Along with neighboring Argentina, Uruguay is one of the world’s leaders in meat consumption per capita, which presents a problem for Lee’s Summit native Laura Williams.
“I don’t eat meat at all ... so that’s quite an adjustment,” she said.
Back in 2010, Williams traveled to Uruguay to study Spanish during a break from classes at the University of Central Missouri. While there, she met her boyfriend, Andres. After graduating with her master’s degree in English as a second language the following year, she returned and has lived in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, for the last three years, despite the carnivorous population.
Williams is back in Lee’s Summit this summer, taking classes in nutrition and dietetics at MCC-Longview, but plans to return to Uruguay once her classes are finished. The end goal is for her and Andres to split time between there and the U.S.
“He owns a business down there, so somehow creating something that could split and share between both countries,” Williams said. “And I’ll still probably teach here and there but not so heavily like right now.”
Williams currently teaches for Oxbridge. Using Skype, she gives one-on-one English lessons to Uruguayan business professionals.
“Some of them are beginners. Some of them just need to brush up,” she said. “It’s kind of a cool deal because it provides me with lots of flexibility.”
Before returning to the U.S., Williams also taught English at Montevideo’s Universidad Católica del Uruguay, “La Católica.”
“Teaching, in my specific case, since I teach people from another country, is getting a perspective of different opinions, different viewpoints, perspectives from a country that’s now really important to me,” she said.
Williams is one of the many Americans that travel to South America to teach English. In fact, most of her friends in Uruguay are American.
“Besides my boyfriend’s friends, most of my friends are all girls from the U.S.,” Williams said. “There’s a big bunch down there and, obviously, they’re all teachers.”
Native English speakers are in high demand in Uruguay. Young adults with degrees or certificates in Spanish don’t have to look far for teaching jobs.
“If you’re a native speaker, they’ll want you,” Williams said.
Williams graduated from Lee’s Summit North High School in 2005 and then attended UCM and earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish before receiving her master’s.
She didn’t plan on teaching. It just worked out that way.
“I wanted a master’s and it seemed the most fitting with what I already had done and my interests, and then it just happened,” she said.
Her love of traveling also played a role in her decision. Besides her extended stay in Uruguay, Williams has also visited Argentina, Chile, Spain, England, France and Italy.
However, she still makes several trips back to Lee’s Summit during the year, including every Christmas and sometimes during the summer.
Even with the American influence still constant in her life, Williams has seen changes in both her personality and her means of transportation.
“I don’t even own a car,” she said. “I haven’t owned one since I left. But it’s not so important to me now because a lot of people down there don’t even have one.
“It keeps me more grounded and humble, I think, because I’ve really seen a change in myself.”
And, of course, living in a soccer-crazed country, she too was infected with World Cup fever.
“Yeah. I wouldn’t have been normally,” Williams said. “They are obsessed with it. It was so sad when Uruguay lost.”