In the summer of 2014, my preparations for my semester abroad in Chile began. First, I researched the universities that were available for selection. I compared the courses offered and the content of the classes and then, with the help of MicroEDU, decided on the Universidad de Chile, Facultad de Economía y Negocios in the center of Santiago. The university is among the best in Latin America and offers around 20 courses in English and 100 in Spanish.
For the application form from MicroEDU I put the necessary documents (registration form, proof of language proficiency, resume, current transcript of records, copy of passport, photo for your student ID and proof of international health insurance) together.
Within a few hours I received an answer and soon the confirmation that I was accepted at the university.
So it was time to book my flights for July 2015. I decided to fly straight to Santiago a week before the start of lectures in order to get used to it.
I found a host through couch surfing who accepted me for the first 3 weeks. That was really helpful because he not only told me a lot about history, the country and its people, but also gave me information about the city’s metro and bus systems as well as important contact points.
The coordinator of the international students at the FEN (“Facultad de Economía y Negocios”), Kaia Range, started sending us e-mails with information about the university, city, apartments and leisure time about 2 months before the start of the semester Always the first and most reliable point of contact for problems of all kinds during the semester.
I was able to choose a course using the online catalog before the semester and decided to take 4 courses. My first course was Negocios 1 with Professor Eric Spencer, the director of the International Institute. The lessons were exciting and instructive as the main focus was on international companies and their methods. The grade in Negocios 1 consisted of many case works, in which recommendations for action had to be written for companies, as well as reading tests, midterm exams and final exams. Negocios was the course that kept me on my toes and made sure that I couldn’t complain about too much free time, even on the weekend. My second course was Urban Economics with Professor Tagle. Urban development and design and the resulting price development were dealt with here. I really enjoyed this course because we learned a lot about Santiago and its development. Two reading tests, a group work with presentation, midterm exam and final exam were graded. The amount of work was manageable and it was very interesting to get to know the influence of cultural differences even on town planning and urbanization. I can recommend this course to everyone, as it counteracts the culture shock (a little) by understanding it.
My third course was called Intercultural Business Challenges in Latin America and was given by Professor Diego. I also found this course very interesting because it specifically addressed the cultural differences in Latin America and Prof. Diego always invited interesting guest speakers. We had the chance to speak to a manager from British American Tobacco and learned more about the company’s expansion strategies, problems encountered when entering the market in various Latin American countries and their solutions. The task here was to write reports about the guest lectures, hold a debate and take a final exam.
- Learn more about Chile and South America, please check internetsailors.
My fourth course was Globalización, Tratados y Acuerdos Comerciales with Professor Walter Sanchez. Here we were informed about the numerous trade agreements that exist in Latin America. It was also incredibly interesting to get a look at the EU from a Latin American perspective. There are two reading tests per semester as well as a group work with a presentation and a 20-page report. Professor Sanchez was voted Best International Professor at the end of the semester and I can only recommend his courses to others. I really liked his way of always stimulating discussions and forming opinions.
The university has an extensive range of sports courses and other activities. There’s a gym, climbing wall, soccer field, and basketball court – all right on campus. There is something for every taste. With the help of the FEN Buddy Program, you can quickly find new friends and integrate yourself perfectly into university life. With Let’s Chat and HablaPo there is also the opportunity to improve your English and Spanish. There are also many clubs, teams and activities on campus, which is very centrally located and close to the Baquedano / Plaza Italia metro junction. Every semester the International Fair takes place, a kind of fair of the represented countries, which is organized by the exchange students to present their home country. It is worthwhile to pack the traditional costume in your suitcase and have Grandma’s best recipe sent to you.
With its 7 million inhabitants, Santiago is by far the largest city in Chile. About 50% of the population lives and works here. At the beginning of the semester, the university offers a free city tour (there are also daily non-university free walking tours), during which you are shown the most important sights and landmarks. For example La Vega Central, the most famous, certainly the largest and probably cheapest market in the city. I found renting in Santiago relatively expensive, but that puts the city in the ranks of other world metropolises.
Here is an overview of the costs:
- Visa: around 100 €
- Flight: € 1,200
- Rent: CLP 180,000-250,000
- Transport: CLP 30,000 (depending on where you live)
- Groceries: 80,000CLP
- Culture: 20,000 CLP – 100,000 CLP
- Registration Uni: 500 US $
- Course Fees: US $ 3,000 (24NC)
There are 5 different metro lines and countless buses in the city that will take you almost anywhere as soon as you look through the timetable-free system. There is also a city project for bike rental. For this you need a RUT (the personal identification number in Chile), which you can only get with a student visa and after approx. 1 month. However, because of a strike in the Registro Civíl, it took me a full three months and I never received the student card for discounted metro journeys. In addition, cycling is still relatively new in Santiago and the bike paths are poorly developed or suddenly stop. For me, cycling was definitely the most dangerous thing I did in Santiago and I quickly regretted investing in my own bike.
Santiago has an exciting nightlife, countless cultural offers, sports and activities in its numerous parks and there is even a weekly German regulars’ table that helps against homesickness. There are many groups on Facebook, such as gringos in Chile, Germans in Santiago, etc., which always provide information about new offers and activities. If you want to get out of the city, there are also countless buses that take you overland, overnight, anywhere for little money. In general, I feel safe in Chile, you should just beware of pickpocketing, which is a kind of national sport, but the university also provides information about this on the day of introduction. Chile is the most seismically active country in the world and earthquakes are practically the order of the day (you will also be informed about this on the day of introduction). Even if Chileans dismiss anything below 8.0 on the Richter scale as a “small tremor” and the construction of the houses is extremely earthquake-proof, when traveling to the beach you should pay attention to the signs that show you the way to the next tsunami protection zone in the event of an emergency. I experienced an 8.3 magnitude quake in a hostel near the beach and the hostel operators had fled faster than we could understand what was happening. In such situations, it is good to have researched beforehand and to know what to do and which places to avoid.
Finally, a few words on the subject of culture: Chileans are a very nice, helpful people, who always try to help even with little knowledge of Spanish.Chileans speak with many modisms, which means that in the beginning (even with a solid knowledge of Spanish) it will be very difficult to understand them. However, if you delete “po”, “weon” or “cachai” from the sentences in your head, many things suddenly make sense. In general, Chileans are rarely on time, and punctuality is only expected at university. At celebrations it can happen that you are still standing in front of a locked door if you arrive on time. Eating tends to be late in Chile, so it can be 4 or 6 p.m. at lunch with the family. Planning is also hardly possible and working in groups with Chilean fellow students 3 hours before submission is the hardest work, so under no circumstances do the final correction! But I got used to that after my first semester and took everything a little more calmly. I really enjoyed my time in Chile and made many new friends, acquaintances and experiences.