Which are your fondest memories about your semester in Bilbao?
While it is hard to include all of my favorite memories from my semester in Bilbao, some of my favorite things to do while I was there were:
- Going hiking with friends in the surrounding mountains. On days with nice weather we would try to find our way to the top of one of the mountains that surround Bilbao, giving us great views and a lot of time to spend together.
- Going to the beach with my host moms. On the weekends towards the beginning of the semester, my host moms would take me with them to a beautiful beach close by where we would spend the whole day in the sun chatting in Spanish.
- Weekend excursions to new places near Bilbao. The CIDE program includes various excursions to places near the city of Bilbao, such as taking a day trip to San Juan de Gatzdelugatxe which is stunning! I also enjoyed visiting San Sebastián, Santander, and Burgos with friends on the weekend since they were all a short bus ride away.
- Coffee and study dates with friends. While studying abroad I still had homework and was expected to be prepared for class so weekly coffee and study dates at local coffee shops were some of my favorite memories as they were more of the “real life” aspect while abroad.
- Walking around the city – so much to see! Since I finished classes before lunch, I loved to spend afternoons with friends just walking around the city of Bilbao. The city is not too big so we were able to see quite a bit by the end of the semester and it was very fun to see the liveliness of the city at all times of day.
- Playing soccer with locals and other international students. Finding groups to play soccer with ended up being one of my favorite parts of studying abroad because it was how I met so many of my good friends. I would play soccer about two afternoons a week, rain or shine!
- I also loved going to watch some Bilbao Athletic soccer matches – this was always a very fun event and a way to engage with local culture in a very authentic way!
Which courses did you take? Which ones did you like the most?
While in Bilbao at the Universidad de Deusto, I took Introduction to Hispanic Lingüistics, Panorama of Spanish Literature, Culture, Politics, and Economy of Spain, and Spanish through Gastronomy. Though I enjoyed all of my classes, I really enjoyed my Hispanic Linguistics and Culture, Politics, and Economy of Spain courses because I learned more than I thought I would.
In my Linguistics course I was exposed to a new way of looking at the Spanish language and I was able to learn more about the background to the sounds and accents within the Spanish language which was very interesting to me.
I also enjoyed my Culture, Politics, and Economy of Spain class because I was taught aspects about the culture, politics, and economy that I would not have learned in the United States.
I also enjoyed my Spanish through Gastronomy because I was able to learn a lot about Basque Cuisine while brushing up on my Spanish Grammar. My favorite part about my gastronomy class was going to the Txoko to cook the menu and then eating what we had cooked as a class!
Which other activities did you do?
While I was there, I participated in activities within the university and outside of the university. Within the university, I participated in intramural soccer with other international students as well as pickup soccer and futsal weekly with local students, international students, and other exchange students from different parts of Spain. Playing soccer was one of the best ways for me to meet friends and practice my spanish while doing something I love!
I also taught English weekly to two younger Spanish students from Bilbao. This was a great way to spend time with kids and make a little bit of pocket money. The families I met through giving English lessons were extremely kind and welcoming which also contributed to my positive experience in Spain.
Part of being in Spain meant I was closer to different Spanish cities and countries that I wanted to travel to. I spent some weekends travelling with my new friends to places such as Valencia, Burgos, Barcelona, Madrid, and San Sebastián within Spain and Paris, London, Lisbon and Porto, and Dublin & Galway outside of Spain. While I wanted to travel and see certain places, I also wanted to spend time in Bilbao and weekends with my host family and friends so I tried to stick to travelling every other weekend at most in order to ensure I was still spending time in Bilbao.
I also signed up for the University’s language conversation program (tandem) and met with a local student in order to practice Spanish while she had an opportunity to practice her English. One of my favorite parts about meeting with locals was finding new places in Bilbao that I would not have found or known about if I had not been with a local.
Has studying abroad had an impact on your life? Do you recommend it?
Studying abroad was one of the best decisions of my life. While abroad, I learned so much about the world, others, and myself that I would not have learned without going abroad. Even though I learned a lot in class, I feel as though I learned a vast amount daily outside of the classroom; lessons that aren’t always prominent but when looking back I realize how differently I view the world, life, and myself now. Studying in Bilbao was perfect for me because the city was not too big but still had a big city feel. I also felt as though the University of Deusto was very welcoming and unique in comparison to the universities in the United States. Studying abroad not only helped me to improve my ability to speak Spanish, but it also helped me improve myself as a person. Studying abroad opened my eyes to a new culture, style of life, and people which taught me that “el mundo es un pañuelo” because while it is physically large, there are many similarities between people from all different places. I would definitely recommend studying abroad because it is such a unique opportunity that allows you to expand your horizons while forcing you to become open to many new aspects such as culture, perspectives, and people. I would wholeheartedly recommend studying abroad because it will change your life in the best way possible.