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Spain and Ireland

Geopolitics & the Future of the European Union

Engage with questions of citizenship, sovereignty, and borders in Spain’s Basque country, Catalonia, and Ireland.

At a Glance




Relevant previous coursework

Language of Study


Courses taught in



Jan 29 – May 12

Program Countries

Ireland, Spain

Program Excursion Countries


Program Base

Bilbao, Spain

Critical Global Issue of Study

Peace & Justice

Geopolitics and Power

Geopolitics and Power Icon

Peace and Justice

Peace and Justice Icon


Why study abroad in Spain and Ireland?

As Europe battles internal tensions in a new geopolitical context characterized by contested borders and rearranging alliances, the question about the future of Europe and the European Union is relevant and urgent. This program revisits Europe’s founding ideals of liberty, inclusion, and social justice within the context of rising independence movements, as well as xenophobic policies against immigrants, refugees, and minority groups, engaging questions around competing visions of what constitutes the Union.

Spain and Ireland are ideal sites to interrogate the inclusive potential of the nation-state, the promise of economic prosperity in consolidating EU integration, and the capacity of democratic participation in carving a space for Europe’s refugees and minority groups. Through an interdisciplinary approach, you will better understand processes that have produced profound changes in Spain, Ireland, and Europe’s social, political, cultural, and economic structures.

The Basque region, Catalonia, and Ireland provide excellent case studies for an understanding of the underlying dynamics between EU members and national minorities and post-conflict societies. Bilbao, the most populated city of Basque country, is a dynamic program base from which to explore movements for political autonomy in Spain and beyond. UNESCO named Bilbao a “City of Design” because of its unique architecture, food, and cultural institutions, including the famed Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.


  • Spend two weeks in Ireland learning about the effects of Brexit.
  • Examine historical roots of ethnic, regional, and national conflict in Spain and other European nations.
  • Travel to Barcelona, Girona, and the French Basque region.
  • Learn about geopolitical tensions in the European Union
  • Study Spanish at the University of Deusto's International Spanish Center.


Previous college-level coursework or background in policy studies, European studies, international studies, political science, sociology, anthropology or pre-law studies, as assessed by SIT.

program map



During this two-week excursion to Ireland, including Belfast and Dublin, you will attend classes and meet with local academics and social and political leaders. Compare border issues, citizenship, relations between states, and the impacts Brexit, and learn about the country’s memory, culture, and identity, its efforts at reconciliation and nation-building.



Examine Catalonian Politics

Travel to Girona and Barcelona for a close look at the Catalan political system and nationalist demands. Understand the institutional arrangements of regional autonomy, independence referendums, and the constitutionality and implications of independence movements. Meet with legislators at the Catalan parliament in Barcelona, nationalist and pro-Spain political party leaders, local activists, and municipal representatives to understand the polarizing positions that stem from the independence process.

In Girona, hub of another secession movement, you will interact with political leaders, policymakers, and activists.

Discover Guernica

A proud symbol of Basque identity due to its resistance to Nazi air attack during the Spanish Civil War, the small town of Guernica remains an important place to deepen your understanding of the Basque country’s separate identity. Explore the cultural significance of Pablo Picasso’s famous murals of the same name. Visits to the Museo de la Paz (Peace Museum) and other sites, as well as social and political organizations, will bring to life the Basque national identity.

Basque Political and Legislative Capital

Get a closer look at the Basque political system with a trip to Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque autonomous region. Overshadowed by the region’s more populous and influential city of Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz boasts impressive renaissance architecture and a well-preserved medieval center. Meet with Basque politicians to learn about their stance on Basque independence. Visit social organizations that focus on nationalism, cultural rescue, memory, and Basque identity.

France's Basque Country

Take a day-trip across the border and discover another facet of Basque national identity through shared history, linguistic, and cultural roots within France. Here, nestled between the Bay of Biscay and the rugged foothills of the Pyrenees, you’ll explore repercussions of one of the longest national conflicts in contemporary Europe and compare how Spain, France, and the EU have handled it. You’ll visit French Basque social and political organizations and speak with people involved in the political, national, and peace processes.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Apply a comparative approach to the analysis of national minorities, pro-independence movements, territorial conflicts, and multilevel societies in the context of the European Union. 
  • Explain the different levels of governance in the European Union, Spain, and Ireland, and its autonomic expressions on public policies. 
  • Explicate Spanish Autonomic Community constitutional arrangement and the particularities of the Basque case. 
  • Compare the theoretical and empirical rationale behind the nationalist and independence movements in Catalonia, the Basque country,and Ireland. 
  • Analyze the legal, institutional, and policy architecture developed by the European Union concerning issues such as sovereignty, citizenship, or its membership. 
  • Synthesize the learning acquired on the program in the form of an Independent Study Project paper. 
  • Enhance communicative proficiency in Spanish. 

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Cultural institutions and Basque identity
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  • Catalonia's independence movement and constitutional crisis in Spain
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  • Comparative approaches to social policy in Spain and Ireland
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  • Regional autonomy, EU policy, and the future of European integration
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  • Comparative politics, human rights, and social movements research

Independence Movements, Citizenship, and Human Rights

Independence Movements, Citizenship, and Human Rights – syllabus
(EURO3000 / 3 credits)

This seminar provides a comparative approach to the analysis and comprehension of national minorities, pro-independence movements, and the emerging issues around human rights and citizenship in the context of the European Union. The Basque region, Catalonia, and Ireland provide excellent case studies for an understanding of the underlying dynamics between EU members and national minorities and post-conflict societies. We will look closely at these dynamics as rooted in history and expressions of current issues that are shaping contemporary Europe, namely human rights and the meaning of European citizenship. Overall, the seminar provides a comparative overview of the different perspectives about the struggle for self-determination and human rights in Spain, Ireland, and Europe.

The Geopolitics of Borders and the Future of the European Union

The Geopolitics of Borders and the Future of the European Union – syllabus
(EURO3500 / 3 credits)

During this course, students will study in a comparative perspective how current political processes shape the geopolitics of borders in contemporary Europe. How are the European Union and its citizens imagining or re-imagining Europe’s relationship with its members and borders? How do citizens of the European Union understand the meaning of their membership in the Union? How is the idea of the nation-state evolving?

From an interdisciplinary theoretical and empirical approach, the program will help students understand processes that have produced profound changes in Spain, Ireland, and Europe’s social, political, cultural, and economic structures.

Students will analyze the different social phenomena that have emerged in the last decades in Europe and that have represented direct challenges to issues that were thought to be consensual, such as democracy, the struggle against discrimination of any kind, and even the meaning of Europe.


Beginning Spanish I – syllabus
(SPAN1003 / 3 credits)

Beginning Spanish II – syllabus
(SPAN1503 / 3 credits)

Intermediate Spanish – syllabus
(SPAN2003 / 3 credits)

Spanish for Policy and Legal Studies: Intermediate High – syllabus
(SPAN2503 / 3 credits)

Spanish for Policy and Legal Studies: Advanced – syllabus
(SPAN3003 / 3 credits)

This course aims to develop sophisticated skills in speaking, understanding, reading and writing Spanish for policy and legal purposes, through traditional classroom instruction and field-based activities. While emphasis is placed primarily upon oral comprehension and developing conversational competencies (i.e., listening and speaking), reading and writing are also highlighted as crucial to the reinforcement of those skills. The homestay experience helps the student hone their proficiency in conversational Spanish and grasp cultural practices in the Spanish world. Vocabulary about policy and legal context is built into the course and introduced through audiovisual materials and experiential activities accompanying the textbook that has been specifically prepared for SIT program students. This high intermediate level of Spanish gives the students in-depth background into everyday life, enabling the grasp of critical language skills necessary for performing a variety of activities. The objective of the course is to review and expand on topics including communicating with Spanish-speaking politicians and law-makers, building the student’s practical legal terminology in Spanish, and enhancing the student’s oral and written communication skills in Spanish. Spanish courses take place at the International Spanish Center, University of Deusto, SIT’s partner in Bilbao.

Research Methods and Ethics

Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

The Research Methods and Ethics (RME) seminar introduces students to the conceptual and practical tools for gathering primary data and the knowledge and skills that are essential to forming constructive relationships with organizations and/or individuals, which are necessary for completing an academic project in the cultural context of Spain. The main emphasis is on the development of empirical tools and ethics of interactive research skills involving the collection of primary data. The seminar includes lectures on qualitative and quantitative research methods in politics, human rights, and social movements. A module on comparative methods of research in social sciences, policy, and law prepares students for research on comparative politics, legal research, and comparative projects on policy analysis. The seminar uses lectures, readings, and field assignments to prepare students to undertake field study in the cultural context of Spain in strict observance of research procedures involving human subjects and the regulatory ethical norms defined by the Local Review Board (LRB) and SIT’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). The overall aim is to help students hone their experience-based learning processes and prepare them for the development of an Independent Study Project (ISP), which is largely based on the data gathered from primary sources.

Internship & Seminar

Internship & Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

This seminar consists of a 4-week internship with either a local community/international organization, research center, business, or government agency. The aim of this internship is to provide students with valuable experience and to enhance their skills in a career/professional environment related to core program themes. The Internship and Seminar course includes various components that support the student through the internship learning process. They include meetings while at the internship, seminar lectures, discussions, and reflections, writing of progress reports, research and writing the final paper, and preparation for the final presentation for a total of 185 hours.

Independent Study Project

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

The Independent Study Project (ISP) is a self-designed research project offering students the opportunity to undertake a personally significant and independent investigation, which highlights the regional and cultural reality that can only be encountered during a study abroad experience. The ISP is the academic component in which the student most directly applies the concepts, skills, tools, and techniques of experience-based learning articulated through the Research Methods and Ethics course and the thematic courses, while enabling students to further integrate their language skills and the contacts they have developed in the homestay and in the broader community. Each student will plan, develop, and independently undertake a research project, with the advice and guidance of the academic director and an ISP Advisor—a local academic and/or health or humanitarian aid professional. The topic of study may be anything of interest to the student, within the scope of the program and the immediate region, and is usually developed out of lectures, discussions, field visits, and educational excursions. The final project should provide material evidence of student capability in utilizing appropriate methodologies and in synthesizing experiences in the host culture. Students are expected to complete 120 hours of field-based (non-archival, non-library) research on their topic, submit a substantial written paper, and deliver an accompanying oral presentation. It is not uncommon for ISPs to strongly contribute to the student’s choice of subject for graduate studies or professional career.

Sample topic areas:

  • Perceptions of the Catalonia’s independence movement in the Basque country
  • Self-determination and constitutional crisis in Spain
  • Basque nationalism and collective memory
  • Comparative approach to social policy in Catalonia and the Basque country
  • Memory and reparation in Ireland
  • Post Brexit EU and its effect on Ireland
  • Public policy in the context of national minorities
  • Law, justice, and human rights
  • The future of the nation-state in Europe: a comparative perspective

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects and undergraduate research.



Spend 12 weeks living with a local family in the multicultural city of Bilbao and become immersed in the daily life and the rich cultural heritage of your host family. You’ll experience what it’s like to be part of a Spanish Basque family as you participate in colorful Spanish and Basque traditions and celebrations.

Your host family will share their insider tips about how to spend leisure time in and around the city. Take in Bilbao from the comfort of a river boat down the Ria del Nervión with a number of famous attractions along its banks, like the Ribera Market, the iconic Guggenheim Museum and the historic Ayuntamiento, the historic town hall. Known for its specialty cuisine, Bilbao is also home to some of the country’s best pintxos bars (taverns with small bites) worth exploring with new friends and your homestay family.

Excursion & Orientation Accomodations

Hostels and modest hotels

Career Paths

Students on this program may consider career paths in different sectors including with:

  • Public policy consultancy organizations

  • Pressure groups

  • Public relations companies

  • European Commission delegation in Washington

  • International development agencies

  • Government and administrative institutions

Faculty & Staff

Spain and Ireland: Geopolitics & the Future of the European Union

Victor Tricot, PhD bio link
Victor Tricot, PhD
Academic Director
Zuriñe Leon, MA bio link
Zuriñe Leon, MA
Program Assistant

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