4. Introductory days / university and courses
In the first week there is an introduction to the university, which is intended to provide orientation. On the first day (Monday) everyone meets in the Centro de Español, which is in the middle of Viña. Here you can find out more about the coming days – about the placement test (don’t worry: you will be classified according to the reference framework known to us (A1; A2;…; C2); however, this classification is not too strict. The test consists of a written one and an oral part) and about the planned activities (boat tour in the port of Valparaíso etc.).
After you have been classified in a language level, you take the desired courses – I have taken a total of three language courses (Español comunicacional y cultura chilena, Ortofonía and Estrategias comunicacionales) as well as a course on the other campus to get to know Chileans (Prevención de Riesgos – very nice Prof., relaxed course atmosphere). I knew that I would not be credited for these courses in Germany, after all, I did it for my Spanish.
Unlike in our country, in Chile you don’t just write one exam at the end of the semester, but a total of four exams over the semester distributed (in the Spanish courses including homework, lectures, etc.). The courses were small (12-20 students) and therefore reminded me more of school than a lecture at university.
5. Living in Viña
Viña del Mar is a city directly on the Pacific with approx. 300,000 inhabitants in the V region (Valparaíso) – because it is not a huge city, you can find your way around pretty quickly. The fairly structured structure also helps here.
To understand the bus and Colectivo system, it’s best to ask a local;) A “Colectivo” is a shared taxi that always travels the same route and costs 500 Chilean pesos until 11 p.m., then 750 Chilean pesos – ideally always have some change with you (500 to 1000 CLP) to pay for the bus or colectivo. The whole time I couldn’t really get used to the rather adventurous driving style of the bus drivers.
Don’t miss: the Feria – a huge fruit and vegetable market! Incredibly interesting and the Chilean fruit tastes great!
- For information about Chile and South America, please visit shoppingpicks.
During the semester abroad, of course, partying shouldn’t be neglected – but believe me: it will definitely not be in Viña and Valparaíso! Buses run constantly to and from Valpo even at night – be a little more careful with valuables here than in Viña. Depending on your musical taste and budget, there is something for everyone. It’s also great to live close to the sea! Unfortunately, the water is quite cold, so it is more used for a short cooling off than for a long swim (attention, swimming is prohibited on some beaches)
– but you can relax on the beach in the sun after university:)
6. Good to know
- As you have probably already read in other reports and what I would like to confirm again: the Chileans speak their very own Spanish (chileno) – so don’t be surprised at the beginning about the constant “po” (for pues) attached to many words or expressions like “Cómo estai?” and “weon”.. You get used to it;)
- As I said: driving the bus is a very special experience here – but also an inexpensive alternative to colectivo or taxi, as long as you hold on tight.
- I knew there were street dogs, but I didn’t think there were so many.
- In August it was still relatively cold – pack a couple of sweaters. In November / December it will be really nice.
- In Chile you eat an incredible amount of “palta” (= avocado), which I had never eaten in Germany. Definitely try it out!
- Pisco, Pisco and even more Pisco – the Chilean schnapps is available at every party and is drunk either with Cola (Piscola) or with lemon and powdered sugar as a Pisco Sour – the Piscola mixtures take getting used to …;)
- REALLY TRAVEL! I (unfortunately) flew back to Germany in December to write exams here, but many stayed 1 to 2 months to explore Latin America. Which doesn’t mean that I haven’t tried to use my time. There is a very well-developed bus network in Chile: companies like Pulman take you from A to B for relatively little money. Just search the internet or go to the bus terminal in Viña and ask for the prices. We mostly tried to drive at night to have something for the next day.
I have seen the north of Chile (Iquique, Arica and La Serena – the bus ride back from Arica to Viña takes a whopping 33 hours: D), part of the small south (Pucón is a golden town with lots of small wooden houses. Here you can go whitewater rafting (A lot of fun!), Climb the volcano bordering Pucón (then it’s best to go to the hot springs) and do other great things) and have been to Buenos Aires and the Cataratas de Iguazu: if you can do it, you should check out these waterfalls see, it was incredibly beautiful. Argentine and Brazilian bus companies drive from Buenos Aires to Iguazu, although the Brazilian ones were only half as expensive.
So just dare and enjoy it! I am sure it will be an amazing experience that you will not regret!