Return to the search form Return to your search results

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.

Academic Program

Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum

This program offers a high-quality educational experience in two academic areas: International Business and Spanish Language Studies. These programs are not exclusive of one another; students may chose courses from both areas. All students are expected to take Spanish language coursework, although no prior language study is required to participate. A 3 sh internship may also be available. The program is administered by the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), of which the University of Iowa is a member.

The list of current courses can be found here: USAC Course Offerings

University of Iowa resident credit is granted for this program.

Program Dates

Old Quarter in Bilbao

Students can study on this program for a semester, academic year, or summer session. Two month-long sessions are offered each summer and students can attend one or both. Check the USAC webpage for exact program dates USAC San Sebastián Calendars.

Sessions run approximately:

Fall: Early September to mid-December

Spring: Mid-January to mid-May

Session I: Late May to late June

Session II: Early July to early August

Cultural Activities and Excursions

Field Trips

Participants are encouraged to participate in the included program field trips. In addition to the including program field trips, students also have field trips as part of many of their courses and have numerous informal activities that expose them to the local culture as well. Dates and exact locations are at the discretion of the Resident Director and they vary from session and session and semester to semester. Common destinations include the following: Asturias, French Basque Country and San Sebastian, Navarra, Bayonne, St. Jean de Luz, Urdaibai and Oma.

Tours and Field Studies

USAC encourages every student to participate; however, this segment of the program is optional for an additional fee. Participants will sign up for the tour or register for the field study on the Course and Tour Registration Form. Be sure to reserve a spot early as the tour fills quickly.

Madrid Tour and Field Study

Students on the tour will stay at a centrally located hotel and spend four days discovering the artistic and historic charms of Madrid. Participants 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, and visit many sites within the city of Madrid. USAC encourages every student to participate in the Madrid tour; however, this segment of the program is optional for an additional fee. It can be taken either semester as a tour for pleasure or as a 1-credit field study course. Participants sign up for the tour or register for the field study on their Course and Tour Registration Form. Be sure to reserve a spot as the tour fills early; the fall deadline is July 1 and the spring deadline is November 1.

Santiago Tour and Field Study

On the Santiago Tour/Field Study, participants will hike for four days on the last 100 kilometers of the medieval pilgrim path of Santiago. The Camino de Santiago is a spiritual journey that pilgrims of all faiths and backgrounds have traversed for over a thousand years. Participants will experience this truly unique, introspective journey while learning more about Spain's history and culture.

Embedded, Credit-Bearing Internships

USAC internships are rich resources for academic and professional development particularly in a study abroad setting. USAC internships are considered courses and count as part of one's credit load. They can be time-consuming, but are very worthwhile. Students are placed in a Spanish-speaking environment, with high exposure to culture and language, and must be able to communicate at the Track IV level (ie have completed Intermediate Spanish II. Interns earn credits but no financial compensation. The schedule and the number of work hours will be determined by the schedule of USAC courses.

USAC will attempt to place students in a field related to the student’s interest, although placement depends on availability and qualifications. Previous placements have included: an art gallery, a primary school, a business incubator, a local high school, non-profit organizations, and extracurricular activities/tutoring for disadvantaged youth. If interested in a particular field that is not mentioned above, it is of utmost importance to contact the USAC office at least three months in advance so that the internship coordinator can attempt to find something that suits the participant. Placement is not guaranteed by USAC, rather it will be determined by the student's application and supporting materials and an interview with the internship sponsor on site. For most positions, students will be required to attend orientation training sessions at the beginning of the internship.

Eligibility—enrollment in the Madrid program, a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, and junior standing at the time of the internship. Students must submit their resume in English and Spanish and the application forms at least eight weeks in advance, and include a short essay in Spanish describing what they hope to achieve as an intern. A refundable fee of 100 EUR is charged and returned upon successful completion of the internship.

Teaching Assistant in the Basque Country (TABC)

Qualified students participating in this program will have the opportunity to get full immersion into the local school environment, meet local people, and have firsthand exposure to the local community. Even if one isn't interested in teaching as a career, this is an excellent opportunity to add experience to a resume, to give back to local children, and to earn a little money while living in Bilbao. Teaching assignments will depend on availability and scheduling restraints and range from 2 to 5 hours a week. Students will assist English teachers in class, helping them out, creating real-life situations for students to practice, and motivating local kids 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. The TABC program is offered during the semester programs only.

For More Information

Aubree Compton, Senior Advisor
The University of Iowa
Office for Study Abroad
1111 University Capitol Centre
Iowa City, IA 52242-1802

Phone: 319-335-0353


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 Accommodations

Apartment facade

Most housing placements are located in the beach town of Getxo within walking distance to the beach and 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 get to downtown Bilbao.


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


Shared apartments with other USAC students or locals. These offer a bit more independence and you will be responsible for your own meals.

More information about housing can be found on USAC's webpage:Living Accommodations for San Sebastián

Housing Fees

During the semester, students pay monthly rent and the housing fee is not included in the course fee. Students will need to have a plan and budget in place to withdraw the amount needed for rent monthly. For summer programs, apartment housing is included in the course fee- homestay has a surcharge.


This program is open to all UI students who are in both good academic and also disciplinary standing. Applicants must also meet the minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5. Participants must remain in good academic and disciplinary standing with the university until departure. If the applicant is not in good standing at the end of the semester, student acceptance will be revoked and the student will be responsible for the associated withdrawal fees.

Program Cost Sheet

Downtown Bilbao

Spring 2017 Cost SheetPDF
Summer I 2016 Cost SheetPDF

Summer I & II 2017 Cost SheetPDF

These documents outline the total estimated costs associated with participating in this program and can be used for financial aid purposes. It includes fees charged on students’ U-Bill, as well as out-of-pocket expenses. Actual out-of-pocket expenses will vary from individual to individual. Quoted estimates are conservatively high, yet realistic.

The cost sheet includes the Study Abroad Administrative Fee and Mandatory Iowa Regents CISI Travel Insurance. Please see the respective websites for further details. If the fee is inclusive of UI tuition, it is calculated by Current Tuition. Please contact Aubree Compton with questions regarding this cost sheet – call 319-335-0353 to schedule an appointment.

Upfront, out of pocket expenses

Some costs are incurred prior to departure and will be due before financial aid/scholarships disperse. Here are the expected upfront costs for USAC:

  • USAC Application Fee $100
  • Iowa Application Fee $50
  • Spanish Visa (semester only) approximately $160
  • Refundable Housing Deposit $300
  • Airline Ticket $1,000-$1,400

Optional additional fees paid to USAC

These fees are all optional and not included in the course fee for the program. The cost should be paid directly to USAC through the Gateway account, failure to pay will result in USAC withholding transcripts.

  • Optional Tours
  • Course Fees

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Getxo, suburb of Bilbao

Most financial aid (scholarships, grants, and loans) is applicable to study abroad programs. Please check the Study Abroad website for information on financial aid and how it may be applied to studying abroad. You are also encouraged to speak with someone at the Office of Student Financial Aid to explore financial aid options.


Scholarship opportunities exist for study abroad participants. Please explore Study Abroad’s websites for UI Study Abroad Scholarship Opportunities, and Non-UI External Awards.


Federal Pell Grant recipients are eligible to apply for the Gilman Scholarship

Withdrawal Policy

After applying for a Study Abroad Program, notice of withdrawal must be made in writing to the student's USAC Program Advisor and Aubree Compton at the University of Iowa. The date on which the letter or e-mail message is received is the date by which student withdrawal costs will be calculated. If for any reason the participant withdraws after the early admission period, after confirming, or before or during the course of the program, the amount/percentage shown in the following chart represents what the student will be required to pay.

Program Deposit: The USAC application deposit is waived for UI students. If the participant withdraws from the program after the early application period closes, the University of Iowa will charge the student's U-Bill for these fees ($300 minimum).

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 Study Abroad Advisor Aubree Compton for any clarification about fees and billing. Note that when withdrawing 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 the airline for further details.

How to Apply

Steps to Completing Student Application for Study Abroad Participation

• Before filling out any applications, please schedule an appointment to meet with Aubree Compton, Study Abroad Advisor for Bilbao, Spain by calling 319-335-0353. The student's application WILL NOT be approved until this step has been completed.

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

• Submit the $100 non-refundable application fee to USAC

• Do not submit a transcript, this will be done on the student's behalf

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

• As part of the Iowa Online Application for Study Abroad applicants will need to upload a copy of their passport picture page and a list of courses to take while abroad.

NOTICE: For the Summer Term, this program has Summer I, Summer II, and Summer I & II options. In the UI online application under “Offering” applicants 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 preferred dates abroad. If assistance is needed, please consult Aubree Compton, Advisor.

Post Acceptance

Acceptance into the applicant's chosen study abroad program is made by USAC directly via an email to the applicant, which will refer to additional documents posted to a USAC Gateway account that will be created for the participant.


US passport holders should follow the batch process instructions provided by USAC (semester only), otherwise participants must apply for their student visa independently. The consulate for all UI students is the Chicago consulate (it's based the location of one's home university, not state of origin). Students applying for their visa independently should utilize this visa guide: Student Visa Instructions for Spain

Group Flight

Students may either book the group flight through USAC (see Gateway for more details) or can book a flight independently. Participants are responsible for being at the orientation site on time, as USAC fines individuals who are late.


In order to prepare for study abroad, all participants are required by the University of Iowa to complete two orientations. These may be in addition to orientations provided by USAC on-site.. See below for more information.

Online Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation

All study abroad participants are required to complete the International Programs online “Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation” course distributed through ICON prior to departure. This orientation is mandatory for all students going abroad under the auspices of the University of Iowa. It covers many practical matters about living overseas, such as health and safety, communication, money, goals and much more. All participants will be enrolled in this course by International Programs and an email will be sent to the student once enrolled. Any question regarding this component can be directed to:

Program-Specific Orientation

This orientation will be facilitated by Aubree Compton and will cover content specific to your program and host country. It could be conducted in a group setting or one-on-one depending on your type of planned activity abroad. Aubree will provide the date and time for this mandatory in-person session during the application process.