Great experiences to be had if you take advantage of your opportunities February 06, 2020

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 07/29/2019 to 12/05/2019 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Montevideo

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how to become a part of another culture, even when I clearly to not look like the locals. I learned how to be independent in a city, and improve my Spanish.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This program was definitely more rigorous than other programs (non-Middlebury) that I have heard about from other students. I wrote 2 papers for my program-specific class (one 10 pages and one 20 pages) in addition to coursework at the university. All of my professors were excellent. While the workload was stressful at times, I appreciated having a quality academic experience and not wasting time for 5 months.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The Midd administration in Uruguay is amazing. They were kind, very supportive, and helped me resolve any problems or concerns I had. At the same time, they allowed all of us to have a high level of independence.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was one of the highlights of my program. They included me in most family activities, including a birthday party for their grandson, nightly family dinners, and weekend day trips. They did their best to make me feel as at home as possible and always respected my privacy. I was lucky to be with such as loving family.

* Food:

The Uruguayan diet is very meat-centric, so be prepared. The steak was some of the best I had ever had, and my host family cared about preparing balanced meals. However, in the city you will not find as many options as you might in a more cosmopolitan city (Buenos Aires or Rio, for example). There is a lot of ham and cheese, and not a lot of international food and/or spicy food. I had a very good food experience overall (the asados are to die for), but others, especially vegetarians, might have a hard time.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt very welcomed by all of the Uruguayan people I met. At my university, the other students didn't necessarily go out of their way to meet me, although they were very friendly once I started talking to them. Being someone with lighter hair and blue eyes, there was a limit to how integrated I could feel. I could not pass as an Uruguayan, and people regularly vocalized this (once or twice someone would come up to me and try to practice their English without me having done or said anything). Nevertheless,

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I went to the hospital once to check on a minor head injury. The insurance authorization was easy and my program coordinator helped me make sure I provided all the right information. I went to the hospital by myself and found my way to the right place. It was unclear whether or not they had staff that spoke English, and I ended up having the entire appointment in Spanish. Overall, it went fine, although had the injury been more serious I would've needed more support (the program would've been happy to provide that). There were no health issues in the country, but I got the recommended vaccines for this part of South America so that I would not have to worry about traveling (Typhoid, Yellow Fever).

* Safety:

Montevideo feels extremely safe (from talking to friends in Buenos Aires at the time, Montevideo is much safer). My program mates and I had no problem walking home alone at 4:00 in the morning and never had problems with theft or violence. I had heard about it happening to others (nobody that I knew), so I would recommend exercising the same caution you would in any big city, but I was never concerned about my safety.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

I really enjoyed the program, although if I did it again I would have chosen to attend a private school instead of the public school. Being one of the only international students at UDELAR (and not being very extroverted/outgoing) made it hard to meet people as they were already set in their routines. The private schools had many international students, many of whom were from Spanish-speaking countries, and the Uruguayans who attended the private schools were used to meeting internationals. Had I gone to private school, it would have been easier to practice speaking Spanish more often.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

With breakfast and dinner being covered in my room and board arrangement with my host family, responsible for buying or making lunch every day. While I can't say how much I spent each week on food, it seemed reasonable, although food was more expensive in Montevideo than it was in Buenos Aires and Rio. Clothes also tended to be very expensive, so I hardly bought any. Other things, like haircuts, sporting events, and concerts, were very cheap compared to in the US. Overall, I spent most of my money on food and travel (I didn't buy a lot of personal goods). Flying to other countries in South America is expensive, although taking buses within Uruguay and finding hostels or Airbnbs was manageable.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Hard to say. Overall, not including Room/board (breakfast and dinner with host family was part of this), I spent about $3000, most of which was on food and travel.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don't buy a lot of clothes, and use an international credit card when paying at restaurants – there is a 22% VAT refund at restaurants and some other touristy expenses. Take advantage of the goods sold on the street, especially during fairs/markets. There were a lot of nice products and they were usually cheaper than shopping in a store or at a mall.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Middlebury was very strict about its Language Pledge.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 300+
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Surround yourself with people who want to speak Spanish if getting better is your goal. Make an effort to meet Uruguayans, but also take advantage of the other international students who are there from Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Spain, etc. Many times being in a group of Americans will hinder your chances of being able to practice as a lot of people you will meet will speak English. Don't be afraid of talking to random people.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • People I met
  • Quality of academic instruction
  • Support from Middlebury staff onsite
* What could be improved?
  • Information about different university options during the application process
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known more information about the demographics and culture at each university (number of international students, orientation activities, opportunities to join clubs)

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Cultura de Países Lusófonos

Course Department: Facultad de Humanidades (UDELAR)
Instructor: Raquel Carinhas
Instruction Language: Portuguese
Comments: This was a content course in the foreign language department on Portuguese culture (poetry, film, painting) in 20th century Portugal. I was one of 5 students. The class lecture-based (2 hours, 2x/week) with a lot of analyzing documents and a lot of opportunity to participate due to the size of the class. The professor was great; she was very knowledgeable, passionate, and willing to help me when I needed it. We were assessed with two midterms (multiple choice, true/false, and an essay) and a presentation on a topic of our choice. Overall, a very interesting course that I enjoyed.
Credit Transfer Issues: N/A
Course Name/Rating:

Historia Americana I

Course Department: Facultad de Humanidades (UDELAR)
Instructor: Lucía Rodriguez and Wilson González
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This was a survey course of Latin American history between 1492 and 1808, with a focus on the European powers, colonization, and the different societal structures that were established in the New World. The professors were excellent and very knowledgeable on the topics. They were all extremely willing to provide help outside of class. The course was lecture-based (2 hours 2x/week) and all of the assessment material came from readings. It was a challenging reading load being in Spanish (about 400 dense pages for the course), but it ended up being manageable and the grading was fair. Assessments took the form of 2 midterms (multiple in-class essay prompts) and 2 take home papers (1200 words each).
Credit Transfer Issues: N/A