Image of Museum

Experience 6 – “My heart still belongs to the beautiful Basque country.”

Natalie O'Byrne

Posted: 13 June, 2017

After finding out that I was going to el País Vasco I was slightly disappointed. I knew nothing about Bilbao and had heard it was a very grey and industrial city. Upon arriving, I was delighted to discover that although at times grey, the city was just on the cusp of an economic and cultural boom.

I initially lived with three Irish girls on the Calle Lehendakari, just down the road from the Universidad de Deusto, but after realising that I was learning no Spanish whatsoever (I was completing an LCS degree in English which didn’t help matters) I decided it was time to leave our safe little Irish nest and fly! I found a tiny box room in a beautiful apartment overlooking the river, with a stunning view of the Guggenheim Museum. My housemates were two girls, one from Galicia and one from Bilbao and that is when I really began to feel truly immersed in the Spanish & Basque way of life.

What delighted me in particular about Bilbao is that I never found myself bored, as can happen at home in Cork. I spent many an afternoon in the Guggenheim Museum and in the Museo de Bellas Artes, and one of my favourite jaunts became the Crazy Horse pub that was located opposite the Guggenheim. I remember my favourite tipple was Tia Maria and milk (uht milk!), enjoyed with tortilla. A strange combination, but I still have very fond memories of our times there (I am still chuckling to myself when I recall the strange looks we attracted for our ‘unusual choice’ of snack).


I quickly made friends with a group of girls from a London University, along with my group from UCC; but my two dearest friends, that I still am in touch with now, were Grainne from Offaly and Marika from Sweden. What great adventures we enjoyed together! My favourite part of the Erasmus year was the travelling we got to indulge in. We travelled all over Spain & got to see how our friends from UCC were getting on in Barcelona, Seville & Burgos. We spent many a weekend exploring the rugged northern coast sampling the traditional Basque food and hospitality. My heart still belongs to the beautiful Basque country which I would argue is the unanticipated crown jewel of Spain.

Overall, the Erasmus year was an unexpectedly rich experience, and for me personally, it was the catalyst after which I really blossomed and bloomed. I believe it has impacted me in interesting ways, in the sense that I have always found myself career-wise in multicultural environments –I am now in UCC which is extremely diverse and colourful. My boyfriend is Italian and that union of cultures and experiences is very exciting to me, and I can say for sure that that spark started to glimmer during my Erasmus trip to the beautiful Euskadi.

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