A brief insight into the planning and course of my semester abroad at the Universidad de Chile, Faculdad Economía y Negocios in Santiago de Chile:
The planning for my semester abroad began in July 2015 when I was in cooperation with MicroEDU began after a suitable university for my semester abroad to look for. First, I made a list of priorities that I thought were important in order to narrow down the number of universities on offer.
- University location in Latin America
- Combination of courses in Spanish and English
- Range of courses, which to me at the Fulda University may be credited
- University with a small number of exchange students
- Attractive location of the university in terms of safety and leisure activities
With this list, the coordinator of MicroEDU was able to offer me various universities that largely met these criteria. My decision for the FEN and Santiago was a gut decision, but it couldn’t have been better.
The application was rather difficult at my home university, as it was not easy to meet the person responsible for the module to find courses together that would be recognized and to sign the learning agreement. When this section was completed, however, it became a lot easier. MicroEDU was always available for questions and communicated very clearly which documents were necessary for the application and when and in what form they had to be submitted. The application process was completed in mid-December and, in retrospect, was very straightforward.
This next section of my semester abroad report should give an impression of the way I lived in Chile during my 4 months. Before I left Germany, I booked a hostel near the university in Santiago, because that’s where I start looking for an apartment and wanted to start in the capital of Chile. There I met some of my new fellow students, with whom I was able to exchange ideas about various apartment offers and customs of the real estate market. I contacted various landlords via the website compartodepto.cl and a profile created there, but it quickly turned out that very few of them can be perceived as serious. Many housing offers were rooms in small apartments with single men or expensive apartments in the city center. Through contact with another international student, I found out about a room in a shared apartment with other exchange students, which I liked after a viewing and which I moved in two days after my arrival, in this sense the day before the start of my studies.
The living situation there is as follows: Twelve of us lived on three floors, which are divided into two fully equipped apartments, which are only divided by an open staircase. Our flat share has four French, four German, two Belgian, one Dutch and one Spanish flatmates. The colloquial language at home was mostly English, but we have also developed our own terms and added them to our vocabulary, as none of us speak English as our mother tongue and there are often specific words for which no one knew the specific term. As a result, expressions like: “the thing that you use for…” have become commonplace and essential for our communication. Towards the end of our stay, however, you could see thatMore and more Spanish was spoken instead of English, as we all wanted to take the opportunity to practice and improve our language skills.
3. Studies at the Universidad de Chile (FEN)
In the following, my choice of course and everyday study at the Faculdad Economía y Negocios will be discussed in more detail. In advance, I chose my courses online in a system that is comparable to the registration system at the HS Fulda. At that time these were:
- Latin America in Worlds Affairs
- Intercultural Business Challenges in Latin America
- International management
- Historia de Chile
As can be seen from the titles of the courses, the language of instruction for courses 1st – 3rd is English, the latter are taught in Spanish. In doing so, I wanted to keep open the possibility of taking lectures in English as well as taking simpler courses in Spanish in order to improve my Spanish and learn more about Chile.
When I got my schedule at the beginning of March, however, I had to find out that I could not take Historia de Chile, as this is a curso electivo, which can only be taken by international students if not all places are taken by Chilean students, as these are electivos are required to complete their studies. I had the four remaining courses twice a week for 1½ hours, so that I spent a total of 12 hours a week in lectures. This sounds like very little at first, but students in Chile are expected to do a lot of work at home. The university system, which is very schooled compared to German universities, requires a lot of work to be done outside of the lectures. In my opinion, this is less about quality and more about quantity. In one of my courses, for example, we were asked to work with a Chilean company, to carry out a corporate culture analysis there and then to come up with suggestions for improvement. I think I can say with almost 100% certainty that I have invested more hours of my free time in this project than I have spent in the associated lectures.
In summary, I knew from the start that as a social sciences student at a business faculty, I would embark on an adventure and be confronted with many new ways of thinking and approaches. I consciously chose this for myself and I now believe that it has shaped my openness and my acceptance and I was able to develop a feeling for economic thinking in the beginning. However, the individual courses did not always convince me thematically and in my opinion would have had much more potential. It must be mentioned here, however, that the Chilean university system is also criticized by local students and that strikes by students, professors, teachers and even pupils are the order of the day. These protests are primarily about social inequality, which is expressed by the differences between private and public schools / universities, but also about the high tuition fees and the poor quality of teaching.
4. Everyday life and leisure
This section is intended to give an insight into my everyday life in Santiago and to illustrate how one lives here as an international student. I spent four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) at the university. On Wednesdays in the mornings I usually went to La Vega, the largest market in Santiago, to shop. It should be noted that Chilean supermarkets are almost twice as expensive as German ones and that the prices on the market can be compared with German supermarket prices. Since the university demands a lot of work at home here, I also spent one or two afternoons studying, working on projects or preparing presentations. However, the fun was definitely not neglected. Santiago offers good opportunities to go to bars or discos in the evening, but always with the background that it is a big city and not necessarily always safe. However, I have got used to not walking home alone, not hailing taxis in the street or taking good care of my purse and leaving my passport, credit cards and cell phone at home in the first place.
- For information about Chile and South America, please visit ezinereligion.
The weekends offered many opportunities and time for excursions. Santiago is an unbelievably good starting point to go hiking in the Andes, to try the typical Sovignon Blanc in various wineries in the Valle Centro or to go to Valparaiso or Vina del Mar to the sea and spend time there. There is also a lot to do on the weekend in Santiago, so you don’t always have to plan whole day trips. Numerous museums, parks and activities come up again and again, many of which are even free and therefore very suitable for international students.
With ten days off in the middle of the semester, I had the opportunity to spend some time in the south of Chile. Due to the great influence of German immigrants, the beautiful landscape is somewhat reminiscent of the low mountain ranges of Germany and with a bit of luck you can even find apple strudel. However, the snow-capped volcanoes and eternal expanses of this incredibly long country cannot be compared with anything I have seen before.