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USAC Bilbao Program

Fast Facts

Sessions Offered:

Fall, Spring, Summer, Academic Year


Bilbao/Getxo, Spain




2.5 GPA and in good academic standing

Application Due:

9/24 for Spring, 2/28 for Fall/Academic Year, 3/4 for Summer

Program Cost:

Click the Application tab.

This summer, semester or academic year program offers intensive language study - up to two years of university language requirements may be met in one semester. Additional courses are taught in English or Spanish and include offerings in Business and Environmental Sustainability. The programs are administered by the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), of which the University of Iowa is a member, and enroll approximately 100 students from many U.S. colleges and universities. UI students earn resident credit for this program.

Academic Program

The USAC programs offer courses at every level of Spanish language study. Intensive Spanish language programs for students at the beginning or intermediate level are designed for rapid improvement in Spanish language skills. Students at the advanced level select from a variety of language and literature courses. All courses are taught exclusively for program participants in Spanish by Spanish faculty, with the exception of the Business and Environmental Sustainability courses.

In the summer, this program offers intensive 3, 5 or 8-week sessions which offer Spanish language and conversation courses. Language classes are available to students of all levels of Spanish fluency. As the classes are intensive, one semester of coursework is completed in one month of classes. Students earn UI resident credit for this program. Some courses satisfy requirements for the Spanish major and minor, while others can be used to fulfill General Education Requirements. Students take between 3 and 6 semester hours in session I and between 3 and 5 semester hours in session II.

UI students earn resident credit which may be applied toward the following General Education Areas: Foreign Language, Historical Perspectives, International & Global Issues, Literary, Visual & Performing Arts and/or Values, Society & Diversity. Credit earned on this program may satisfy requirements for the International Business Certificate or Business majors/minors; several courses may satisfy requirements for the Spanish major or minor. To see an updated list of course offerings for this program, go here.

Program Dates

Spring 2015 session: 1/11-5/15

Summer 2015 session(s): Session I: 5/24-6-29, Session II:7/1-7/30

Fall 2015 session: 9/1-12/17

For More Information

More information about this program is available on the USAC Bilbao/Getxo webpage. Program catalogs are also available at the Study Abroad office on campus. If you are interested in learning more about how this program fits in your academic plan, please make an appointment with Study Abroad Advisor Aubree Compton.


Situated on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, Spain is a strikingly beautiful and diverse country. The country has the second largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, and the largest number of World Heritage cities. Spain’s distinct regions means there is has something for everyone, from lush forests to towering mountains, stunning beaches to vibrant cities, Mediterranean islands and African enclaves. Widely known for excellent food and art, friendly locals, relaxed lifestyle, Flamenco culture, bullfights, fantastic beaches, and lots of sunshine, Spain has been one of the cultural centers of Europe for thousands of years and remains one of the most popular destinations in the world for study and travel.


Bilbao is located in the north of Spain near the French border and has an international airport with direct flights to most large cities in Europe. Both Bilbao and Getxo (where most of the housing placements are located) are situated in an area of beautiful green mountains that face the ocean, making it possible to hike in the morning and go swimming in the afternoon. Close by, there are several picturesque coastal towns with great beaches that are easily accessible by public transportation.

Bilbao is the poster city for successful urban renewal and the spectacular Guggenheim Museum of Art has ushered in an era of international tourism to the area. Bilbao is home to some of the world’s most renowned architecture including: Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum, the Euskalduna Music Hall and Convention Centre, Norman Foster’s Underground, Calatrava’s Bilbao airport, and other projects by architects such as Arata Isozaki and Cesar Pelli. Additionally, the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation has given its approval to expand around Urdaibai's Natural Reserve area. Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque Country with a population of approximately 350,000; the greater Bilbao region has just under 1,000,000 inhabitants. Bilbao was recently recognized by the Eurostat report as one of the top three safest areas in the EU. It is an extremely walkable city with a great transportation system that is efficient and safe. The city includes many pedestrian areas, including the old quarter with shops, restaurants, and coffee houses. There is also a bike path along the riverfront and through the main street of town. Getxo is a charming, coastal community popular for its beaches, lively nightlife, and diverse cultural activities. It is well connected to downtown Bilbao by subway (20-25 minutes away). Getxo is a relatively young town—80% of the population is below the age of 60—and it is not touristy, maximizing the opportunity for students to meet local peers. Getxo is known for its numerous outdoor activities and cultural events including: surfing, canoeing, hiking, rollerblading, paragliding, music festivals, a medieval market, and much more.


Castilian Spanish and Basque are both official languages in Bilbao and the rest of the Basque Country. Basque (or Euskara) is regularly used in all aspects of life, but is never imposed on non-Basque speakers. Taxi drivers, shopkeepers, service representatives, professors, and homestay families all speak clear Spanish whenever a Spanish speaker is present. Spanish is widely used at the university, and you are advised on which classes are taught in Spanish. While it is not necessary to speak Basque to survive in Bilbao, you will find that learning a few words can be an enjoyable experience and open doors to making friends.

Universidad del País Vasco

The USAC programs in Bilbao and San Sebastian are hosted by the University of the Basque Country, although the professors as well as the courses are directly affiliated with the program. Some University facilities are available to program participants. La Universidad del País Vasco (UPV) is a decentralized Spanish university with a student enrollment of approximately 40,000 students distributed over four campuses in Lejona, Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and San Sebastian. Consortium offices, classes and dining facilities are housed on the UPV Bilbao Business School campus. With support from the municipal government and the European Community, the USAC programs have been recognized as centers for the teaching of Spanish language to foreigners. Students from a number of European countries who are preparing to study in Spanish Universities also participate in the program.

Living Logistics

Participants have two housing options: a Spanish homestay or shared apartments with other USAC students and/or international students. Both options are located in the beach town of Getxo. Nearly all housing is within walking distance to the beach, and also very close to each other. Commuting between Getxo and downtown Bilbao, where the Business School is located, is efficient, safe, easy and fairly quick. The metro makes several stops in Getxo and takes 20 minutes to reach downtown Bilbao.


Homestay placements are a great opportunity for students to immerse themselves into the daily life of a Spanish family. Homestays included three meals per day and provide an unmatched opportunity to speak Spanish and learn Spanish and Basque customs. .


Students also have the option to live in shared apartments with other USAC or international students and also with Spaniards. This option is advisable if participants have an independent lifestyle or if they prefer to cook their own meals. Students have the option of sharing a room with another student, or paying to have their own room in the shared apartment.


USAC students with a high level of Spanish are eligible to be placed in a non-paid internship in Bilbao. Students are placed in a Spanish-speaking environment with high exposure to culture and language. Possible placements include: non-profits, consulting firms, marketing firms, museums, software companies, marketing and consultancy agencies. Limited internship placements in an English-speaking environment with no need of fluency or knowledge of Spanish are also available. Please note that placement is not guaranteed by USAC, rather it will be determined by the student's application, supporting materials and an interview with the internship sponsor on site.

Internship eligibility requirements: advanced Spanish level (for Spanish-speaking placements), 3.0 GPA and junior standing at time of internship. A refundable fee of $100 is charged and returned upon successful completion of the internship.

Teaching Assistant in the Basque Country Program (TABC)

Qualified students participating in the Bilbao program will have the opportunity to get full immersion into the local school environment, meet locals, and have firsthand exposure to the local community. Even if participants aren't interested in teaching as a career, the teaching program is an excellent opportunity to add international work experience to one's resume, give back to local children, and learn a little money while living and studying in Bilbao. Teaching assignments will depend on availability and scheduling restraints and range from 3-10 hours per week. Students will assist English teachers in class, create real-life situations for students to practice English, and motivate local children to practice their speaking skills. Students participating in this program are required to take the mandatory 1-credit course TABC: Seminar in Developing Effective Teaching Skills.

Field Trips

Students are encouraged to participate in the included program field trips. Dates and exact locations are at the discretion of the Resident Director and vary from session to session and semester to semester. Common destinations include:


Tour the enchanting city of Oviedo, visit the Sanctuary of Covadonga located in the Picos de Europa National Park, and canoe down the Sella River.

French Basque Country

Explore the picturesque fishing village of St.-Jean-de-Luz, the seaside resort—and surfing—town of Biarritz. Both towns feature stunning shoreline, quaint historic streets of shops and cafes, and other interesting sights.

Province Bizkaia: Gernika and Lekeitio

Visit Gernika, a parliamentary building, museum, the Tree of Gernika, and the fishing village of Lekeitio.

San Sebastián—St. Jean de Luz, France

Visit the ancient city of Bayonne, the fishing and resort village of St. Jean de Luz, and San Sebastián.

Urdaibai and Province Bizkaia

Visit the coastal towns of Bermeo and Mundaka, both attractive port towns with beaches, offshore isles, and historic sights


St. Jean de Luz


Minimum eligibility requirements include good academic standing and a 2.5 grade point average (4.0 scale).

Next Steps and Application

Steps to Completing Your Application

• Before you fill out any applications, please schedule an appointment to meet with Spain Study Abroad Advisor Aubree Compton by calling 319-335-0353. Your application WILL NOT be approved until you've completed this step.

• Fill out the Iowa Online Application for Study Abroad, you will be charged a $50 non-refundable application fee.

• Fill out the USAC Online Application for Bilbao. Be sure to submit a personal statement as part of your application or email it to

**** Reminder: Do not submit the $300 application fee or transcripts to USAC!

• Return your completed UI USAC study abroad cover sheet with your preferred courses and a copy of your passport to the front desk in Study Abroad as soon as possible.

NOTICE: For the Summer Term, this program has Summer I, Summer II, and Summer I & II options. In the UI online application under “Offering” you will be asked to choose between “Codes” A, B, or AB.

Code A=Summer I

Code B=Summer II

Code AB=Summer I & II

Please be careful to choose the correct session that corresponds to the dates you wish to be abroad. If you need help with this, please consult your study abroad advisor.

Application Deadline

The application deadline set for University of Iowa students is February 24 for fall and academic year programs, September 24 for the spring semester program and March 4 for summer sessions.


To see the estimated total cost sheet for Spring 2015, Click herePDF

For the summer 2015 cost sheet (session B) click herePDF

Application Deadline

The online application for the spring session of this program will be available from 8/1 to 9/24. Any supplemental materials are due to the study abroad office one week later.

The application deadline for fall and academic year programs is February 24th. For summer March 4th.

Withdrawal Policy

After applying for a Study Abroad Program, notice of withdrawal must be made in writing to your USAC Program Advisor and the University of Iowa Study Abroad Advisor. The date on which the letter or e-mail message is received is the date by which your costs will be calculated. If for any reason you withdraw after the confirmation deadline and before or during the course of the program, the amount/percentage shown in the following chart represents what you will be required to pay.

Date of Withdrawal Student Financial Responsibility
After Application Administrative fee: $0
Course Fee: $300
After Cancellation Deposit Deadline (varies by program) Administrative fee: $400
Course fee: As determined by the program contract with USAC
After Program Start Date Administrative fee: 100%
Course fee: As determined by the program contract with USAC

Consult with your Study Abroad advisor for any clarification about fees and billing. Note that when you withdraw from a program, any money already paid directly to a program provider and/or a host university will potentially be forfeited. The USAC policy regarding withdrawals and refunds can be found here: USAC Money Matters. Additional penalties for cancellation of airline tickets may also apply. Check with your airline for further details.

Once Accepted into the USAC Bilbao program:

Students will receive an acceptance email directly from USAC confirming their admission into the study abroad program. This email contains information about logging on to each student's individual USAC Gateway account. Please be sure to check this account regularly, as important documents about pre-departure, visa assistance, housing and much more are posted for participants on a weekly basis.

Pre-Departure Orientations in Iowa

University of Iowa students participating in USAC study abroad programs will have two separate pre-departure orientations on campus:

The first orientation is for University of Iowa students attending this and other USAC Spain programs. During this orientation, students receive information on registering for their program on ISIS, payment and billing, course approvals and other practical matters. Students also have the opportunity to ask questions about academics, Spanish culture and other general topics from someone who has lived, studied and worked in Spain.

The second required orientation is the general study abroad orientation for all University of Iowa students going abroad (called 'TIPS'). This orientation covers many practical matters about living overseas, such as Health and Safety, Communication, Money, Goals and much more. This event is usually held on a Saturday afternoon in late autumn/spring.

On-Site Orientation in Spain

Upon arrival in Bilbao, students will attend a mandatory orientation provided by USAC. During this session, participants will be introduced to the country, culture and academic program, and are provided with practical information about living in Bilbao/Getxo. This orientation serves to inform students of issues relevant to their experience and help them make a gradual transition to Spanish life. The orientation includes both structured cultural activities and independent sightseeing. Ongoing support is provided on an individual and group basis throughout the duration of the program.

Optional Madrid Tour

Students have the option of participating in an optional Madrid Tour prior to the beginning of the semester in Bilbao. Students on the tour will stay at a centrally located hotel and spend four days discovering the history and art of Madrid. Students will take bus trips to the medieval city of Toledo, Valley of the Fallen, and the town of Segovia, famous for its Roman aqueduct and castle. Students will also visit several sites within the city of Madrid.

***Please note that the optional Madrid tour has an additional fee. Students participating in the Madrid tour will be transported to Bilbao at the conclusion of the tour by USAC staff. Students who do not participate in the Madrid tour will be responsible for their arranging their arrival to the program city.