A semester abroad in South America is something else.
I have never been outside of Europe before, let alone in South America. I could speak English and French, but not a word of Spanish. As a business graduate, it seems, you have to go to a renowned university in the Far East or at least to the USA. These are exactly the reasons why I decided to do a semester abroad in Chile. There was no rational reason. The idea of doing something completely different that I had never thought of before appealed to me and it was really worth it!
If someone is really looking for a few solid reasons for making a rational decision, the following can be enumerated:
- It is possibly the only, but probably the cheapest and most intensive way to get to know South America.
- You have tons of experiences, especially in terms of culture and learning
- Chile is South America’s safest travel destination and Vina del Mar is absolutely safe
- At second glance you notice how European Chile is and how uncomplicated it is to live
- You learn Spanish
- It’s a lot of fun!
- And there is no reason against it!
In this report I would like to focus on my personal impressions and tips from my semester abroad. So that you get a more individual impression, I am adding a few excerpts from my blog.
I arranged my visa through the Chilean embassy in Berlin. That cost $ 90 and I had to drive to Berlin to pick it up. This is how you can do it if you want to be cumbersome. Unfortunately, I only found out later that this could have been done via Frankfurt as well. Or you simply do not apply for a student visa, but enter as a tourist. Then you just have to make sure that you leave the country every 3 months. Since I advise you to travel as much as possible anyway, and it is really not far to the Argentine border (see below), I recommend this variant (it is also free of charge).
- For information about Chile and South America, please visit politicsezine.
If you arrive in Santiago at the airport, take a bus to “Pajaritos” (this is a bus terminal). There you get off and take a bus to Vina del Mar (get off at the “Terminal”). This route should cost between 4000 and 8000 pesos. Do not be persuaded by taxi drivers or private buses, because the above is not only the cheapest but also the fastest and most convenient. From the terminal in Vina you can treat yourself to a taxi if you don’t feel like walking. Because unfortunately it is highly unlikely that you will understand the bus and collectivosystem in Vina on the first day.
I had reserved a hotel room from Germany by email (at the Hotel Monaldi, Calle Arlegui). I actually wanted to stay there for the first month, which would have cost the equivalent of around € 250. However, I didn’t find it particularly great, which led to me looking for something else as quickly as possible. In general, it is an exaggeration to think that you have to have a place to stay for at least the first month. Rooms in shared apartments and the like are rented out again and again during the month, zero problem. However, it is not stupid to arrange a hostel at least for the first night, if only to calm your nerves. You can do this either through travel guide recommendations or via the Internet. Since you can always extend spontaneously in hostels (if it’s not high season), you really shouldn’t be too stressed about looking for an apartment (that was the case with me). On the first pre-drink I went to, on my 2nd day, I met 3 French people who still had a room in their really large shared house. Then I moved in and it was great! The room was tiny, but I didn’t care because I only paid 65,000 pesos (about 100 €) and I was always in the living room, kitchen or outside.
The bottom line is: somehow something always arises (I kept hearing about possibilities such as dormitories, shared apartments, etc.). First secure a place to stay for a couple of nights, keep your ears open and search. The rule is that you will not necessarily encounter German living conditions, you may have to reduce your requirements a bit. Nevertheless, you should feel good! Try, at least if you give a deposit, to get a receipt stating that you will get your money back when you move out. Rental contracts are rather uncommon.
I haven’t really had much experience with families myself. In Chile it is normal that students still live at home, which means that all parties and meetings always take place here Can be interpreted positively or negatively. Chilean parents are used to the fact that their children are not self-sufficient, which means that they are very caring. However, especially with girls, this means that you have to agree, justify or even discuss going-out times, for example. It can also be critical to have an opposite-sex overnight visit (even if your boyfriend has been from Germany for 5 years).
Unfortunately, none of my business administration courses from Münster were credited to me, which is why my university activities were on a purely voluntary basis. Most of the course-specific courses take place on the main campus, to which you have to take the university bus for 10 minutes. There the courses are shared with Chileans. I would take at least one of these courses, if only to see the real Chilean university life and to make contacts. All courses that are specially offered for foreign students take place on the inner-city campus. There the internationals are among themselves and it is easier to follow the lessons even with minimal language skills (the emphasis is on easier, not easy;)) In addition to the international office, the faculties of architecture and art are also located here (I think).
The international supervisor Carlos is super nice, speaks very good English and can help with EVERYTHING!
As already mentioned, I could hardly speak any Spanish. Even if you speak Spanish well, you might have problems understanding the Chileans at first. Of course, it’s easier if you can speak the language, especially it’s easier to connect with locals. I not only survived it, but was able to follow the university and had a lot of fun But it works that way too. Few people speak good English, but then you learn Spanish that much faster!
TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL
I didn’t even plan to leave the country originally because I thought Chile was so big. It is, but Argentines, Uruguay, Peru and Bolivia aren’t that far away either. Take the chance and plan a little time and money for traveling!
Transport is incredibly cheap, especially in Chile. Overnight buses are super comfortable and don’t cost much (8 hours drive to La Serena e.g. 10,000 Peso, 16 € or so). LAN.com also has great offers !!!
Celebrating is of course very important abroad and both Vina del Mar and Valparaiso offer great and extensive opportunities. I don’t say more about it: D
Anyone who is athletic can take part in university courses that are partly linked to clubs. For example, I played rugby. That really brought me a little closer to the Chileans because a team like that takes you very kindly, of course.
In summer you can of course practice all beach activities on earth in Vina. Surfing is particularly good in Concon and Renaca. Unfortunately the water is damn cold all year round. So you can just as well surf in winter.
Due to my small language barrier, I did a lot with other international students, at least initially. Only later did it get a little more Chilean.
On longer weekends you can make great 3-day trips to La Serena, Pichilemu, Mendoza (in Argentina) or the like.
Chile is cheaper than Germany but not extreme. Everything you buy in supermarkets is about the same price, shopping too. You can save if you go to the vegetable market and buy seasonal vegetables. It is also unbeatably delicious! Transport, especially buses, are also very cheap. Sunscreen is extremely expensive, so bring it with you. I have a credit card from the DKB, so I can withdraw money as often as I want anywhere abroad. It’s ultra-practical, try to do it that way.
GOOD TO KNOW
- In winter it is not exactly warm and there is no heating!
- You can buy everything you forgot or didn’t want to carry in Vina, except:
- There are hardly any tampons in Chile, so bring girls with you!
- The Lonely Planet travel guide was indispensable for me at least!
- Bringing a laptop makes a lot of sense!
I have described my impressions on my blog (with gaps). Since I don’t want to write everything down again, just read the blog: www.carinainchile.blogspot.com (Sometimes the reports sound a bit negative, but I think that’s because I was a bit shocked at times)
If you have any questions, just send me an email!
I hope I could help you!