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Kategorie: ‘Bilbao’

Internship in Bilbao

October 2nd, 2023 | by
  • Automotive Engineering and Transport M.Sc.
  • Spain, Bilbao
  • FEV Iberia SI.
  • 04/2023 – 09/2023

Application

I wanted to join the Erasmus mobility internship program with the primary goal of gaining international and intercultural experience. An important aspect of my application was that there was no formal process needed, as I had been working with the host company, FEV Consulting GmbH, for approximately half a year as a working student prior to this experience. This established connection eased out the process and facilitated my placement abroad. The choice of Bilbao, Spain as my destination was motivated by my desire to explore a country I had barely visited before, offering me the opportunity to dive into a new culture and language. Moreover, the presence of a FEV Consulting GmbH office in Bilbao made it a fitting location for my internship.

Accommodation and Living Expenses

Finding accommodation in Bilbao proved to be an interesting challenge, as my internship did not align entirely with the typical Erasmus semester. Student accommodations were already occupied, leaving little available options. Luckily, I found a shared apartment on idealista.com, where I lived with young professionals from Spain between the city districts Sarriko and Deusto. The apartment, although located slightly outside the city center, provided a comfortable place to live at a cost of 500€ per month, which included all expenses and even a cleaning service for common areas. It was recently renovated, though my private room was not particularly spacious, and the flat lacked a common living room outside of the kitchen. For future participants seeking accommodation in Bilbao, I recommend joining Facebook or WhatsApp groups for Erasmus students in advance to explore shared housing options. Alternatively, living in a hostel for an initial month while searching for a permanent flat is a viable option. Being present in the city allows for more convenient flat viewing. Important to highlight is not to search for a flat south of Calle Autonomia and the city district San Francisco. Crime rates a quite high and walking in the streets at night can be dangerous as many people get robbed there, even at daytime. Regarding living expenses, I found that approximately 350€ per month covered food and going out. Food prices were comparable to Germany, while drinks in bars were notably more affordable in Spain.

Internship

During my internship, I had an official eight-hour workday contract, although my effective working hours exceeded that throughout the entire internship. Within the consultancy firm, my responsibilities primarily involved desktop research and preparing presentations for the strategic management level of our clients. A significant highlight of my internship was to write my master’s thesis during a customer project, where I developed a Microsoft Excel model for assessing the cost of the battery recycling ecosystem. I also had the opportunity to give presentations in front of the customer, taking on additional responsibilities. Surprisingly, I found no significant cultural or professional differences when compared to the German offices of the company. This allowed me to seamlessly integrate into the work environment while making friends with my Spanish colleagues. The key takeaways in terms of work were advancing my proficiency in Microsoft Excel and internalizing the tools of a consultant. As the corporate language of the company is English, I couldn’t improve my Spanish language skills in the everyday work environment. Therefore, I remotely attended an intensive Spanish course at RWTH Aachen University with a scope of three hours per week, targeting language level A1. I highly recommend attending language courses in case the skills cannot be improved within the work environment.

Free Time

Bilbao offers several free-time activities, including visits to the beach, surfing, and hiking. The city’s closeness to nature and the well-established public transportation system with a metro and buses make these activities easily accessible. A must-visit are Sopelana Beach and Artxanda Mountain in particular. Additionally, I participated in cultural events such as the Pamplona bull run and city festivities that spanned 1.5 months, starting in early July. In Bilbao it is essential to know the Spanish language very well to make local friends, as most Basques do not speak English fluently. Furthermore, the attitude of the Basque people towards foreigners is rather closed, making integration into the society hard. To have a fun time, one should seek for making international friends which is quite easy when meeting other Erasmus students, as most of them have an open-minded attitude. Besides, it might be a good idea to search for tandem partner for both improving the language and getting to know local people. For exploring Bilbao, I highly recommend strolling around the city and visiting many different Pintxo bars. Besides, Bilbao has three main spots to go out. Calle Poza, Calle Ledesma and Casco Viejo. Calle Poza attracts mainly students and young people with its variety of bars. Calle Ledesma is a little bit more expensive and fancier, and the average age of people who go out there is slightly higher than at Poza. Casco Viejo is the old town of Bilbao. It’s very touristic and offers several interesting bars and restaurants at niche spots. Most common to go out are Plaza Nueva and Barrenkale. For those exploring Bilbao’s surroundings, I highly recommend visiting for example Pamplona, San Sebastian, Pikos de Europa, Bermeo, and Gernika. Being in Spain also offers the opportunity to visit Portugal or even Morrocco.

Conclusion

This Erasmus mobility internship experience has left a significant mark on my personal and professional development. I have integrated the lightheartedness of Spanish culture into my everyday life and mindset, which has brought a valuable perspective to my approach to work and life in general. Moreover, I learned the importance of balancing a busy consultant’s lifestyle with enriching free-time activities. This Erasmus+ mobility has further encouraged me to continue exploring foreign countries and cultures in the future. It has consolidated my belief in the great value of international experiences in shaping a well-rounded and adaptable individual.

My internship in Bilbao

January 31st, 2023 | by
  • Business Administration and Engineering M.Sc. Mechanical Engineering
  • Spain, Bilbao
  • FEV Iberia SI
  • 10.10.2022-15.01.2023

 

Preparation:

When it comes to preparing for a stay in Bilbao, the most important thing is housing. In general, finding a place to live in Bilbao is not as stressful as in other cities. The best place to look for housing is “idealista”, a Spanish online real-estate marketplace. Prices obviously differ, but finding adequate housing for around 500 Euro/month is possible. Especially, when you can communicate in Spanish and also stay for at least half a year. Also, there are Erasmus Telegram and Whatsapp groups (you can find them on Instagram or in the Internet) where rooms are offered as well. Besides to look for housing, this is also a great way to make first contacts in the city. Another important preparation would be to look for health insurance. I had the luck that it was organized by the company.

Finding an internship:

In my case, I was a working student in the Aachen Office of the company I then worked for in Bilbao. Generally, going for an international company is the easiest way to find an internship abroad and that’s also how most people I talked to did it. Especially, when you are not fluent in Spanish, a regular local company will be tough to convince to take you.

Culture:

Most people have been to parts of Spain before, so I guess a Culture shock is not to be expected in

 © Lukas Tacke Genannt Unterberg

© Lukas Tacke Genannt Unterberg

that case. However, Bilbao is part of the former Basque-county. Even if it is technically Spain, the people are often quite proud of their heritage. Some might take it as an insult, if you call them Spaniards. Additionally, the Basque language is very prominent. You will hear it on the streets and read it a lot on signs. It is very different from Spanish, so don’t be fooled thinking it is just some form of dialect you might be able to understand! All in all I must say, people were very welcoming and most of the time happy to help and communicate, even if there isn’t actually a common language between you. The level of English capabilities is very low in that area, so basics in Spanish or Basque can be very helpful.

Day to day life:

Coming from the culture, food plays a very significant role there. Pintxos (A slice of bread with ANY savory toping you can think of) might be the most prominent one. You can take them for lunch or in the evening with some drinks. Since the city is next to the ocean, fish and other seafoods are integrated in a lot of dishes. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, it might be hard for you. In more traditional restaurants the vegetarian dish is just a salad or something along that line, so you might want to go to more modern places.

When it comes to going out in the night, Bilbao has a lot to offer. Especially in the casco Viejo (old town) the bar density is very high. But also throughout other parts of the city, you will always find a nice place to grab a beer or a Kalimotxo (popular Basque drink, red wine with cola) and some Pintxos. The club landscape is definitely more restricted. For most clubs, you have to love reggeaton, since it will be played the whole night. But there are also some clubs, where the music choices are more diverse (strong recommend for “Sala Sonora” for Saturdays).

 © Lukas Tacke Genannt Unterberg

© Lukas Tacke Genannt Unterberg

Public transport is ridiculously cheap and easy in Bilbao. You go to any bigger metro station and buy a “Barik Card”, on which you then can load money. From then on, you just touch-and-go for trains, buses and the metro for prices mostly below 50 cents per ride. The metro also goes all the way to the ocean. Plentzia and Sopella are the beaches reachable by metro I recommend the most. If you want to explore the area, for hikes or to visit other towns nearby, going by bus (Asta or bizkaibus) is a very good option. Most beautiful places I have seen are: San Sebastian, Gangekogorta and the Urdaibai area.

When it comes to work life, in my case it was very similar to my experiences in German companies. Similar working hours, with maybe a longer lunch break and in my case an amazing office climate. My co-workers were always happy to help with tasks or problems at work, but also with recommendations what to do in the area on weekends or which restaurant to go to.