Claudio Javier Cajes Terra got his first glimpse of Minnesota on Sunday when he arrived at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. The 33 year old Uruguayan teacher is visiting Minnesota as a part of a cultural exchange program, and he is spending the first week of a four week visit here in Montevideo. “I will also be going to Duluth, St. Paul, and Minneapolis,” he said.

Claudio was born and raised in Colonia Del Sacramento, Uruguay, which is located on the southwest coast of Uruguay and is not too far west of Montevideo. Claudio said: “It is a little city of about 33,000 people. It happens to be the very first city that was founded in Uruguay. Colonia was originally a Portuguese colony, but when the Spanish realized it was a sweet spot, they decided they wanted it!”

In the 1600s, Colonia del Sacramento was a very strategic location for the Portuguese, and later, the Spanish. It controlled a major river that led into the interior of the continent which was vital for trade.

This is Claudio’s first visit to America, and so far, he has found more similarities than differences. He said: “We have the same discussions, the same concerns, and the same challenges. It is very interesting to compare our cultures and know we are connected globally!”

While staying in Monte­video, Claudio will be visiting the schools. “I will be visiting a variety of classes to observe and participate when they let me! I will be sharing what it is like where I come from, and maybe play a little candombe for the students as well,” he said. (Candombe is a style of Uruguayan music and dance that is a rhythmic fusion of African and local traditions.)

Claudio is very impressed by the landscape of Minnesota. He said: “I enjoy the snow and I am very dazzled by the landscape! I have been in the snow before in the south of Argentina, but now I feel I haven’t really been in snow before; it is so thick here!”

Claudio is an English teacher who has taught for the past 12 years. “I teach a range of ages, but mostly I teach English to young adults,” he said.

Interestingly, most of his students work in the tourism and international business sectors. Claudio said: “Colonia del Sacramento is a popular place for tourists; it is a World Heritage site. Many jobs in Colonia demand English language skills. We are also an international free-trade zone, so much business goes on.”

Claudio is looking forward to learning about the American educational system, and taking what he learns back to Uruguay to share with his fellow educators. “Teachers in Uruguay have a very strong sense of community,” he said. “Most of the teachers in the country get together two or three times a year for training sessions. While there, we share professional development experiences and best practices. I will be sharing my classroom experiences here with my wider community in Uruguay.”

Personally, Claudio is looking forward to his experiences in Minnesota. “I will have a better understanding of who you are and how you live,” he said. “It is impossible to divorce language from culture, and our country’s institutions take pride in bonding with other nations, so it is important for us to be aware of and grasp American culture. So far, I’ve been amazed by how much our cultures share!”

While spending time in Montevideo, Claudio has been hosted by Rick Stermer and Ellen Moore, along with Patrick Moore.