Universidad de Deusto

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On this page, you can find information about the Universidad de Deusto, situated in the beautiful city of Bilbao. First, there is an extensive rating of aspects that fall under the categories of culture, study and finances. Second, we are happy to present an interview with a 3rd-year IRIO student who is currently studying in Bilbao. 

Interview with a 3rd-year IRIO student


How did you find where to spend your semester abroad? How did the application go? Was it your first choice?


Initially, I wanted to go to Australia because a significant part of my family lives there and the country has interested me for many years. In fact, the Australian National University was my first choice, but I was eventually not selected to go to there. As going on an exchange to Australia is quite expensive compared to Spain, I wanted a Spanish university to be my second option. Besides, I had chosen to do a Spanish language minor during my first year of studying IRIO and wanted to improve my proficiency of the language. Thus, I started to look for the websites of several Spanish universities, thereby focusing mostly on the academic offer and the facilities that are provided. Soon after that, I stumbled upon the University of Deusto (Universidad de Deusto in Spanish), which is a rather prestigious Spanish private university situated in Bilbao, in the Basque Country. Not only did the academic offer grab my attention (courses such as “Geopolitics”, “Civic and Professional Ethics”, “Africa, America and Asia in International Relations” and “Global History” are offered to IR students and there are many more options in other faculties), but the city also seemed to be very nice, combining historical sites with impressive postmodern architecture and hosting many cultural events. Moreover, the Basque Country has quite a rich history of separatism and Basque nationalism, reinforced by the Basque language – Euskera – which is still very much alive today, even – if not especially – among the younger generations. In fact, during the university’s official welcome ceremony, I was welcomed to what was called “a country within a country”. As this issue interests me, Bilbao seemed to be a perfect destination. Indeed, it is very interesting to get to know the Basque culture and to see how the inhabitants of this region think about the Spanish government, Basque identity and the relatively recent history of dictatorship, sub-state conflict and terrorism in a European country. It is also fascinating to see how people respond in different, in many senses opposing, ways to the referendum on independence that was held in Catalonia during my stay. Thus, this destination became my second choice and several weeks after handing in all necessary documents and application forms, I received a mail stating that I was selected to go on an exchange to Bilbao. In the end, I am very happy with my choice and would not have picked any other place. Not even Australia. The courses I am taking are “Geopolitics”, “Private International Law”, “Global History”, “Social Psychology” and “Spanish” (C1.1 and C1.2). Most courses have a value of 6 ECTS each.


What were the requirements for you to go to this place?


I do not remember whether there were any specific requirements, so if you want to be sure, you should ask the (very friendly) employees of the Mobility Office or consult the Student Portal. I just made sure to successfully complete my language minor (Spanish Basic) before departure and to hand in a declaration, signed by my professor, that stated that I was going to obtain a certain level by the end of the Spanish minor, along with the other application documents. However, to be able to go to Australia, I had to complete an English test and obtain a minimum score. I took the TOEFL test, for which I had to pay around 200 to 250 and travel to Arnhem. Nevertheless, if you have successfully managed to study IRIO for a year (a degree that is completely taught in English), you will easily obtain the required score (I got 115 out of 120 points) and taking this test is not required if you want to study at the University of Deusto.


What was/is your favourite sightseeing spot there?


My favourite place would probably be San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, which is a precious small island off the coast of Biscay (look it up on Google!). Those who have watched the seventh season of Game of Thrones may recognise it, because several scenes were shot at this location. However, there are many more places to discover, such as the Guggenheim Museum (a must-see if you like contemporary art; if you want to visit it at night, when there is a DJ playing and drinks available, you should go to “Art After Dark”, which is organised monthly on Fridays), the Fine Arts Museum, the Alhóndiga (a cultural centre with a really cool swimming pool), the San Mamés football stadium, the “La Ribera” food market, the forest of Oma (a forest that has painted trees which, when standing at a specific point, form big natural pieces of art), San Sebastián, Bermeo, Guernica, the coast and beaches of Biscay, the old city centre, the modern architectural masterpieces, the Vizcaya bridge, the rural areas, hills, caves and forests surrounding Bilbao if you like hiking, and the many parks and churches in the city and villages surrounding it.

What was/is your favourite local food there? Are there any surprising dishes we need to know about?


Basque gastronomy is world-renowned and it therefore is no surprise that the Basque Country is the region with the highest per capita concentration of restaurants that have been awarded one or more Michelin stars. The region truly has its own cuisine and, besides the language, the food is probably one of the most important elements of Basque identity. Some must-tries are pintxos in general and gildas in particular (a type of pintxo containing olives, anchovies and peppers), txipirones en su propia tinta (squid in its own ink), bacalao a la Vizkaina (cod prepared the Basque way), or any other type of fish or seafood, Idiazábal cheese (made of sheep milk) and morcilla (sausage made of blood and rice). I also really enjoyed fideuá (a paella-like dish that contains noodles instead of rice), bonito con (salsa de) tomate (a tuna-like fish in tomato sauce), migas (bread crumbs) with grapes, lentils with chorizo, tortilla de patata, chickpeas, jamón ibérico (Iberian ham) and beans. To drink, there are many different types of cider, wine (Txakoli is white wine from the Basque Country), beer, cava and champagne. Even on a low budget you can have a lunch in a traditional cervecera situated in the countryside, where you eat things like roasted chicken, mussels, fries, squid, salad, pimientos de Gernika (green peppers from Guernica), etcetera outside of an old, traditional country house. I went to one called “El Molino”, which I can absolutely recommend. You can also choose for the so-called “Pintxopote” and go to, for example, the Plaza Nueva, where you can buy a drink and a pintxo for around €1 to €1,50. Lastly, to satisfy your sweet tooth, you can try bollos de mantequilla (butter buns, or bread that is similar to brioche filled with a butter cream), turrones, polvorones (Spanish shortbread), palmeras de chocolate, carolinas (meringue tart), pastel ruso and huesitos de santo (marzipan sweets, only available during the end of October and the start of November).


Were/are there many green spaces to relax, such as cool parks?


In general, Bilbao is a very green city and it has several parks. Besides, there are many activities that you can do on or around the river Nervión. However, it’s also definitely worth the effort to take the metro (public transport is cheap and functions very well) and explore the nature surrounding Bilbao, including the coast of Biscay and its incredible beaches. Compared to the rest of Spain, it rains a lot in the Basque Country, but compared to the Netherlands, going to Bilbao is an improvement if you don’t like rain, wind and low temperatures. Due to the mild climate (Bilbao is very close to the sea), the average temperature is higher than that of the Netherlands and the summer lasts very long.

Did/do you practice any sports or were you active in other associations there?


I was not active in any particular association. The university does have facilities for this and is rather socially oriented (promoting inclusion, solidarity and cooperation), but there are not as many student associations as in Groningen. Moreover, many, though not all, organisations that offer part-time volunteering jobs require excellent knowledge of the Spanish language (C2 level). The university does offer sports facilities and has teams participating in several sports competitions. When I was doing my exchange, it was constructing an on-campus sports complex, which must be finished by now. The university also organises many religious and cultural activities (it is very religiously oriented, which does not influence the content of the classes, but in every classroom there is a crucifix and the university’s main building even has several religious statues and a chapel). The four pillars forming the foundation of the university’s social activities are culture, sports, solidarity and faith. I had a subscription to a gym called “Bai! Gym”, which is a very good, but rather expensive one (€120 for three months). In general, gyms are quite expensive compared to Dutch ones (for cheap ones, make sure to live close to a Basic Fit). I also really liked running along the river, which is free and allows you to explore the city. A good friend of mine decided to play football in a local team, which has been a great way for her to get to know people from Bilbao and make some really strong friendships.


Did/do you go out a lot? Where should we definitely go?


I don’t go out a lot, but from what I have experienced, I can assure you that Bilbao has a very rich nightlife. There are countless bars where you can have a drink and/or eat pintxos (try “Deustoarrak” for example, which is a bar where many locals living in the “Deusto” neighbourhood go). Moreover, there are several clubs that are very popular among both local and exchange students (the most important ones are called “Back&Stage” and “Flash”). There is one street called “Poza” or “Pozas” which is amazing for those who like to go out at night. The city has something to offer for everyone, from bars that organise Pintxopote, to clubs and bars where you can play pool all night long. If you go, please make sure not to miss “Aste Nagusia” or “Semana Grande”, which is celebrated annually over 9 days following the 15th of August. It is a week full of partying, fireworks and music. I have missed most of the partying, but I have been able to watch the fireworks every day. On one of these days, I was having a dinner with my host family and many of the family’s friends on a roof terrace, which was one of the best experiences I have had during my exchange.

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