Learning to live the Uruguayan way

Alumni interview with Dylan Joachim ’23, USAC Montevideo, Uruguay

What inspired you to travel abroad?

I’ve always wanted to study abroad as a means of second language acquisition, broadening my horizons, and gaining new experiences. When I was in high school, I made an internal commitment to seek new adventures that I saw few people who looked like me undertake. For me, pursuing my education abroad has proven to be the most fitting decision.

Why did you choose the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC)?

I chose USAC because my college, Washington & Jefferson College (Washington, Pennsylvania) partners with them. The courses that were offered piqued my interest and suited my communication arts major and gender and women’s studies minor perfectly. In addition to classroom instruction, there were guided tours that expanded my cultural knowledge and understanding.

What was your favorite part about Montevideo?

While in Montevideo, I enjoyed immersing myself in the Spanish language and learning about the customs and practices of Uruguayans. Their welcoming and friendly nature made me want to learn even more about the country’s history customs, practices, and history.

An ariel view of Montevideo. Taken by Dylan Joachim

What made your experience abroad extraordinary?

Before embarking on my study abroad semester, I had never ventured that far from my hometown. However, I made a conscious effort to seek out communities that were both diverse and inclusive, which allowed me to learn valuable lessons about both myself and the world at large. Thanks to this experience, I have gained a greater understanding of who I am and what I need to do in order to continue growing both personally and professionally.

How did the local program staff support you throughout your program?

Both Orlando and Sebastian were extremely supportive before and during my semester abroad. There was never a time when I felt that I could not talk to them. They were fully committed to their jobs; ensuring that every student had a memorable experience.

What’s one thing you wish you would have done differently during your time abroad?

I can confidently say I left Montevideo with no regrets. Being mindful about how I was spending my time allowed me to live in the moment. It’s not always the easiest route, but I believe that practice makes perfect.

Describe what a typical day in your life abroad looked like.

My typical day in Montevideo involved having breakfast with my host brother at 10 a.m., finishing any outstanding homework assignments, attending classes from 1 to 6 p.m., working out in La Rambla or attending a yoga class in Parque Rodo, and spending time with local friends on weekends.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time abroad?

I’m a firm believer in the mind-body connection, so I dedicated a great deal of my free time to working out. I joined a group yoga class that was taught in Parque Rodo that I attended three times a week. On other days, I would go across the street to the outdoor calisthenics gym and exercise.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

I lived with a host family in an apartment in Ciudad Vieja which allowed me to acclimate to Uruguayan cuisine and culture. Initially, my host brother took me to explore the local area and discover all the city had to offer.

What is one thing every future participant should know about your program before their program begins?

I’d advise future participants to spend a great deal of time reflecting on what they want to do while they are abroad. Take advantage of unique opportunities with intention and fairness. A successful adventure abroad is what you make of it!

Would you recommend USAC to others? Why?

Of course! If you’re looking for a group-centered experience where you can gain lifelong friends then this is the perfect fit for you.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of traveling abroad is?

Traveling abroad can help you grow your confidence and develop your talents and abilities.

Now that you’re home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

I regularly reflect on this question. The biggest takeaway for me is not to rush the timing of my life. I had tried to study abroad in Montevideo three times prior to the Spring of 2023, and COVID had prevented me from going. These setbacks allowed me to study alongside some of the best people I could have asked for. Had I gone earlier, who knows if I ever would have met these individuals? So, centering patience has become essential in my life.

What does meaningful travel mean to you?

To me, meaningful travel is having a robust understanding of why you want to experience a place, culture, or community. One should also envision themselves in the role they see themselves playing within a larger community.