Program alumni are the best resources for students interested in going abroad, and they are available to answer your questions. If you would like to talk to a recent student about their experience in Uruguay, get in touch with the advisor, Alessandra Capossela.
Zena Ebrahim, Swarthmore College
After having completed a Middlebury language program several years ago, I knew that I had to do another. I chose Middlebury for the same reason most passionate language learners do – the appealing language pledge. The language pledge is truly unique; it isn’t just about learning a language faster, but rather becoming a part of the environment we are living in, the people we are surrounded by, and the authentic experiences we hold.
When I arrived in Montevideo, I didn’t know what to expect. But I did know that this experience would be totally out of the ordinary. I knew that it would be difficult. But I equally knew that every difficulty and moment of wanting to give up would contribute to the most unimaginable feeling of success.
The biggest lesson I have learned from Middlebury is that we don’t just learn from teachers, books, or sitting in class. We learn from experiences. And the experiences I have collected the past 4 months are inexplicably authentic and pure. From being in classes with 70 year old adults to being an assistant teacher to very young children, the range of perspectives I’ve gained are honestly mind blowing.
I enrolled in “Bellas Artes”, the Fine Arts college of the public university with no artistic background. I figured that if I were to step out of my comfort zone, I may as well leap. The informality of the classroom truly gave me a space to learn from others. It encouraged me to use the language skills I’ve acquired and converse endlessly. It granted me the perfect opportunity to ask questions fearlessly. And it gave me a space in which I can work creatively, process my experience here as I live it.
As I head back to the states in just a few weeks, I now have a totally new set of eyes to see the world through. A new tongue that can use with greater confidence, experience, and life-changing stories to tell. And best of all, a new set of parents I can call “mom” and “dad”. My stay here wasn’t just the completion of a program, it was the beginning of a new story that I know I’ll be back to finish.
Hubert Ford, Amherst College
I first saw Montevideo through the eyes of Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti. “Al sur, al sur, está quieta, esperando, Montevideo…” His words painted a picture of a tranquil coastal city, rich with culture, but they also told of the still unresolved trauma Uruguayans face from the dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s. Reading Benedetti’s words, I knew I had to experience the culture and study the history firsthand.
To an outsider, Montevideo may not seem like the quiet city it’s made out to be. At least that was my impression when I first arrived at my apartment in barrio Cordón right off the main avenue 18 de Julio. I was surprised by the bustle of the city: the street vendors, omnibuses, and the activists handing out fliers in the plaza. Montevideo truly teemed with things to see and places to explore from the museums and art galleries to the parks and bookstores and even the house of a 20th century alchemist. And everything was just a short walk or bus ride away.
Nevertheless, speak to any Uruguayan, and they will tell you Montevideo is “chico y tranqui,” and—after spending almost half-a-year there—I have to agree. Montevideo was a like one big neighborhood. It seemed like everyone knew each other. Walking down the Rambla along the coast or through Parque Rodó, I would run into friends and classmates “charlando” and drinking mate, a traditional infusion drink that I am now hooked on.
By far my favorite part of my experience in Uruguay was the university. I studied history and literature in the humanities department of the Universidad de la República, where I was taught by some of the best professors Uruguay has to offer. Furthermore, since the university is free, the student body is incredibly diverse. By chatting with my classmates, I was not only able to immerse myself in the language but also learn first-hand about Uruguayan culture and history.
Montevideo really is the stuff of poetry: unique and vibrant but grounded and visceral at the same time. There are still many open wounds, but the people actively try to progress and improve the city. In my opinion, there is no better place to immerse yourself in language, culture and history than Montevideo.
Book Moree, Colby College
My time in Montevideo, Uruguay with the Middlebury program was a transformative semester that helped me further explore my interest in activism and gain the hard skills necessary to continue pursuing this interest professionally. I have always been interested in social issues and, because of that, the program helped me gain an internship with Cotidiano Mujer (Everyday Women), a feminist non-profit organization. While working there, I met inspiring women who created the feminist movement in Uruguay. I also helped organize impactful events. For example, I helped with the logistics and interpreting the 16th Encuentro Feminista Latinoamericano y del Caribe (16th Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Conference), which is the largest Feminist Conference in Latin America. This experience not only fulfilled my personal goals of becoming more involved in activism, but also taught me important skills on how to create and run an event with more than 2,000 people participating.
On top of this experience, Montevideo provided a vast amount of resources to get involved in the country’s most prominent social issues. Montevideo is the epicenter of everything going on in Uruguay and is small enough to allow easy access to participate. Because of this, the friends I met in university were already involved in local activist events and they were friendly enough to let me participate with them. I was also able to connect with a scholarship program for high school students and spend the weekends helping organize educational activities. These pastimes greatly improved my knowledge of social issues in the region and my Spanish.
Overall, Middlebury in Montevideo gave me the resources to directly pursue my interests. I could not imagine a better way to spend my junior fall and I know the skills is gained in Montevideo will transfer to what I want to pursue professionally.
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, a private university, and then on to the public university, la Universidad 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 full-time 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 program 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!