1. Arrival and preparation
Since my semester abroad was a compulsory semester abroad, it was clear to me early on that I wanted to spend it in a Spanish-speaking country in order to improve my language skills. Since my university had no partner universities in this area, I decided to go abroad as a “free mover” and came across MicroEDU. I also discovered the FEN (Facultad de Economía y Negocios) on the MicroEDU homepage and after doing some research, my decision was made: I should go to Chile. In addition to the language, the reasons for this were relatively simple: Chile is one of the safest countries in South America and also has a good infrastructure and beautiful landscapes. Fortunately, thanks also to MicroEDU, I received a quick confirmation and the planning could begin. Unfortunately, Chile cannot be reached directly from Germany, so there are usually only flights with a stopover in the USA, Spain or Brazil. The flight prices vary greatly depending on the season, but you should plan between 800-1300 euros. You can enter the country with a tourist visa, but this means that you have to leave and re-enter Chile every 3 months in order to receive a new visa upon arrival. The tourist visa does not have to be applied for in advance, is quite uncomplicated and is therefore recommended by the university.
The FEN is one of the most respected business universities in South America and is accordingly a popular destination for exchange students. In my year there were around 120 exchange students, of whom around 30 also came from Germany. The FEN offers sufficient courses in both Spanish and English. As a rule, exchange students take four courses, which in my case are equivalent to 30 ECTS in the European system (but each university handles this differently). Since I already had sufficient knowledge of Spanish through my bachelor’s degree, I decided to take two courses in English and two courses in Spanish. My courses were Marketing Digital, Creación de nuevas empresas, International Management and Latin America in World’s Affairs.
In general, however, the university system in Chile differs in essential points from the German one. Overall, the lectures are school-based and oral participation and attendance play an important role. Many presentations, case studies, tests etc. have to be done during the semester, so that only with long-term planning did opportunities arise to travel outside of Santiago and get to know the country and its people.
In addition, the Chilean Bachelor (Pregrado) lasts 5 years, which meant that I only attended Pregrado courses from the last two Chilean academic years, which were then equivalent to my German Master’s courses.
The university also offers a Spanish course, which I did not attend due to the cost factor and which unfortunately was not of particularly high quality (however, the lecturer left the university after this semester, so this statement is probably no longer applicable).
Overall, the support at the FEN is excellent, the International Office tries very hard to support the students in every way and was always available as a contact person. In addition, the university offered many excursions in and around Santiago (often even free of charge), which I enjoyed and which were all worthwhile. In addition, a Chilean film evening was offered once a month to give the exchange students the opportunity to get to know this side of Chilean culture.
With regard to university sports, there are relatively many offers that are always quickly booked out, as all Chilean students have to take compulsory sports courses. (Attention, if you take such a course, you should also be prepared to have attendance and also have to write a midterm exam). There is also a free fitness studio, which – depending on the time of day – was sometimes very full.
3. Life in Santiago
Santiago in itself is not a city that is characterized by its special flair or special sights. Especially in the Chilean winter (June, July, August) the city is very gray and the smog is sometimes really difficult to bear. From September the weather will be much better and will be very constant with only a few rainy days.
Personally, I really liked it in Santiago and I felt comfortable and safe at all times. At the same time, you should of course be aware that you are in South America and therefore leave important valuables at home, for example when leaving, and take a taxi home if in doubt. In general, the crime rate in Santiago seemed just as “bad” to me as in any other major European city and you quickly learn which areas you should avoid, especially at night. The Bellavista nightlife district in particular is considered to be quite unsafe, but I also walked from there to home more often and never had any problems.
The areas of Santiago Centro and Providencia are particularly suitable for living, precisely because of their close proximity to the university. In rent you have to plan around 170,000 – 200,000 Chilean pesos (approx. 250-300 euros) per month. It is also advisable to stay in the hostel for the first few days and only look for a room on site, as unfortunately many room advertisements promise more than they actually hold. The most important page when looking for a room is probably compartodepto.cl. There you can create a profile and are then almost overwhelmed by offers. So depending on your needs, it is relatively easy to find a room.
In general, Chile is a very expensive country, so the monthly cost of living was already relatively high. Compared to Germany, the prices vary greatly, for example taking a taxi is much cheaper, while shopping in the supermarket is more expensive. You should therefore always buy fruit and vegetables at one of the markets, as they not only taste better there, but are also much cheaper (La Vega, probably the most famous market in Santiago, is recommended here).
As I said, the Bellavista party district is particularly suitable for going out, but there are also regular parties at the university. At this point, one should also mention the once a week “Miércoles Po” party, which was specially created for the Internationals in Santiago.
A small minus point for me is the Chilean Spanish, which is not very easy to understand. I had already learned Spanish for a few years before arriving in Chile, but at first I didn’t understand anything. The Chileans have a lot of “modismos” (slang words), which could probably fill entire dictionaries. The most important ones (cachai ?, carrete, chela, weon, bakan… just to name a few) can be found relatively quickly. In addition, the Chileans speak incredibly quickly and mumble a lot, so that communication is sometimes really frustrating (although I always understood the professors at university well, so you shouldn’t worry about that). Otherwise it is probably not just about burying your head in the sand, sooner or later it will work out somehow,
Anyone who decides to spend a semester abroad in South America should definitely take the opportunity to travel as often as possible. Unfortunately, there are no low cost airlines in South America (although LAN Chile often has good offers), but a very well developed and reasonably priced coach network that brings you to all parts of the continent. The quality of these coaches is usually very high (depending on the country) and sometimes warm food is served, films are shown etc. In Santiago there are 2 bus terminals (Alameda and San Borja) and you should make sure when buying your ticket that from which of the terminals one departs.
- Learn more about Chile and South America, please check computergees.
Santiago is particularly characterized by its advantageous location between the Andes and the sea. In the immediate vicinity of Santiago are the cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar (by the sea) as well as skiing and hiking areas in the Andes. This example alone makes the diversity of Chile clear: with a length of 4000 km, from the Atacama Desert in the north to the Torres del Paine National Park with glaciers and lakes in the south, there is a lot to see and discover. In addition to Chile, I have also visited Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil. If you need any tips regarding these goals, you are of course welcome to contact me.
Finally, I would like to encourage everyone to apply for a semester abroad in Chile. It’s worth it and gives you a unique opportunity that you will never regret. The Chileans are very proud of their country and always friendly and helpful. Many thanks also to MicroEDU, who stood by my side with words and deeds and ensured that the semester ran smoothly. I had a great time, learned Spanish and met a lot of great people from all over the world. So dare!