroad at our partner universities. We ask UOW students to share their stories, tips, and insider knowledge about their time overseas, so you land ready to live like a local.

Today, Bachelor of International Studies - Bachelor of Journalism student Eliza Klosher tells us about her time at the Universidad De Deusto in San Sebastian, Spain.

In January, I moved across the world to study for six months in Spain. The adventure of a lifetime. As nervous as I was to move to a new country knowing no one, the experiences and friends I have made here are unforgettable. As I write this, I am sitting at my desk in my apartment in San Sebastian, something that still excites and shocks me, as I never thought this would happen.

Here are some things you can expect to experience during your time abroad in Spain that should help put your worries at ease. 


If you want to study somewhere you can immerse yourself in culture, the northern Spanish city of San Sebastian is the perfect place. It is a small but lively city surrounded by mountains and two big beaches, which is why it's a famous tourist destination. San Sebastian mixes big city life with a rich Spanish culture.

I bought a skateboard to get around, but everything is within walking distance. You aren't overwhelmed by a lot of people like Madrid and Barcelona. I feel safe around the city and can easily walk home with my friends at night.

Beautiful flowers and greenery fill the city, and the mountain is the backdrop for amazing sunsets. The beaches are perfect for playing volleyball and surfing, and the Old Town nightlife buzzes with excitement. Alleyways are filled with people, bars, and pintxos (like tapas).

The Spanish culture is very relaxed, and you will notice this by walking around. They have siestas, which means most shops close from 2 pm to 4:30 pm so people can nap and relax before opening up again until late at night. If you are thinking of coming here, get ready for dinner to be around 9 pm – a shock when I first arrived.

You do not need to know Spanish to study or live here. I have friends who don't know any, and they get by. You can always take a Spanish class at the University, which is a great way to meet friends when you first arrive. You also get to learn more about Spanish culture.

Student smiling in a cobblestone street in Spain


San Sebastian offers mostly business and communications classes, but I am studying International Studies and found subjects that worked towards my credit points. Most courses are offered in English, so you are grouped with other exchange students making it easy to find new friends. I am currently learning about global and business ethics, and in one class, we are helping NGOs raise money for Ukrainian refugees.

The University is small but vibrant, and the cafeteria offers cheap lunch and coffee. Classes are organised differently from UOW. You get a 20-minute break at the end of the class, meaning you effectively leave 20 minutes early. The teachers are relaxed too. 

The Universidad De Deusto organised my apartment and grouped me with other international students studying abroad. It overlooks the river, with leafy green trees and rowers going up and down the river each morning. I live across from the University and see the sunrise over the Deusto sign. Plus, it's only a 5-minute walk to class along a gorgeous river, which is super convenient and lovely.

Girl standing in front of ivy clad farmhouse


I love San Sebastian because it's so easy to travel everywhere. You can visit other European cities on the weekends by bus, train or car. I have so far travelled to Madrid, Zarautz, Biarritz, Bordeaux, La Rioja and Southern Spain. The city is very close to the French border, so going there for the weekend is super simple.

The University's Erasmus Student Network (ESN) offers exchange students weekly events and cheap trips. They hold Bachata dancing classes every Thursday night, where students learn different forms of Spanish dancing. There are also uni nights with Pintxo y Pote. Streets are filled with students in bars getting cheap drinks and delicious pintxos. They also organise trivia nights, museum visits and weekend getaways.

The Happy Erasmus group is a larger university organiser that plans trips to other countries. I am going on a 5-day Ibiza trip they organised and heading to Morocco for a week-long cultural adventure. It is easy to balance study and travel as you can miss 30 per cent of classes, but it's not the same for every exchange uni.

While there are more assignments, they are smaller, which means you can do them during your downtime travelling from one place to another. I would recommend always trying to do some study on your bus rides as they are long. Make them worth your while by reading and studying.