Last week, Montevideo welcomed Uruguayan teacher Victoria Dieste for a cultural exchange program where she visited each of Montevideo's public schools.

Last week, Montevideo welcomed Uruguayan teacher Victoria Deiste for a cultural exchange program where she visited each of Montevideo’s public schools.

An English teacher from Montevideo, Uruguay, Deiste visited Minnesota through Partners of the Americas, an organization founded in 1964 to promote exchanges between the United States and other Western countries. She has been a teacher for about 12 years.

This is Deiste’s second trip to America. She participated in an exchange program when she was 16, when she attended Apple Valley High School for a month.
She arrived in Minnesota about three weeks ago and spent two weeks visiting schools in St. Paul and Minnetonka before heading to Montevideo last week.

Deiste observed English and Spanish classes and also gave presentations on Uruguayan culture. “Kids have so many questions,” Deiste said. She said they were very interested in what kids their age in Uruguay like to do and things like what kinds of food they like to eat. In her presentations she showed pictures of Uruguay and shared traditional Uruguayan music. She said some things kids do for fun is go to the beach or play soccer.

In Uruguay, Deiste teaches English to students of all ages at a language school. She is also heavily involved in designing online templates for teaching. With the help of the Internet, her school in Montevideo is able to teach English to students across Uruguay.

Throughout her stay in Minnesota, Deiste has noticed a number of differences between American and Uruguayan schools. For starters, kids in Uruguay are currently on summer vacation.

Deiste said she immediately noticed the shorter school days and minimal amount of breaks in the day. School days in Uruguay are typically from about 8:30 to 5:00, but have much longer breaks throughout the day.

The large amount of public schools and quality of the education they offer was another difference Deiste noticed. In Uruguay more kids attend private primary and high schools. However, in Uruguay, public universities offer free, quality education and private colleges are less common.

Technology is prevalent in both American and Uruguayan schools, but Deiste said it is utilized differently in each country. Uruguay began offering a One Laptop Per Child program over the last several years. Students use them for school work both at home and at school.

“I think it’s going to be a major change for education in our country,” she says. Free wifi Internet is offered in many public spaces throughout the country like squares and parks.

Deiste noticed the schools she’s visited in Minnesota have less tablets and laptops but utilize “smart board” technology that is less popular in Uruguay.

In Uruguay, classes typically consist of mostly group work or lessons that involve the class as a whole. Deiste found classes to be run differently in America. “I’ve noticed there’s a lot of individual work here,” she said. “That’s something we don’t do as much.”

During her stay in Minnesota, Deiste has enjoyed sharing teaching techniques with American teachers while also learning about different teaching styles from them. “It’s very enriching for both sides,” she said.

Outside of visiting schools, Deiste has enjoyed experiencing life in Minnesota. She went ice fishing, skating, downhill skiing at Afton Alps and, of course, went to the Mall of America. She also enjoyed trying different American foods. She was surprised by how spicy the food in America is and said Uruguayans typically do not eat very spicy food. Of all the American food she’s tried, she said the Reuben sandwich has been her favorite.

Deiste stayed with Patrick and Mary Moore  while here in Montevideo. She stayed with the families of two different teachers at her previous stops. She was able to observe the teachers she stayed with and got to discuss school with them at home.
The experience for Deiste was very different from that of a tourist because she spent time with a family doing their daily routine. This allowed her to more authentically  take in American culture.

“A good part of it has been to do what everyday families would do,” she said.
Deiste said the people in Montevideo have been very welcoming and she loved their interest in Uruguayan culture. “It’s a really nice town, very nice people.”
She concluded her four-week stay in Minnesota this week touring schools in Minneapolis. She returns to Uruguay on Sunday.