Uruguay, or “The Switzerland of South America,” is a stable and prosperous country compared to its neighbors, making it an ideal place to study abroad. The capital city has picturesque surroundings and the rural areas of Uruguay are covered in diverse and magical flora, including Ombú trees. Students can explore fields that seem like oceans, coastline filled with wildlife, and incredible hot springs up the Río Uruguay. With an open heart and some minor language skills, any student will fall in love with the inherent goodness and simplicity of the local people and surroundings while studying abroad in Uruguay.
Uruguay is composed of vast plains, gently rolling hills of agriculture, coastline, and primarily one major city. With the largest number of tourists hailing from Brazil and Argentina (and not English speaking countries), students who decide to study abroad in Uruguay will need to know some Spanish to get by. In Uruguay freezing temperatures do not exist, but weather can change at the drop of a hat, due to the plains, so bring a jacket!
Montevideo, the capital city, is home to half of the population and is the most common place to study abroad in Uruguay. The historic culture of both Spain and Italy is still prevalent in modern communities, such as The Old City, giving students an authentic experience of Uruguay’s unique culture even in the nation’s big city. For more students seeking adventure, Montevideo is in close proximity to both luxurious beaches and small towns, satisfying nearly any desire. Montevideo is home to the headquarters of Uruguay’s major trading companies, supplying the city with a lively international environment.
Maldonado is one of the oldest cities in the country and is known for its beaches and landscapes. This city doesn’t host as many study abroad programs as Montevideo, but it is nevertheless a great smaller city alternative, especially for students who want to focus on intensive Spanish language learning. Besides the beaches, ecotourism is huge in Maldonado and students should take full advantage ecotourism opportunities. The hills are ideal for climbers, natural caverns are perfect for explorers, and lakes and streams are ready for avid swimmers and fishers. All of these activities enhance the idea of experience as the best kind of education.
Study Abroad Programs in Uruguay
All university classes in Uruguay are taught in Spanish and therefore require an intermediate level of the Spanish language skills. If you cannot speak Spanish at the university level, you should take additional classes before attending a study abroad program in Uruguay, so you can get up to speed. As an alternative to direct enrollment at a Uruguayan university, students can attend a language school, which are specifically focused on Spanish language learning through intensive immersion classes.
Spanish is by far the most common field of study in Uruguay. There are direct enrollment programs where students can attend Uruguayan universities and will need to be proficient enough in Spanish to learn all other subjects in it. As mentioned above, there are also small privately owned language schools that offer more intensive Spanish classes in smaller groups. Spanish courses at language schools in Uruguay are typically offered for beginner to advanced level speakers, as well as Spanish for teachers. Private tutoring is also commonly available at language schools.
Other major areas of study in Uruguay include agriculture, science, technology, engineering, and social science. Uruguay does not have its own national accreditation agency, but there are still courses and degrees in certain fields, such as architecture and engineering, which are accredited by international agencies.
Similarly to the United States, university schooling in Uruguay is set up into semesters. The spring term is from February to July and the fall term is from August to December. However, in the case of small language schools, classes usually have rolling start dates.
The weather tends to be best for exploring in the summer months (December, January, and February), but students who study abroad in Uruguay in the winter won't be uncomfortable, as the temperature never reaches freezing. December is the driest month and October the rainiest.
Scholarships & Costs
Compared to many European countries, studying in Uruguay is a very budget friendly option. Tuition costs range from $2,000 to $6,000 a semester and in the case of Spanish courses, private tutoring is available for $30 an hour or $230 a week in most cities. The general cost of living in Uruguay is slightly lower than in the U.S.; a cappuccino, for example, costs $3 in Uruguay. Rent costs will vary depending on the town or neighborhood you choose to live in. When it comes to Montevideo, rent for a student residence or family home can range from $100 to $400 per month.
The best way to have fun while studying abroad in Uruguay on a budget is to explore nature and small towns. However, for fun in a city, a movie will cost you $8 or a beer for $3.50. Tourist dense areas (such as Montevideo and most beaches) will have slightly higher prices, especially in the summer, which is peak tourist season.
Accommodation & Visas
The most common type of accommodation provided for international students studying in Uruguay is a room in a student residence building. These will be within close proximity to the university, but will vary in setup and amenities. Living with a homestay family is another option for international students, especially those not attending a local university. Staying in a Uruguayan home will help students establish closer bonds with local people and learn more about everyday Uruguayan life.
Additionally, it is common for language schools to provide living arrangements or students that are housed in the same building as their classes. This type of accommodation is an awesome opportunity to become part of a close knit community.
The longer students stay, the more complicated the visa process is. It is important to communicate with your program provider or host university early on to coordinate your visa effectively. To study abroad in Uruguay, U.S. citizens simply need a passport that is valid for at least six months after their arrival date. If students plan to study in Uruguay for a semester, a tourist visa that lasts for 90 days must be applied for at the National Office of Migration upon arrival, and extended for another 90 days if needed, which costs around 400 pesos.
For students studying in Uruguay for longer than 180 days, a temporary residence permit is required. Students will need a variety of additional documents to obtain this and it will cost around 700 pesos. Keep in mind, all applications for temporary residency should be submitted around 20 days prior to departure.
Benefits & Challenges
Carnaval. Every January and Feburary study abroad students can experience a festival called Carnaval, the longest festival in the world which lasts 40 days. During the main Carnaval week there will be a dance parade in the streets, lots of drum music, called Candombe, people dressed in costumes, and an all around celebration.
European Flavor. Although Uruguay is in South America, it has Spanish and Italian roots (especially in Montevideo). Therefore, you will find sidewalk cafes, clothing boutiques, and family bakeries similar to what you’d find in Europe. By studying abroad in Uruguay you can get all the experiences of South America, without the hefty European price tag.
Dialect Barrier. Even if students are fluent in the Spanish of Spain, there will be a significant language barrier, since locals speak a Uruguayan Spanish dialect. The biggest differences in the two dialects are the use of second person pronouns, pronunciation, and daily life vocabulary. But don’t worry, saying the wrong word sometimes is half the fun of a second language and a great way to learn.