Lawson Soward ('11) | Study Abroad
Electronic media major
from Colleyville, Texas
If you ask Lawson Soward what he misses most from his semester abroad in Uruguay, his answer is a little confusing.
"The bank building next to the Artigas statue off Dieciocho," he'll reply.
At first no one has any clue what he's talking about. But if you ask, Lawson will tell you that this particular spot has a special meaning to him. It's where he and his Uruguayan friends used to hang out, drink maté and talk about everything from serious issues to the latest soccer match.
"Those were amazing nights," he says.
Lawson met these new friends through the youth group at the church next door to the house where all the ACU students lived. As they spent more time together, Lawson became more and more impressed with the character of the group as a whole.
"All of the people in that group are the most remarkable people," he said.
Far away from home, speaking a foreign language, Lawson relished the opportunity to form community while he learned to love new people. The experience impressed him deeply, both with the sense of a common bond and the feeling that this disparate group of people had become family.
"That's been one of the most genuine feelings of home that I've had," he said. "They just drew us into that family."
That's been one of the most genuine feelings of home that I've had. They just drew us into that family.
Part of the joy of bonding with Uruguayan friends was getting to use Spanish outside of class. Lawson had already taken five years of Spanish when he left for Uruguay, including one year at ACU learning from Dr. Beatríz Walker. But he discovered that spending time with native speakers improved his conversational skills far more quickly than years of study.
"I learned more Spanish in those four months than I did in five years of taking classes in America," he said. "The environment facilitated learning Spanish a lot better."
Lawson enjoyed the process of speaking another language so much that when Lent came, he was part of a group who agreed to give up English until Easter. One of his favorite parts of using Spanish in a religious context was learning to pray in Spanish. To him, prayers worded in Spanish sound like poetry.
"That was a neat aspect of it," he said.
It was difficult to learn Spanish successfully around so many English speakers, however. Every now and then, Lawson became frustrated at being surrounded by non-Spanish speakers.
"It's just the challenge of communal living," he said.
Sometimes it was hard for him to live around so many people day in and day out, he says. There were so many personalities in one space and so many adjustments that everyone had to make. But the end result was well worth it in his eyes.
"You grow to love these people, and they become like your siblings," he said.
He had plenty of time to interact with other members of the group when they went on trips together - including Lawson's two favorites, Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls.
"I really, really liked the Buenos Aires trip," he said. "It was really urban, really jazzy, really fun."
Even though the group was only there for about a week, they spent all their time in the city. While there, they went to the markets, took in tango shows, and browsed through museums. One of his favorite memories is meeting a silversmith from Peru and conversing in Spanish with him.
Lawson loved visiting Iguazu Falls in Brazil as well.
"Iguazu was beautiful," he said. The trip had special significance because it was one of the last outings that everyone took as a group. "It kind of felt like a finale."
Advice for going on Study Abroad
Lawson has plenty of advice for future Study Abroad participants.
"Go to the feria as often as you can," is one thing he recommends. The feria is the local fair or market.
He also advises creating personal ties to the people you encounter in daily life.
"Make relationships with people," he said. "They're the friendliest people I've ever met."
He knows what he's talking about. He still misses spending time with his Uruguayan friends, and is even trying to arrange for them to travel to the United States. so they can see his hometown.
"We formed some amazing friendships," he said. "I miss those guys every day."
But the most important thing, the experience that makes a trip to Uruguay unforgettable, is probably the simplest thing of all.
"Also, drink maté," Lawson says.
Preferably by the Artigas statue on Dieciocho.
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