It was clear to me from the start that I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country. Spain was too close to me, so off to South America. To go to a relatively safe country here, the decision was made between the two safest countries, Chile and Argentina. I was convinced by the incredible differences in the Chilean landscape – I just wanted to experience something like that for myself. Since my university of applied sciences does not have any partner universities in South America, I decided to submit the application through MicroEDU. My questions were always answered directly and the organization was also great. Immediately after the university was accepted, I received the most important information from Stephanie from the International Office, i.e. everything about the beginning of the course, introductory events,
The advantage of Chile is that you usually do not need a visa. Upon entry, you will receive a free tourist visa, which is valid for 90 days. As soon as you then leave and re-enter, this will be created again. Personally, I preferred this variant to a student visa, which you can apply for for around € 150, since you can then better invest the money saved in traveling.
The FEN is one of the top business faculties in Chile and that is exactly what you can see during your studies. The course is demanding but varied. You learn a lot and through many extra-student activities and events organized by student organizations, you have many opportunities to get to know Chileans outside of the lecture hall.
I chose the courses “Recursos Humanos” (human resource management), “Marketing”, “Clínica Microempresas” (a type of business consultancy for small businesses) and “Creación de Nuevas Empresas” (business creation). These were all super challenging, but they brought me a lot further in my studies than some of the lectures in Germany. Since I only registered for Spanish courses, I was faced with an even greater challenge: Chilean Spanish is not like you learn Spanish at school, for example. The Chileans swallow letters and simply invent completely new words, but you can get used to them quickly. To improve your Spanish, I definitely recommend this, as English is sometimes more difficult to understand than Spanish.
The examinations vary depending on the course. However, there are two week midterms and final exams that require exams in most lectures. Usually there are (surprising) controls in the classroom, oral exams or small tests (in Clínica Microempresas, for example, we had a project that counted as an examination performance with final term papers). Overall, you have to prepare the lectures regularly, read a lot and work on case studies.
For those who also want to improve their Spanish or start from scratch, a Spanish test can be taken during the introductory week. However, the participants told me that you don’t learn that much. I recommend you just do a lot with Chileans so that you are forced to speak the language. That helped me a lot.
The Universidad de Chile also offers a variety of sports courses. In addition to yoga and climbing, there is, for example, a course in typical Latin American dances. You can also use the fitness studio on campus for free at any time.
- Learn more about Chile and South America, please check franciscogardening.
What I found quite impressive, especially when you come from Germany, is that the contact with the professors is very friendly and “close”. It is not uncommon to greet her with a kiss on the right cheek. For me it was a completely new, but definitely positive experience.
Santiago & Housing
Life takes place in Santiago, which is particularly due to the fact that the majority of Chileans live in this city. You can already feel a certain big city feeling. However, since the city is divided into quarters, just like in the USA, it is relatively easy to find your way around. For me, Santiago might not be something in the long run, as the smog that constantly hangs over Santiago in particular reduces its beauty. But with the Chilean mentality and the diverse nightlife, that’s already forgotten;) In addition to typical bars with Latin American music and salsa counters, there is something for every taste in music. The majority is located in the party-filled Bellavista district. The Barrio Patronato is also particularly interesting for women: if you always wanted to go shopping for cheap…
In terms of prices, Chile is surprisingly expensive. Even if you think of a low price level in Latin American countries, Chile is very similar in price to Germany. Cosmetic items are even more expensive than in Germany. As far as rental prices are concerned, you can’t expect anything too cheap. The Barrios Providencia, Bellavista or Santiago Central are recommended for living. If you are looking for a flat share, you can expect the same rental prices as in Germany. However, there are also so-called Casas de Estudiantes with around 8-14 people, where many of my fellow students have lived. You can be sure that there will always be one or the other house party, but these are mostly only inhabited by internationals, so that you speak much more English than Spanish. I myself lived in a shared apartment with two Chileans, right in Santiago Centro. So I was able to learn a lot about the Chilean culture, the Chilean cuisine and the Chilean words, so highly recommended.
If you travel to Chile, you should definitely bring time and money with you. There are just a few destinations that are mandatory when you are in Chile. In addition to Patagonia and San Pedro de Atacama, to name completely opposites, places like Pucón or Isla de Chiloé are simply beautiful. For example, I specifically chose Chile because I was so interested in the landscape and I was not disappointed. The International Student Bonus is particularly helpful at university. Most professors understand that traveling is part of a semester abroad and that the compulsory attendance does not necessarily have to be complied with;)
However, one should also keep in mind that traveling in South America is very tedious. If you drive from Santiago to San Pedro in the north, you can already plan 24 hours for the bus trip, so just take a look at flights from time to time, which are often cheaper and clearly faster.
Since I unfortunately didn’t have that much time after my studies, I only made it to Argentina and Bolivia in my semester abroad, but it was definitely worth the trip. If Bolivia is on the plan, definitely do the three-day jeep tour from San Pedro de Atacama to the Salar de Uyuni. The height of Bolivia becomes clear when you spend the first night at 5000m (sometimes in the form of altitude sickness), but the landscapes are simply breathtaking. If you are also a fan of adrenaline and sport, you should definitely go down the “Death Road” in La Paz by mountain bike.
I can only recommend South America to everyone. For me it was the most valuable and most beautiful experience so far. Since I came to Chile with the aim of improving my Spanish, I looked around for a Spanish-speaking flat share and did a lot with Chileans. Nothing better could have happened to me and I recommend it to everyone. Because you can only learn their culture and language if you spend a lot of time with the locals.
If someone fears getting homesick, just travel south, there is a lot of German influence: restaurants with German names and food and even a German village, Frutillar.
So, off to Chile and have a great time. Have a lot of fun!