Organising to do an internship at La Herradura was very simple to do when I was at home in the UK. All the information was available online and via email. I was also very lucky to already have a few Uruguayan friends in the area to help me settle in however it wasn’t necessary because I could have stayed in the school’s residence and organised an airport transfer that way. I booked my flights through a great student travel company called ‘STA Travel’ and flew to Buenos Aires to keep the cost down. As a British citizen, I didn’t need a visa and I already had all the vaccinations that I could have possibly needed therefore it was very easy for me to prepare for my travels. It was great to see Buenos Aires but I wouldn’t strongly advise this route to anyone travelling alone because it involved a lot of waiting around for the ferry and added a few extra legs to my already lengthy journey. The main ferry service used to travel between the two countries is called ‘Buquebus’ and is a modern, well-run service that I would recommend to anyone but make sure you book in advance if you want to save money!

I chose not to spend my first week in Uruguay working and studying at the school because I needed some time to settle in and find myself somewhere perfect to live. I chose to live in an international student residence in a neighbourhood called ‘Palermo’ just a 10-15 minute walk from the school. This is because it would enable me to meet other international students who are staying reasonably long-term in Montevideo and to meet new people who aren’t necessarily Spanish language students. It didn’t take too long for me to get to know how to use the public transport to travel around the city, withdraw money, go grocery shopping etc. One piece of advice I would give to a European heading to Montevideo is to use ‘Banco Republica’ to withdraw cash because it’s the national bank and therefore has better machines that usually can read the chips in European debit cards. Uruguayans are generally extremely friendly and tolerant so I never had any problems when asking for help or struggling to communicate.

I was very excited to start my first week at school and I wasn’t disappointed. One of the first things I noticed was its extremely homely welcoming atmosphere. I was greeted by warm smiles and showed to my Spanish lessons. It wasn’t long before I had made lots of international friends with two common interests: Spanish language and Uruguayan culture. Everyone feels like we’re part of one big family and we’re never short of things to do!

I generally work from 9-3pm Monday to Friday and that includes the time spend in my Spanish lessons. The amount of time I spend in classes varies from 2-4 hours a day and after spending six weeks in classes and living in Montevideo, I’m really noticing the difference in my Spanish language skills. I’ve received a lot of individual attention whether it’s receiving private lessons or teachers planning my schedule and placing me in classes that they feel would be most appropriate. I study in the mornings and work in the afternoons. I finish at a time that enables me to still get involved in everything happening in Montevideo and sometimes have a little siesta too.

Working for La Herradura is never a chore because I’m given a variety of different tasks. I get to spend a lot of time translating things from Spanish to English, which’s a great way to improve my reading skills and vocabulary whilst learning about the structure of Spanish and English alike. I have also been given the responsibility of looking after the school’s online marketing/social media so I can put my reflective writing skills to good use and learn about how a company markets its product and builds customer relations. This also gives me an excuse to go get involved in lots of great cultural excursions and activities so I can share reviews and information about them afterwards.

During the first few weeks of my time at La Herradura, there were many Brazilian students in the school and I therefore learnt a huge amount about their culture and country. Over the last few weeks, there has been a large amount of American students which has been especially fun and sociable. Everyone had the same goal of making the most of every second they spend in Uruguay. We’ve all been getting involved in an array of activities and events including: travelling to other parts of Uruguay such as Punta del Esta and the department of Rocha, football matches in Montevideo’s historic Centenario Stadium, Salsa/Bachata classes, city tours and carnivals.

February is the month of carnivals in South America so as well as watching Montevideo’s own carnival called ‘Las Llamadas’ in the Palermo/Barrio Sur neighbourhood, I chose to take a trip up to Brazil for the week and stay with the families of two friends that I made in La Herradura. It was an incredible experience. I first spent a few days in the vast busy city of Sao Paolo and watched the famous Sao Paolo Carnival in their purpose build avenue for ticket-holders only. It was amazing to witness first-hand an event that is broadcasted live to the whole of Brazil each year and is such an important part of their culture and heritage. After a few days, I took a bus to the state of Minas Gerais, which’s about three hours from Sao Paolo, to spend time staying with a family in a gorgeous town surrounded by coffee plantations. I went to a different type of carnival which’s more similar to a music festival and had the chance to spend a lot of time speaking to Brazilian people and learning about their culture. I then flew to Iguaçu falls, which’s considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World and lies on the boarder between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Before I arrived in South America, I had the common preconception that all of the countries in the continent are reasonably similar but having spent a lot of time with Brazilians in both the school and during my trip, I now know that isn’t the case at all. Both Brazil and Uruguay have strong national identities and individual cultures, cuisines and traditions that are fascinating when explored.

Life in Uruguay is generally very relaxed however I think that this characteristic has been increased due to the fact that it is currently summertime. It can be very humid and temperatures tend to stay close to 30 degrees centigrade, which can make you feel a bit sleepy and sometimes causes people to take naps during the afternoons. There have been quite frequent but short storms during my time here so far and they have been generally appreciated by everybody because they clear a lot of the humidity and cause there to normally be a few very pleasant dry sunny days afterwards. When you’re in Montevideo, you rarely have far to walk to the nearest beach and I have discovered that Uruguayans really love their beaches. During the summer holidays, Montevideo becomes an extremely quiet city because a huge amount of people, students and families alike, rent summer houses in the more eastern parts of the country’s south coast to enjoy the more natural tranquil Atlantic beaches. For a South American city, Montevideo is safe however you still need to be careful and don’t do things such as walk around alone late at night especially in certain neighbourhoods. This hasn’t proved to be an issue for me. There are some problems with the economy, for example many Uruguayans feel that their salary isn’t sufficient to enable them to cope with the city’s high prices. Many people therefore work very long hours and travel large distances from cheaper areas. In a couple of my conversation classes, the group was assigned the task of walking to a local market to go around in pairs and speak to the locals about what their greatest worry is regarding their job and life in general in Uruguay. The general conclusion was that they are worried about economic factors, safety in the city and receiving sufficient healthcare. It was a challenge for me to understand the local people’s accents which therefore made it very good listening practise and a worthwhile activity.

My plan for the next nine weeks in Uruguay is to continue working and studying hard in the school to further improve my Spanish, continue increasing my cultural-awareness and international knowledge whilst learning more about the process of running a small-scale business. I have a strong interest in entrepreneurship so it’s great to get involved in and learn about an organisation as part of a small close team. Alongside my internship, I’m also starting to search for a part-time job in a local bar to practise communicating with the Uruguayan public and earn some savings at the same time. If this proves to be successful and I really enjoy the experience, I could consider staying for an extra month or so after my internship to further practise my Spanish communication skills.

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