MLA Abroad: Bilbao and Barcelona banner image of orange sun and blue sky mosaic

Master of Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts Abroad: Bilbao and Barcelona

Study core political principles of liberal democracy in two of Spain’s most unique and cosmopolitan cities with University of Chicago Professor Emeritus Charles Lipson, an expert in international relations and widely recognized for his research contributions to international cooperation and conflict.

Students in the MLA Abroad program will spend two weeks in Spain examining questions of free speech; individual rights to privacy, property, and security; and religious freedom. What does equal treatment under the law look like in a Western democracy? How should we think about nationalism in this context? The first week will be spent in Bilbao, the cultural capital of the Basque Country. Students will travel from there to Barcelona, the urban center of Catalonia, for their second week. Students spend each morning in a seminar led by Professor Lipson. Afternoons are set aside for cultural excursions around Bilbao and Barcelona with local guides and guest lecturers.


  • MLA students earn one full elective course credit
  • Open to noncredit participants not earning the MLA degree
  • Explore Bilbao’s medieval old town and thriving contemporary art scene followed by a plate of Michelin-starred pinxos
  • Discover Gaudi’s Sagrada Família and other masterpieces of Catalan Modernisme in Barcelona
  • Enjoy centrally located 4- and 5-star accommodations in Bilbao and Barcelona
  • Celebrate the beginning and end of the program with welcome and farewell receptions
  • Dive deeper into Basque and Catalan culture through excursions led by local experts and guest faculty

Trip Details

Dates Late August - Early September, 2020
Application Deadline TBD

Course and Faculty

Foundations of Liberal Democracy: Debating the Core Values

Dr. Charles Lipson taught international relations at the University of Chicago, where he was the Peter B. Ritzma Professor in Political Science and the College. His research deals with international cooperation and conflict and with political aspects of the world economy. His most recent book on international relations, Reliable Partners: How Democracies Have Made a Separate Peace, explains one of the most striking features in world politics: why democracies do not fight wars against each other. (Princeton University Press, 2003). Dr. Lipson has also written extensively on international trade, debt, and investment. His book, Standing Guard: Protecting Foreign Capital in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, has been widely praised for combining politics and economics. It is concerned with the problems faced by successful corporations when they operate in difficult political environments around the world.

Accommodation, Meals, and Transportation

MLA Abroad students will stay in 4- and 5-star hotels during their time in Spain. Breakfast and lunch will be provided daily. Hotels will be an easy walk from classroom facilities or transportation will be provided.

Students will receive unlimited public transit cards in Bilbao and Barcelona. The program fee also includes air travel from Bilbao to Barcelona.

Academic Credit/Noncredit


Participants who are currently enrolled in the MLA program will receive credit for one elective course through participation in the MLA abroad program. The course does not meet the MLA’s distribution requirement in the social sciences. Contact program staff to reserve your spot.

Register as a Credit Student


Participants may attend the MLA Study Abroad program without earning credit or being enrolled in the MLA program.

Apply as a Noncredit Participant


MLA credit students pay regular MLA tuition for one course and a program fee. Noncredit participants only pay the noncredit program fee. The tuition and program fee are detailed below:

Total Cost for MLA Credit

(Autumn tuition and abroad program fee)


Total Cost for Noncredit

(abroad program fee)


Deposit $500

Program fee includes:

  • Accommodation
  • 30 classroom contact hours (for credit MLA students only)
  • Dedicated on-site program staff
  • Program excursions
  • Two meals per day: breakfast and lunch
  • Unlimited transportation in Bilbao and Barcelona
  • Air travel from Bilbao to Barcelona
  • Local guides
  • Guest speakers
  • Welcome and farewell receptions

Out-of-pocket expenses include:

  • Round-trip airfare to and from the program sites (program begins in Bilbao and ends in Barcelona)
  • Course materials
  • Most dinners
  • Personal entertainment and travel
  • Communications (including cell phone usage)
  • Health and travel insurance
  • Other miscellaneous expenses

Eligibility and Application

The program will be capped at 25 students, and spots will be filled on a rolling basis.

Credit MLA Students

An application and offer of admission to the MLA program is required to participate on the trip. Current students and MLA alumni do not need to fill out an additional application.

Register as a Credit Student

Noncredit Participants

The MLA Study Abroad program is open to noncredit participants. Please apply online to be considered for admission.

Apply as a Noncredit Participant

Contact Us

To discuss the MLA Abroad program and the possibility of participating in it, please contact or 773.702.3081.