Architecture and travelling, are not necessarily synonyms, right? Well, in Uruguay they are, sort of. Every year a group of more than 100 students of the Architecture Faculty, of the University of the Republic get to travel around the globe for seven months or so. The best of it, is that this is willingly financed by Uruguayans. You are thinking taxes, or university support, right? Well, not exactly. Actually they organize the biggest fundraiser raffle in the country.
It’s a Uruguayan tradition, which is more than sixty years old already. I understand the travel has a couple of different flavors, some do the whole thing, others half of it, and some customize some of the destinations, but for those who do the full monty it means travelling throughout all of europe, north of africa, asia, and north america. It’s an awesome trip.
Everybody in Uruguay knows someone who’s either studying architecture, or who has a son, or sister who’s doing it, and it’s like the right thing to do in Uruguay to buy at least one ticket to support the lazy bum to travel the world, meet interesting people, learn and maybe some day… design houses?
Since this has been going on for years, they have perfectioned a strong marketing muscle, and they are sponsored by big companies, and mainstream media. They have the ability to put on some of the funniest commercials in uruguayan tv. The best of them all imho was the one that involved a drag queen, who had lost the prize for not playing the usual number on a particular year, being this so unlikely he’d made a promise he’d have his parts removed on the event of the number being a winner, well, the ticket number turned out to be a winner, and ... yeah he fulfilled his promise (I como soy un hombre de palabra…).
Tickets can be paid in affordable ten bucks installments, for a period of one year, and the prizes are really, really good. Like houses, apartments, cars, laptops, trips, etc. There are 10 sorting events (is that the term?) along the year, all of them with a very attractive pool of prizes.
In theory those who travel are graduate students, in practice they travel before finishing studies, usually a couple of years before, and since the career takes so long (7 in theory, 11 average) ages of those travelling vary (thanks ana for the correction). They are allowed to take someone as travel partners. When they are abroad they flock in smaller groups to do parts of the trip. These groups sometimes buy vans in Europe to road trip, and after they are done they sell them.
Some of the Uruguayan architecture travellers take the trip with a, let’s say, academic attitude, they get up early, visit museums, go to conferences, and try to see and learn as much as they can. On the other hand, there’s always the nonstop partying crowd, who focus on learning the different cultures at nighttime.
This week you may see them in Plaza Cagancha, “demonstrating”, and trying to sell raffle tickets. You just can’t say no to those faces, can you?