Our most recent guest is Emily Johnson, who studied at the University of Deusto in the summer of 2018. Let us take a look at what she has to say!
When did you study at the University of Deusto? What do you remember about your stay in Bilbao?
«I studied at the University of Deusto in Bilbao for two months in the Summer of 2018, immediately following my Sophomore year of college. In undergrad at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I majored in political science, Spanish, and global studies, and Basque Country seemed like a perfect place for these interests to converge.
My life in Bilbao was absolutely ideal. I lived with a host mom who helped me immensely improve my Spanish, and who cooked me three delicious meals every day. My classes were engaging and forced me to leave my linguistic comfort zone, picking up colloquial expressions and working on my pronunciation. My life outside of class was a dream – on a typical day, I would go to the beach after school, hike up to one of the beautiful vistas overlooking the city, or look at Bilbao’s gorgeous architecture. On the weekends, I attended surrounding towns’ festivals, such as Sanfermines (the running of the bulls) in Pamplona, the Paellak paella festival in Getxo, and the BBKlive music festival.
I especially recommend studying in Bilbao, or the Basque Country in general, if you have the chance. My impression is that when foreigners think of Spain, their minds automatically jump to Barcelona, Madrid, or a beach town in the South. However, I found the Basque Country to be exceptionally beautiful, with a combination of lush mountains, quiet beaches, and vibrant cities like Bilbao and San Sebastian. Additionally, the food and culture are distinct from the rest of Spain, creating a unique experience that stands out from any other place.»
Would you recommend studying abroad to other students?
«Yes! Studying abroad, especially in a country that speaks another language, amplifies the number of work and academic opportunities you have in the future. Because of my study abroad experience, I gained confidence in my Spanish-speaking ability and spent a year at a job where I primarily spoke Spanish with clients. I also think my time in Bilbao is a major reason I was selected for my current position teaching and working in Madrid. While in Madrid, I have volunteered in the community and made friends with madrileños, all because I can speak Spanish and have an understanding of local culture.
On a more personal level, studying abroad is an enriching experience that frankly makes you a more interesting and resilient person. A typical university program doesn’t give you a ton of opportunities to immerse yourself in a place where no one speaks your language or shares your background. Naturally, if you can find this kind of experience, you will gain skills and a mindset that will serve you in the future.»
You are now in Madrid, what are you doing there?
«Now I am spending the first half of 2021 in Madrid, teaching English at a secondary school on a Fulbright scholarship. In school, I help students ages 12 – 18 improve their English skills, and serve as U.S. cultural ambassador, teaching lessons on American holidays, politics, and education.
Outside of the classroom, I keep busy volunteering with local organizations working in refugee resettlement, and spending every free minute exploring the city and trying new foods! I am constantly impressed by the intelligent design of Spanish cities. I love the high concentration of relaxing parks, enriching museums, and the ability to walk, hop on a bus, or take a metro to any place in the city that interests me. I think there are few better places to be a young and curious person than Spain.»