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What it’s like to live in Montevideo

Welcome to Montevideo, Uruguay!

In Spring 2017 I became the second ever Australian to study on exchange at La Universidad de Montevideo, a beautiful university situated more or less in the city centre of Montevideo.

As I reflect on the first month here, I want to be careful in how I sell it. This is a unique experience, unlike any other; both the challenges and rewards are greater than a more common choice of Europe or America, perhaps.

Uruguay is by the majority considered the safest and most progressive country in Latin America, with warm and friendly people to welcome you. The university itself is growing its presence on the international scene, doubling its intake of exchange students from Autumn 2017 from 40 to 80.

In the first month I have had the opportunity to travel within the country of Uruguay (which holds incredible beauty in itself without obtaining the reputation it deserves) while crossing the Rio de la Plata by ferry to Argentina to spend a weekend in Buenos Aires.

In terms of challenges, the main one would have to be the language barrier. Given Uruguay isn’t as involved in international affairs as it’s neighbours (due to it’s small population and low tourism presence), very few members of the population need to speak Spanish (and therefore don’t). Therefore, a basic knowledge of Spanish going into the placement is highly recommended. Fortunately, the university offers reasonably good quality English-speaking classes for you to study, so don’t consider a deficiency in Spanish as a reason to pass up this incredible opportunity.

In terms of reward, you can expect to be the only Australian at the university, which brings with it a sense of intrigue for the locals to inquire about our great nation. As mentioned by my predecessor, you can expect to have the opportunity to drink “mate” (pronounced “martay”), a mildly bitter tea that you can find everywhere. Further, there are ample opportunities to play football with the university and with international students, and I’m sure you will have the opportunity to watch Uruguay play at Estadio Centenario, the scene of a couple of famous matches involving the Socceroos.

A typically Uruguayan and Argentinean BBQ (known as an asado) is a specialty, and you will have the chance to practice your dancing at some of Uruguay’s dancing academies – believe it or not, many Uruguayans believe the Tango is a dying art, being replaced with Bachata. Salsa is prevalent and loved by many. Depending on what type of experience you want, you can certainly find it.

I share the view that when all is said and done, Uruguay is one of the best exchange decisions you can make just because it is so different. It will take you to new heights as a person and challenge you out of your comfort zone. This is all while being on the doorstep of one of the most beautiful continents on the planet!

I highly recommend this to anyone searching for something completely different.

James Hepworth

Student #: 11971316

Bachelor of Accounting

La Universidad de Montevideo, Uruguay

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