Interview with a Gaucho: ranch experience in Uruguay

Well, he’s not exactly a gaucho (you have to be born here for that), but Trevor from Oregon certainly has plenty of experience of country life in Uruguay, after four months living and working on estancias (ranches), working side-by-side with the gauchos, guides and other staff.

 He spent three weeks studying Spanish at the school in Montevideo, before undertaking internships at two estancias in different parts of the country. He’s studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish at home, so this was a good way to combine academic progress with his thirst for travel.

It’s certainly an unusual way to spend your time abroad, and in this interview Trevor explains his reasons for choosing this programme, what exactly it involved, and his reflections on his time in Uruguay. 

 

Why did you choose Uruguay?

Because it seemed off the beaten path, progressive, and I’d never been before. I chose to work at an estancia because I liked the idea of being out in the country and doing something completely different from my normal life. I knew it would be more peaceful than working in the city.

 

Can you tell us a bit about the ranches you worked at?

Estancia La Paz and Estancia El Ceibo are both beautiful rural hotels that offer outdoor activities like horseback riding, hiking, bird watching, and fishing. La Paz is located near Paysandu and El Ceibo is near Florida. Tourists from all over the world visited the estancias to enjoy the peace and quiet.

 

What was everyday life like on the ranch? What were your responsibilities?

The workdays in the country are long, but fortunately there was a variety of jobs to do which kept things interesting. Sometimes I would work with the tourists as a server or translator, other times I would help in the kitchen or do landscaping.

 

What were the biggest challenges of the program?

Being out in the country was a drastic change from my usual lifestyle. I think it was especially challenging since I didn’t have any peers with me, but thankfully everyone at the estancias was really nice and made the effort to make me feel at home.

 

What were the best moments?

Galloping on a horse for the first time, learning to drink mate, going to Carnaval in Paysandu, and watching the amazing thunderstorms.

 

You already had a good level of Spanish when you came to Uruguay, so doyou think your Spanish course benefitted you?

Absolutely. The Spanish classes helped me adjust to the Uruguayan dialect, and I had a great time at the school with all the other international students.

 

Do you think working on a ranch helped you with your Spanish?

It really helped me because it was the first experience I’ve had where I was truly  immersed in a Spanish speaking environment, where English was not even an option. After a while I lost my fear of making mistakes and now I feel much more comfortable with the language.

 

What advice would you give to someone considering doing this kind of program?

If you have the opportunity, go for it. Don’t have too many expectations, just enjoy the adventure.

 

Did you have the chance to travel around Uruguay? Which areas would you recommend to travellers?

I didn’t travel around as much as I would have liked to. But I would recommend spending time in some of the smaller towns in the interior. I was constantly impressed by how friendly people were in the country.

Estancia El Ceibo, Florida, Uruguay
Estancia La Paz, Paysandú, Uruguay

If Trevor’s experiences have inspired you, have a look at the internship programmes offered at La Herradura, or you can enjoy estancia life (without so much hard work!) on the Spanish and horse riding programme.

Staying at an estancia is an excellent way to get to know the Uruguayan countryside, and can be as relaxing or adventurous as you like. It makes a beautiful weekend break from the city if you are studying Spanish here and, as Trevor said, you can really immerse yourself in the language and customs of the warm and welcoming countryside people.

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