This study abroad program will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience that surveys the broad themes of biology and connects them not only to one another, but to our lives and our place in the world. The program will take place in Santander, on the beautiful northern coast of Spain. Led by UT professor Dr. Steven Phelps, the program consists of two courses over Summer I — one in Human Biology, one in Spanish Language and Culture. Both count toward graduation requirements of biology and anthropology majors.

The program will run from May 26, 2020 to July 4, 2020. The deadline to apply is February 1, 2020.

Click here to learn about scholarships, financial aid, and the “real cost” of study abroad. The program cost last year was $4300, which included room and board for the duration of the program, as well as travel costs related to course excursions. We have substantial scholarships available based on both need and merit, each with a value ranging from $500-$4000. In addition, students who receive Pell grants are eligible to apply in the spring for up to $5000 from the Gilman Scholarship Program. The program funds nearly a third of eligible applicants, and last year nearly 200 students at UT received a Gilman Scholarship. Of four students who applied to the Gilman from our program, 2 students were funded. Those are good odds!

For more information you can contact the program coordinator, Jean Ooi at, or Dr. Phelps at

Already interested? Apply here! The application requires two short essays (250 words), and a short recommendation form filled out by a faculty member. An additional short essay is required for scholarship applications.

Playa Sardinero

Playa Sardinero


The program will take place at the University of Cantabria, a regional university with a long history of hosting study abroad programs not only in collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin, but with colleges and universities from around the world. Santander is a small coastal city of about 180,000 people, where you can escape Austin’s summer heat — expect high temperatures of about 70F.

A little to the east is Bilbao, in the Basque country, home to the famous Guggenheim Museum. And not much farther is France. West of Santander a couple hours is Portugal. There will be no shortage of things to explore during the class and over your long weekends.

Here are some links that highlight interesting things to do in and around Santander:

UT student and Global Ambassador Lisa Duong fell in love with Santander’s beaches and food, while the art and people won her heart. Read her blog posts to get a first-hand account of the student experience in Santander.

Altamira Cave

Altamira Cave


BIO 346 is an upper division biology class that will connect the themes of epigenetics, genetics and evolution to societal forces and contemporary concerns, to recent and ancient history, and to our evolutionary relationships with other organisms. Examples will be drawn from the history of the Iberian Peninsula and coupled with multiple day trips, embedding the coursework within the international experience. A draft of the syllabus is linked to here. BIO 325 is a prerequisite for this course.

Northern Spain has a variety of features that make it an unusually good site for this The recent history of the Spanish Civil War will serve as a backdrop for our discussion of epigenetics and society. Stepping a bit deeper into local history, the Iberian Peninsula has played a central role in the movements of people out of the Middle East and into Europe, beginning with the emergence of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent some 10,000 years ago. The peopling of Europe and the evolutionary imprint left by the origins of agriculture are major topics of the class. Next, northern Spain is home to some of the most extraordinary records of pre-historic art — 18 UNESCO world heritage sites in total — and one of the richest assemblages of hominin fossils. Hominin fossils in northern Spain date back well over a million years, including not only humans and Neanderthals, but also their ancestors. These artifacts play a major role in our understanding of human evolution, and we will visit key archaeological sites as part of our course excursions. Lastly, a world-class National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid offers the opportunity for students to place human evolution in a broader context, offering an enormous array of biological specimens and a major research facility. Each of these will play a role in linking the themes of the class to our extraordinary surroundings.

Bodega del Riojano

Bodega del Riojano


Students will have an option of one of two Spanish classes. SPN 319S will provide introductory instruction in Spanish language and culture, offering insights into the culture and history of Spain. SPN 319S has no prerequisites. Heritage speakers and other students with high Spanish proficiency will enroll in SPN 328C, an advanced course on Spanish Literature and Culture. Enrollment in SPN 328C requires demonstrated proficiency or credit in SPN 611D, SPN 612, or SPN 312L. Heritage speakers can place into SPN 328C by taking a proficiency test offered monthly by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Either SPN 328C or 319S can count toward foreign language and culture requirements for students in the College of Natural Sciences.

To enrich your experience and help keep costs down, housing will be providing through home stays with local families.