My visit to the Hemingway Institute in Bilbao

13 Oct 2022

During the summer of this year, I wanted to find a way to improve my Spanish speaking abilities, spend time in a Spanish-speaking country and take part in a volunteering project. After some searching online, I found the answer: a Spanish course with the Hemingway Institute combined with volunteering in an animal shelter.

I signed up to do level C1 and went to the airport on the 19th June feeling excited and nervous. I had chosen to stay with a host family instead of in the student apartments the language school offered as, for me, it was important to be as fully immersed as possible. The family I stayed with was very kind, helpful and always open to answer any questions I had about the city. I enjoyed spending the evenings talking to them in Spanish and learning new things about Bilbao, especially its history.

Lessons at the Hemingway Institute started in the morning and lasted two hours, followed by a lunch break. There were two more hours of lessons in the afternoon and then we were free to do what we wanted. The teachers were very friendly and supportive during and outside of classes. I felt the timetable was really well organised, as we spent four intensive hours in lessons improving our Spanish, but still had plenty of time to relax and go sightseeing. I spent my time either at the volunteering or exploring the city and nearby locations. One of my favourite things I did was to go up to the Mount Artxanda viewpoint via mountain train. The views over the city were beautiful and it was the perfect place to have a picnic. I also went to the beach in Neguri, visited the Museo de Bellas Artes and went on some trips to San Sebastián, the Hanging Bridge and Guernica.

One thing I really enjoyed about my course was the arranged activities in the evenings. There was a pinchos evening, a trip to the famous Guggenheim Museum, and even wine tasting. On Friday afternoons, the teachers took us to a local café to have a drink and eat more pinchos as a way to get to know other students taking Spanish classes at different levels and practice speaking in a more relaxed setting.

I really enjoyed my two weeks in Bilbao. Not only did I learn more about the culture and become more independent, but I also noticed improvements to my Spanish abilities. I felt more confident when speaking and more able to understand what I was hearing all around me. I had enrolled to study Spanish at university in October and found this two-week course a fantastic way to refresh, extend and consolidate my Spanish abilities.

I look forward to doing a similar intensive and immersive course in the future.

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