Tiny but lively, South America’s second smallest nation will put you under a spell with its warm and hospitable atmosphere. Uruguay reigns supreme in areas such as quality of living, peace, and lack of corruption compared to its neighbors. Boasting sophistication and high literacy rates, it is a stable, prosperous country, and an ideal place to learn a language abroad. Not only is it covered with a well-regarded safety net, it also has a picturesque landscape and diverse flora and fauna. With an open heart and willing spirit, any student will fall in love with the inherent goodness and simplicity of the local people and surroundings while learning Spanish in Uruguay!
Not all international experiences are created equal: it’s all about ubicación, ubicación, ubicación! While you may have zeroed in on a host country, it’s now time to dive a little deeper and find a city or region in Uruguay that will best serve your learning potential and goals. Whatever your preferences, Uruguay has a language program that will speak to you.
The nation’s capital and home to nearly half of Uruguay’s population, Montevideo is a vibrant, eclectic city that wears many hats and has many options for language study. The modern high-rises of beach communities bear much resemblance to Miami or Copacabana, where music and the arts are alive and well. There is something to lure in every breed of night owl. From elegant older theaters, to cozy little tango bars, to modern beachfront discos, Montevideo will never leave you hanging.
Swanky beaches, elegant seaside homes, a yacht harbor, and an overall glitzy milieu deems Punta del Este one of South America’s most glamorous cities. Allow yourself to be mesmerized by the mystique radiating from the city while you do your language study abroad. Celebrity watching is an unofficial sport among locals, as Punta del Este is constantly buzzing with big names. After a hard day's work, go out and shake what your mamma gave you at one of the city’s famous clubs. If the party scene isn’t your cup of tea, saddle up with a local gaucho and ride horseback through the plains surrounding the city or get down for some fun in the sun and enjoy all the surf and sand has to offer.
Language Programs in Uruguay
There are many different opportunities to learn Spanish in Uruguay through a range of language schools and universities, making it very easy for aspiring Spanish speakers to find the perfect program. Other than Spanish language schools in Uruguay, it is also possible to study English or one of the country's indigenous languages.
If you choose to go the university route, you’ll likely attend lectures, take notes, and complete the usual exams to test your language skill development. University language courses in Uruguay also conclude with a shiny transcript filled with unique academic credits that will spiff up your resume.
Language schools in Uruguay offer smaller, more intimate classes which some argue make language learning easier, as you’ll likely have more time dedicated to practicing new vocabulary and verb tenses with native speakers. Generally, the primary focus of language schools in Uruguay is to give you as much practice speaking the language as possible.
Most language schools in Uruguay also offer students the opportunity to enroll in immersion programs, where students will oftentimes be required to use the target language for the majority of the day (if not all of it). These intensive language programs will expose students to both local speakers and other international students in various scenarios. Immersion language programs in Uruguay are for students that are very serious about learning a foreign language and wish to retain fluency levels after they return home.
Keep in mind that no matter what type of language courses in Uruguay you pursue, many programs will offer excursions or trips around the country to not only give you even more opportunities to practice what you’ve learned in the classroom, but to experience the culture of Uruguay as well.
Costs & Affordability
Given its status as South America’s leader in overall quality of life, it may come as no surprise that Uruguay is also one of the most expensive countries in the region to live in, especially in the capital city of Montevideo. Prices in the capital can be on par with the United States or Europe if you’re not careful. Therefore, living expenses will typically cost much less in the rural areas and smaller cities.
The local currency is the Uruguayan Peso, which runs at about 20 pesos per $1 USD. Most language programs in Uruguay will cover expenses related to housing, transportation, and meals in the upfront program fees, so you will fortunately not have to worry about paying for these necessities while mastering Spanish or English in Uruguay.
The best way to have fun in Uruguay on a budget is to explore nature and small towns. However, for fun in a city, 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
Do you like a home cooked meal every day or the flexibility of eating out or cooking on your own? Do you enjoy living with others or living solo? Language schools in Uruguay offer just about every type of housing option to fit your lifestyle.
If your end goal is to maximize your language learning, it is recommended that you do a homestay. It is also a great option if you’ve never been to a foreign country for a long period of time. Staying with a family will help you practice your language skills, and both parties will get to experience a new culture.
Most universities and language schools in Uruguay offer accommodation on school grounds. On campus housing is a great option for students who want to meet people from all over the world and share languages, cultures, and stories, all while helping each other out with language learning. However, this housing option can sometimes hurt your chances for practicing language skills, as it is tempting to revert back to English when speaking with your new group of friends.
To do a language program 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 90 day tourist visa must be applied for upon arrival, and can be extended for another 90 days if needed. For students staying longer than 180 days, a temporary residence permit is required, which should be submitted about a month prior to departure.
Benefits & Challenges
Interchangeable Life Skills. Spanish is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world and there are certain transposable cultural norms that are typical of Spanish-speaking countries. This means you will be able to communicate with people from all over the world and always have a leg up for future adventures abroad!
European Flair. Although Uruguay is in South America, it has Spanish and Italian roots (especially in Montevideo). Therefore, you will find sidewalk cafes, boutiques, and family bakeries similar to what you’d stumble upon in Europe. By studying a language abroad in Uruguay you can get all the experiences of South America, without the hefty European price tag.
Dialect Barrier. Even if students have a good grasp on Spanish, there will be a significant language barrier, since locals speak a Uruguayan dialect. But don’t worry; saying the wrong word sometimes is half the fun of a second language and the best way to learn. In the end, be realistic about your goals and don't be disappointed if you aren't speaking like a native even after an intensive language study in Uruguay. Don’t let the language learning curve get you down because no matter where you fall on the fluency spectrum, participating in a language program in Uruguay will be the experience of a lifetime!
Keep your eyes on the prize. Uruguay has an ambience about it that can easily hypnotize and lull you into awe and daze at your new surroundings. Be careful not to let it lure you away from your primary goal! If you’re spending time and money on a class, make the most of it. Be sure to review class notes, memorize new vocabulary, and complete assigned homework. And read. A lot. Out loud. Consistently.
Most importantly, have fun! When you choose to learn a language abroad, don’t forget to embrace the traditions, cultures, and essence of the people. Not only will it explain a lot of things (even some of those grammar structures), but it will also confirm that you are travelling meaningfully!