Enhancing My Legal Experience with a Law Internship in Uruguay

Amanda K.

Amanda K. is an intern from University of South Florida. She participated in a Law internship in Uruguay with Adelante Abroad. Get the inside scoop on her experience below as she works towards enhancing her experience in the legal field.

This past Fall, I paticipated in a law internship abroad in Uruguay with Adelante Abroad. I lived in the Spanish school house, owned by a very nice Dutch woman who is partnered with Adelante Abroad. It was a 5-minute walk to the beach, extremely safe, and within walking distance from the downtown area. It is located in Maldonado, and I feel that walking to the downtown area and exploring there was the real Uruguayan cultural experience.

What advice would you give candidates before they start their program?

Look into what season it is before you go, regardless of the weather in the States! I had to buy sweatpants and a warm coat while I was there. Going from Florida in August to Uruguay, I did not expect it to be cold. It was pretty chilly there until November, so definitely plan to bring some warm clothes if you’re going during their springtime (Fall in the USA). Think of the weather as being like New York in October. Beautiful, but you need a jacket.

What are some of your favorite things to do druing your law internship in Uruguay?

My favorite weekend activities were going to the nightlife in Punta del Este, the city area about a 10-minute drive from the house I stayed in. There are great bars, restaurants, and disconnects there. If I were to compare it to a place in the USA, it’s like a better version of Miami Beach. There were even wild sea lions that you can feed with fish from the seafood vendors on the water. Punta del Este is a stunning city that is a bucket list experience for everyone interested in Hispanic, South American culture. I also enjoyed taking the bus to different beaches on the weekends and seeing the different people at each beach. There was a very neat building designed to look like Mykonos in Greece, called Casapueblo. It was an art museum with a bar/restaurant and known for its sunsets.
Amanda at casapuelblo- law inern in uruguaycasapueblo in uruguay

I did a few weekend trips while I was there – Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and Colonia del Sacramento. I also traveled to Chile for a music festival. Definitely try to travel around, as other South American cities are very accessible from there!

My highlight of the experience was seeing an Argentinian band, La Renga, live in Maldonado with my Spanish teacher. The crowd and energy was something I have never seen in the USA, and we were able to walk to and from the concert.

el caminito buenos aires argentinauruguay law intern eating Ojo de Bife food

The food was fantastic, especially the meat. I highly recommend trying the steak in Uruguay and Argentina, especially “ojo de bife”. There is also a dish called “provoleta” which is a caramelized provolone cheese cooked on the “Parillada”, or grill.

What surprised you about Uruguayan culture?

The culture in Uruguay is like night and day in comparison to the United States. There is a level of safety there that I never knew existed. The biggest contrast was the emphasis placed on happiness over money –opposite of in the USA. Specifically, marijuana is legal there, and seeing how that contributed to making such a peaceful culture there was an unforgettable takeaway. There is a museum about marijuana that explains the legalization process, and I found it very interesting to learn about, especially in contrast to the United States.
marijuana shop in uruguayMuseo de la Marihuana, La Barra, Uruguay

How was the safety in Uruguay?

As the safest country in South America, Uruguay was so refreshing in terms of safety. I grew up in Philadelphia and now go to school in the outskirts of Tampa. Uruguay was truly the first time in my entire life that I haven’t been looking over both shoulders, scared of what could happen. The safety I felt there, especially as a young foreign woman, was amazing and unforgettable.

Tell us about your law internship in Uruguay. What was the experience like?

This past fall, I was a legal intern at Santiago Clavijo Pastorini Abogados y Asociados, which is a law firm located in Punta del Este, Uruguay. I reported to the principal lawyer at the office, as well as a paralegal who guided me when conducting my tasks. My daily responsibilities consisted of updating the “movements” on the firm’s cases. I would search by case number in an online Uruguayan database and note if/what changes had occurred since the previous update. The firm has many cases so this took up the majority of time, but I also had daily conversations with other employees, conducted quality control around the office (i.e. confirming whether records were in the right place), and running errands as needed.

Interested in Interning in Uruguay? Learn more about Adelante Uruguay programs.

Intern in Uruguay

What was your Spanish level going into the internship? How much did your Spanish improve?

This internship was the first time I have ever connected a classroom setting and academic knowledge to the real world, as I was able to use the skills I learned from my major in anthropology and minor in Spanish in a real-world setting. This application allowed me to build on the knowledge I already had by putting it into practice. For example, building relationships with employees is a method of building rapport in a culturally relative manner – a major focus of anthropology.

Also, being in a setting where I was essentially required to solely speak and listen in Spanish allowed me to connect the grammar and vocabulary I learned in a classroom to having an effective conversation in a real-world, professional setting. My Spanish greatly improved overall during my internship, but learning Spanish legal terminology was notably beneficial. Not only do I now feel comfortable speaking Spanish in a legal setting, but I have all of the specific vocabulary to succeed.

amanda during her law internship in uruguayamanda during her law internship in uruguay

How has this internship helped progress your career aspirations?

Furthermore, my internship will serve as invaluable for my career plans further down the line. This is mainly due to the experience and skills I gained from it, as the ability to successfully utilize Spanish in a professional setting opens up countless doors in terms of career opportunities. My dream job is to work as an attorney at a criminal defense law firm in Miami.

With the increasing number of Spanish speakers in the United States, there is an increasing need for Spanish-speaking lawyers. That skill is a major resume-booster and I plan to emphasize this internship to future career opportunities to show that I can use Spanish in a professional setting. I also feel that the cross-cultural awareness I have gained will allow me to successfully connect with future employers in the legal field, wherever that may be.

What are some difficulties/mistakes you faced during your law internship and how did you overcome them?

Regarding challenges I faced, the only one that comes to mind was the language barrier. While I have been taking Spanish classes since middle school and have traveled in the past, this was my first time using Spanish in a professional setting. I felt comfortable speaking the language, but it was extremely difficult to understand them when they talked rapidly. However, early into the internship, I realized this challenge and politely asked them to speak a bit slower, which they fully understood.

Over time, I became more comfortable with listening to and understanding Spanish, but this was a challenge at first and I am confident that I successfully overcame it. I also spent time learning legal terms on my own time because I was not familiar with those prior to my internship. After I learned this terminology and they began speaking at a slower pace, I felt I was able to not only overcome this barrier, but significantly strengthen my Spanish abilities in the workplace. Even though it was difficult at first, I now feel very comfortable with legal terminology in Spanish, as well as effectively communicating potential difficulties when understanding the language.

What have you learned about yourself from your law internship?

My law internship in Uruguay also expanded my perspective about the legal field. I have always been very boxed into the legal system in the United States since many of my family members are lawyers. I did not even realize how closed off my perspective was until finally seeing that setting in another country. I also greatly enjoyed meeting lawyers from entirely different cultures than my own. I saw how their perspectives on the world are so different than anything I have ever known, and I feel as though I am a much more open-minded person now. Overall, my internship was very beneficial for my education, career goals, and especially myself as a whole.

How was your Adelante experience?

Adelante Abroad was very helpful throughout the application process and while I was abroad. I felt I had a reliable support system with Adelante, and they were accessible if needed. My travels as a whole were the best experiences of my life, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to intern in a setting that I would like to work in in the future.

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