A semester abroad is not compulsory in my studies (English and Cultural Anthropology), but it is recommended. It was clear to me that I definitely wanted to take the chance to study and live in another country. My fellow English students went to English-speaking countries abroad, of course, but I had already lived in an Anglophone country and wanted to learn another language. So at my home university I took Spanish courses and had more or less reached B1 level before leaving – but this is not absolutely necessary: the Universidad Vina del Mar offers good language courses; others arrived with no knowledge of Spanish and learned an incredible amount in five months. But it definitely helps to bring basic knowledge with you, simply to get to know more Chileans and native speakers. Especially when traveling through South America in the months after that I was very happy and proud to be able to communicate properly.
At my home university there are partnerships with South American universities, but these require the B2 level and an early application. Thanks to MicroEDU, the application process as a freemover was much more flexible and uncomplicated: you fill out an application form and send it in; the nice staff will help you with any questions you may have. At the UVM you can be pretty sure that you will be accepted, as it is a private university and places are usually not limited. Unfortunately, in contrast to the partnership programs offered by German universities, this means that tuition fees are charged. (In Chile, however, even state universities are expensive due to privatization.) In my case, fortunately, the fees were covered by BAföG abroad. An application is definitely worthwhile, but it means organizational effort and definitely took more time than applying to the UVM itself.
- For information about Chile and South America, please visit militarynous.
The next step was the flight, which I booked the old-fashioned way at my trusted flight exchange. Since I wanted to travel after the semester, I asked for advice on the cheapest alternatives from South America to Europe and booked a return flight from Bogotá. It is worthwhile either to book the outbound flight or to think about travel plans and not fly back from Santiago, because connections between Germany and Chile are expensive. Depending on the situation, you should also take care of vaccinations such as yellow fever, which you may need in other countries.
Even if it is not actually necessary to look after an apartment in advance, I was contacted by chance by my future roommates via the Facebook group of my “exchange year” and unexpectedly had an apartment before my arrival. When I transferred € 150 to our landlord via Western Union to Chile, I was a little worried. Fortunately, everything worked fine, the apartment was in top condition, and without my flatmates, two Mexicans & two Colombians, who cleared up bureaucracy with our very Chilean-speaking landlord (supposedly the most difficult Spanish in the world), I would have had a lot more at first Had stress. Other than that, I highly recommend staying with Spanish speaking people:
Arrival and life in Chile
To everyone who goes to Viña in the Chilean summer: there are definitely no summer temperatures there in July and August! I arrived in Santiago from the German heat at a cozy 4 ° C in my summer dress. My roommates were there before me, as the orientation week for the Spanish-speaking fellow students takes place earlier, and they described the way from the airport to the apartment. (You either take the more expensive direct bus, which you book at the turbus (green buses) counter before leaving the airport, or drive to the Pajaritos bus terminal and catch a connection from there. In no case should you go with the people who look confused Talk to Europeans and accompany them to dubious minibuses! Independently of each other, two of my friends were driven to the ATM with this scam, to withdraw a lot of money there for a very expensive, short trip. In addition, the UVM offers a pick-up service, which you can only use if you arrive on exactly this date.) In itself, Chile is no more unsafe than some corners of a major German city and I always got to my destination without any problems. You just have to know a bit about how to get to where, and be a little more attentive than at home. And the people are very nice and helpful: I had my first Spanish conversation at the airport with an older taxi driver who showed me where to get on the bus.
Through my roommates I got to know other Mexican students directly, who unfortunately are otherwise separated from the internationals from the English-language program by the UVM. For example, there are two different Orientation Weeks (= Ersti-Tage) for the two groups and the courses for non-native speakers are on a different campus than those for native speakers, who are mainly taught on the Rodellilo campus. It’s a shame because you naturally speak a lot more English (or even German) at the university. For the English program, it was first said that our courses would take place on the Recreo campus, we were relocated to Miraflores due to construction work – which we only found out during Orientation Week. That was quite annoying for many who had looked for an apartment in the Recreo district. But as was so nicely said in the introductory week: “It’s not wrong, it’s different” – sometimes you just had to react calmly to these situations. And after spending many hours at bus stops waiting for the only bus line from my apartment to the campus, no Deutsche Bahn delay will ever disturb me again.