Hollie Haigh

Middlebury College

After one month in the capital city of Uruguay, I knew I needed to cancel all plans that I had to go elsewhere the following semester. I was having such a good time that that I couldn’t bring myself to leave Montevideo after just five months. Montevideo is such a unique and laidback city with a lifestyle that I am so lucky to have experienced this year.

As a Spanish major, one of my biggest priorities when choosing a place to study abroad was being somewhere that I could take The Language Pledge seriously and be speaking as little English as possible day to day. Here, I have found that to be very true. In general, not many people in Uruguay are fluent in English which really forces you to be immersed 24/7. In other parts of the Spanish speaking world that I have visited, at the slightest sense of an accent in shops or restaurants, the initial reaction for people was to respond to me in English but that simply doesn’t happen here in Montevideo which has really pushed and helped me with my linguistic development. I would now confidently consider myself bilingual.

This language development has been facilitated through a number of key experiences, most notably are my host family, my classes and my internship. For the whole year I have had the pleasure of staying with an incredible family who welcomed me with open arms as if I was one of their own daughters from the beginning: we have formed a lifelong relationship that I will always cherish.

Another great thing about being abroad for the full year was that I had the opportunity to experience both public and private education here in Montevideo. At first, I went to la Universidad ORT, the “Montevidean Middlebury,” and then on to the public university, la Univerisdad de la República, which encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to come and study. It was so enriching to see this kind of diversity in a classroom environment; in my Uruguayan Literature class, I sat with a retired doctor on one side, an 18-year-old writer on the other and a nun from the Czech Republic in front of me.

Whether it’s being offered a fulltime job at a tech company, performing music and dance on the bus during my daily commute, buying lampshades in some random antiques shop or falling off a bus and breaking my ankle on the way to my Zumba class, these are all real-life situations that I have been able to navigate in a foreign language, in a country I’d never been to before, 7,000 miles away from home. For me, this just speaks to how fabulous Middlebury’s programme in Uruguay really is and highlights the support and care that we get from the on the ground study abroad staff who are just absolutely excellent. Sylvia Murninkas is the most well connected, genuine and caring coordinator I have ever had the pleasure of working with and has really made my Uruguayan experience what it is.

I am so grateful for the time I have spent in this wonderful country, getting to know its equally wonderful people and culture. I’m very sad to be leaving and already cannot wait to come back to Uruguay. I can’t encourage others enough to consider studying abroad in this incredible country that is so often overlooked!