Maynooth University student, Fiona McCormack, spent her study abroad year at the University of Montevideo in Uruguay. Fiona shared some insight into studying in South America.
1. Why did you want to study abroad in Uruguay?
I had already spent a lot of time in Spain and I was curious about my options in South America. I chose Uruguay, a country which I can only describe as a hidden gem which stood out to me as a beautiful, friendly, developed and safe country for me to study in. As a Law and Spanish student Universidad de Montevideo offered me the opportunity to study Law through Spanish because I did not have this option in Spain. I was completely immersed in Spanish due to the lack of English speaking students and this really helped me improve my language, mix with the locals, make lifelong friends and experience the culture. Uruguay has a beautiful coastline, great climate and warm people.
2. What advice would you give to prospective study abroad students?
Have a completely open mind as everything new and exciting has yet to come. Don't be scared by all the change that is happening, embrace it. Go for walks and discover your new home. Get to know the locals, you will learn a lot from them. Make friends with the natives and make a special effort to spend time with them. Save up some extra money as there will be plenty of exploring to be done. Keep up with Uni work as it is easy to get distracted by all the excitement. Make friends in your classes and ask for help when you need it, they will be more than happy to help. Join clubs, teams or try new classes to meet people. There are plenty of other students in the same boat as you who will soon become lifelong friends.
3. What skills have you learned?
Developing my Spanish skills allowed me to develop a better relationship with students, staff and locals. I became a lot more independent living away from home and getting myself set up in a new country and continent. I developed experience and communication skills through working at a private primary school teaching English. I also volunteered at Perez Scremini an amazing organisation for Children with Cancer. I began to learn the skills and tools used within each department.
A really great benefit of studying in South America is the university semester times. Classes run from March to July in Semester 1 and August to December in semester 2. You have three months Dec, Jan and Feb to enjoy and make the most of their summer time. I chose to do a work placement and volunteer in Peru for two months. This was an amazing experience to not just visit as a tourist, but to make friends with the locals, learn from them and develop my Spanish skills. I was working at an organisation for disadvantaged children in a poor area south of Lima. I thoroughly enjoyed this amazing experience with these lovely people.
4. The top 5 highlights of studying in South America?
1. People - You will meet such warm, kind and curious people that want to welcome you to their country. Get to know the locals due to lack of tourism.
2. Travel - South America has everything to offer. Amazon rain forest, Patagonia glaciers, Atacama Desert, Machu Picchu mountain, Iguazu Falls waterfall.
3. Culture - You will experience such rich culture through Latin music, food and traditions. A chance to share special moments with locals.
4. Cost - Low living costs for food, travel and adventure, especially in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia.
5. Climate - Enjoy the perfect climate with hot summers (Dec-Feb) and mild warm winters (June-August).