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USAC Bilbao Program

Fast Facts

Sessions Offered:

Fall, Spring, Summer, Academic Year


Bilbao, Spain




2.5 GPA, good academic and disciplinary standing

Application Due:

Fall & Academic Year:
Feb. 24

Spring: Sept. 24

Summer: Mar. 4

Program Cost

Refer to Application tab for more details

Program Description

Square in Bilbao (Source: Fodor's)

The USAC Bilbao program allows students with a wide range of Spanish language skills the opportunity to improve their Spanish and take elective courses related to international business and Spanish culture. All students enroll in at least one required Spanish language course. Additional elective courses are offered in both Spanish and English. An internship may also be available for students with advanced Spanish skills.

The program is administered by the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), of which the University of Iowa is a member. University of Iowa students earn resident credit for this program.

Academic Program - Semester

Flower sculpture outside Guggenheim Museum (Source: Fodor's)

Students enroll in 12-18 sh per semester:

  • Required Spanish language track (Note: Students can choose to take only the first course (3-4 sh) in the track in order to take more business electives.)
  • Optional Spanish language and literature electives
  • Electives in international business and Spanish cultural studies (in Spanish or English)

All courses are designed and taught by USAC faculty. Classes are held on the Universidad del País Vasco (UPV) campus but are only open to US students participating in the program.

For updated course offerings and descriptions, visit USAC's program webpage.

Academic Program - Summer

USAC Bilbao offers two 4-week programs each summer: Summer Session I and Summer Session II. Students may participate in one or both sessions. During Summer Session I, students take 3-6 sh. During Summer Session II, students take 3-4 sh. One 3-credit course is required during either session. Summer course offerings include beginning to advanced Spanish language, as well as a few business courses taught in English. Students are not required to take a Spanish language course during the summer sessions.

Cultural Activities


Students visit nearby museums, theaters, and cultural sites throughout the program. One-day excursions may offered to locations such as St.-Jean-de-Luz, San Sebastián, Urdaibai, Oma, and Bordeaux. Additionally, a wide variety of activities are offered every week, including hiking, sports, and guided tours. Dates and exact destinations are at the discretion of the Resident Director and vary from semester to semester.

Field Studies

Madrid Field Study

USAC offers an optional tour/field study in Madrid at the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters. This segment of the program carries an additional fee. Students may elect to participate in the four-day tour for fun or in conjunction with a 1-credit field study course, which requires some reflective assignments.

Santiago Field Study

Camino de Santiago in Spain (Source: Unsplash)

Students participating in Summer Session I and/or II may join the optional Santiago tour/field study. During this unique experience, students will hike approximately 70 miles of historic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. Students may elect to participate in the four-day tour for fun or in conjunction with a 1-credit field study course, which requires some reflective assignments. The tour/field study carries an additional fee.

Program Dates

Fall: Late August to mid-December

Spring: Early January to mid-May

Summer Session I: Late May to late June

Summer Session II: Early to late July

For exact program dates, visit USAC's program webpage.

For More Information

Steps to Studying Abroad

  1. Before initiating an application with USAC, students must complete a Discover Study Abroad session at the University of Iowa. 
  2. After completing the Discover Abroad session, students must call the Study Abroad office at 319-335-0353 to be assigned to the appropriate study abroad advisor.
  3. Once assigned, students must meet with their study abroad advisor to receive  program application instructions.

Contact Information

Study Abroad
1111 University Capitol Centre
Iowa City, IA 52242

Phone: 319-335-0353

Universidad del País Vasco

The USAC programs in Bilbao and San Sebastián are hosted by Universidad del País Vasco (UPV). 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 Sebastián. Some university facilities are available to USAC program participants.


Aerial view of downtown Bilbao (Source: Unsplash)

Located in the Basque region in the north of Spain near the French border, both Bilbao and Getxo (where most of the program's housing placements are located) are situated among beautiful green mountains that face the ocean. Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque region with a population of approximately 350,000, and the greater Bilbao region has just under one million inhabitants. It is a walkable city with a modern public transportation system and an international airport with direct flights to most large cities in Europe.

Getxo is a coastal town known for its beaches, lively nightlife, and abundant cultural activities. It is well connected to downtown Bilbao by subway (20-25 minutes away). With a relatively young population and few tourists, Gexto provides many opportunities for students to meet local peers.

Castilian Spanish and Basque are both official languages in Bilbao and the rest of the Basque region. 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. 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.


Situated on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, Spain is a strikingly beautiful and diverse country. The country has the third largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Spain’s distinct regions means there is something for everyone, from lush forests to towering mountains and stunning beaches to vibrant cities, many of which are easily accessible through the country's extensive network of high-speed trains. Widely known for excellent food and art, friendly locals, relaxed lifestyle, Flamenco culture, 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.

U.S. Department of State Country Information

The U.S. Department of State provides safety and security information for every country of the world to help you assess for yourself the risks of travel. Each country information page contains a Travel Advisory, Alerts, and other important details specific to that country that could affect you.

Pay close attention to the entry and exit requirements, local laws and customs, health conditions, and other details to help decide whether traveling to any given country is right for you. Non-US citizen travelers may also wish to seek guidance from the embassy of their country of citizenship. The UI International Travel Policy for Students addresses restrictions on student travel to high-risk locations and engagement in high-risk activities abroad.

Living Arrangements

Apartment facade
Apartment facade in Bilbao (Source: Unsplash)

USAC students participating in this program have two housing options: a Spanish homestay or an off-campus apartment with other USAC students. Most housing placements are located in the coastal town of Getxo within walking distance to the beach and each other. Commuting between Getxo and downtown Bilbao, where the USAC classes are held on the UPV Business School campus, is easy and efficient. The metro makes several stops in Getxo and takes 20 minutes to get to downtown Bilbao.


Students live in Spanish-speaking homes where three meals are provided daily. Homestays are the optimal housing arrangement because of their contribution to the program’s goals of language and cultural immersion.

Shared Apartments

Students seeking an independent environment may prefer to live in shared apartments with other USAC students. Students living in apartments are responsible for their own meals.

Payment of Housing Costs

During the semester, students pay monthly rent to their host family or apartment landlord. Housing costs are not included in the program fee. Students need to budget and have a plan to withdraw the cash needed for rent each month. For summer programs, housing is included in the program fee, although students will need to pay for their groceries/meals (if living in an apartment) or a homestay surcharge that covers meals and laundry (if living in a homestay).


U.S. Citizens

U.S. citizens who do not have a passport should apply for one as soon as possible. More information about how to apply for a passport is available on the U.S. Department of State’s website.

Students with a valid passport should check the expiration date. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the anticipated return to the US from studying abroad. US citizens who need to renew their passport can find more information on the US Department of State’s website. The passport must be renewed before applying for the Spanish visa required for semester or academic year programs.

Expedited processing service is available at an additional cost. UI Study Abroad encourages students to ask the passport agency at the time of application whether expedited service is recommended.

Non-U.S. Citizens

Students who are not U.S. citizens should contact UI Study Abroad ( for information on how to ensure that their passport is valid for the duration of their time abroad.

Travel Arrangements

Students may either book the group flight itinerary through USAC or book flights independently. Participants are responsible for being at the orientation site on time.

Local Transportation

Within the host city and around Spain, students will utilize public transportation such as buses and trains. Spaniards are also very used to walking, so be sure to bring comfortable shoes!


This program is open to UI students who fulfill the following requirements:

  • Minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA: Students must have at minimum a 2.5 cumulative GPA to participate in this program.
  • Good academic and disciplinary standing: Students must be in good academic and disciplinary standing at the University of Iowa. Academic and disciplinary history will also be considered when determining whether a student is prepared to represent the University of Iowa as part of this program. Students who, even after being accepted into a program, are put on either academic and/or disciplinary probation for any period of time overlapping with the study abroad program dates are ineligible to study abroad. In these cases, students must forfeit their acceptance, will not be allowed to study abroad, and are wholly responsible for any and all financial expenses incurred.


Mercado de la Ribera (Source: Fodor's)

The most recent cost sheet for the program is included below. The cost sheet outlines the total estimated costs associated with participating in this program and can be used for financial aid and planning purposes. It includes fees charged on students’ U-Bill (USAC program fee, Study Abroad Administrative Fee, and mandatory Iowa Regents CISI Travel Insurance), 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. Please see the respective websites for further details. Contact the designated UI Study Abroad advisor with questions regarding the cost sheet.

Semester Cost Sheets

PDFCost Sheet for USAC Bilbao, Spring 2020

PDFCost Sheet for USAC Bilbao, Fall 2019

Summer Cost Sheets

PDFCost Sheet for USAC Bilbao, Session I, Summer 2019

Scholarships & Financial Aid

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.


How to Apply

Interested students should make an appointment with the designated UI Study Abroad advisor to discuss the program and the application process. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 319-335-0353. During the appointment, the advisor will provide full application instructions. Note: Application materials will not be reviewed unless a student has already met with the advisor to discuss the program.

The application process consists of the following steps:

• Complete the UI Online Application for Study Abroad. Applicants will be charged a $50 non-refundable application fee. As part of the UI 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.

• Please note that for study abroad programs through Spring 2022, students will not be charged the $50 application fee until travel is assured. If a student chooses to withdraw prior to the application fee being billed, it will not be charged.

• Complete the USAC Online Application.


Acceptance into the applicant's chosen study abroad program is made by USAC directly via an email to the applicant. Additional documents will posted to a USAC Gateway account for the participant.

Application Deadlines

Fall and Academic Year: Feb. 24

Spring: Sept. 24

Summer: Mar. 4

Acceptance & Confirmation Materials

Acceptance and confirmation materials will be posted after the next application deadline.

Health & Safety Planning

All students preparing to study abroad should review the following:

Iowa Regents CISI Health Insurance Information

Students are also encouraged to complete the Health Preparation Guide for International Travelform with their medical practitioner. This document is intended to help you plan for your medical needs abroad. Please DO NOT turn this form in to UI Study Abroad.


U.S. passport holders must obtain a student visa from Spain in order to participate in the semester or academic year program. U.S. passport holders should follow the batch processing visa application instructions provided by USAC. If students do not participate in batch visa processing, they must apply for their student visa independently and present their application by appointment at the Spanish Consulate. The Consulate for all UI students is the Chicago Consulate; it is based the location of one's home university, not the state of origin. Students are ultimately responsible for obtaining the necessary visa to enter Spain.

U.S. passport holders can remain in Spain for up to 90 days without a visa, so no visa is required to participate in one or both of the summer sessions.

Non-U.S. passport holders should consult with USAC regarding their visa requirements.


In order to prepare for your time abroad, you are required by the University of Iowa to complete two orientations. These may be in addition to orientations provided by your on-site provider.

Online Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation

You 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. You will be enrolled in this course by International Programs and an email will be sent to you once enrolled. If you have any questions you can email

Program-Specific Orientation

This orientation will be facilitated by your study abroad advisor and will cover content specific to your program and host country. It could be conducted in a group setting or one-on-one. Your study abroad advisor will send you more information about this mandatory in-person session.