Morgan Negaard ('11) | Study Abroad
Nursing major from
When Morgan Negaard thinks of what she misses most about living in Montevideo, Uruguay, two things come immediately to mind: friends and a sense of peace.
Morgan and a few of the other ACU students on the trip made friends with the youth group from the church next door to the ACU house. They would go out and drink maté, a traditional Uruguayan hot tea, talk about anything and everything, and practice using conversational Spanish.
There's a saying in Uruguay. If you want to go fast, go by yourself; if you want to go far, go as a group.
"It was really awesome getting to build intercultural relationships," she said. She also came to appreciate the humility and caring and connections she found in the church next door.
"I miss the community of the church there," she said.
The other thing Morgan misses is the sense of peace she found in Montevideo. She discovered that Uruguayans have a word for this concept - tranquilo. It means peace, calmness, or serenity, and is used to soothe oneself or others during times of stress. For her, it meant a more relaxed and laidback way of life, one that helped her understand God's peace in her own daily struggles. She found it amazing that while Uruguayans had problems that might be greater than her own, they had learned to accept their difficulties with peace.
"I miss the peacefulness a lot," she said.
Overcoming language barriers
Morgan needed a sense of calm during the first few weeks of her Study Abroad trip. She spoke little Spanish before she left for Uruguay, and at first the language barrier seemed overwhelming. She couldn't understand what was being said around her, couldn't comprehend signs or directions, and felt disoriented and lost.
"At first, it was really rough," she said.
However, by the end of the trip she found her fluency had greatly increased. What had been the hardest part of the semester was also the most rewarding. And most importantly, she discovered that learning another language opened her mind to new possibilities for service to God.
"I feel like we’re called to serve the world and we can’t even communicate with most people," she said.
Morgan had plenty of opportunities to communicate with people from other cultures on the two trips she took over the semester. The first was to Peru over Spring Break. Her group hiked to Machu Picchu in the mountains, petted the llamas, and observed Peruvian culture up close.
"God's beauty was everywhere - it was amazing," she said.
Solitude vs. big city bustle
The second trip was to Rocha, a small, isolated beach in northern Uruguay. She enjoyed the solitude and the peace and quiet, a rest from the vibrant and active culture of Montevideo.
Morgan also enjoyed living in the bustle of a larger city. She loved going down to the port markets to eat steak and exploring other aspects of Uruguayan cuisine. She says she initially expected meals to be like Mexican food because they were in a Spanish-speaking country. To her initial surprise, Uruguayan food was like a blander version of Italian food. Everything was fried, she says, and almost everything had ham and cheese on it.
She embraced the adventure of transportation, Uruguayan-style. She and the other students rode taxis and buses in and around Uruguay. Since there were no lanes and no posted speed limits, a taxi ride could quickly turn into the ride of her life - literally speaking.
Morgan can't pick just one bit of advice to give students thinking of heading to Uruguay next spring. But she does have a few tips.
"Definitely go out and form relationships with the people there," she said. "The most lasting thing we did was form those relationships."
She says you can buy tons of souvenirs and take tons of trips, but the memories you take home are the ones that involve people. You can travel on your own, she says, but the point of Study Abroad is that you go together.
"There's a saying in Uruguay," she said. "If you want to go fast, go by yourself; if you want to go far, go as a group."
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About 25% of a graduating class will have had the adventure of a lifetime through an ACU study abroad program.
ACU in Oxford resident director Dr. Ron Morgan documents a faith-based study abroad experience in his new book. Learn more >>