At events organized by the International Club, which consists of Chilean and international students, we “English speakers” were able to meet up with Spanish speakers. In addition, we were all assigned a Chilean hermano * a, with whom we were supposed to perform various “tasks” such as a city tour over the course of the semester and who were generally there as contact persons for us. We also explored the city’s bars and clubs, of course – “carrete”, partying in Chilean language, is possible every day in the student town of Viña and the neighboring town of Valparaíso, and as members of the International Club we often got free entry. The Internationals were quick like a big familyand in the end there wasn’t even group formation. One arranged to meet in constantly changing flat shares for “previa” or everyone met on the beach or in bars – the Spartako became our second living room, so to speak. Living right by the sea was the best anyway, and as soon as it got warmer we went surfing to Concon.
Studies and university life
Lessons began after the introductory week – after all, we weren’t just there to celebrate. At first the seminars selected at MicroEDU could be changed again, and I decided to take more Spanish courses: “Historia socio-política de Chile”, “Rebelión y Revolución en Latinoamérica” and “Temas contemporáneos”, plus the English course “Travel Literature” ”And a grammar course. You pay more for the “Semester in English”, but if you have the appropriate language level you can also take special courses in Spanish, especially for non-native speakers. As a result, we were only 3-4 people in the courses, which was an interesting change from German seminars. In terms of language skills, it might be even better if you could also take courses with the Chileans. They are also allowed to take part in the English-language courses, but only as a kind of elective, which is why few took advantage of it. In Travel Literature, for example, there were three of us with another German and a Chilean.
- For information about Chile and South America, please visit naturegnosis.
Fellow students in the “Semester in Spanish”, on the other hand, were also in regular Chilean courses, which they rated as more demanding than the aforementioned special courses. I even achieved 28 ECTS points with my five courses, but the workload could hardly be compared to a semester in Germany: I only had three days at university and was able to use Mondays and Fridays for excursions. In contrast to Germany, the Chilean system is more detailed: There is compulsory attendance and the examination is not a single term paper / written exam, but rather consists of individual grades such as essays, presentations and even homework and participation. As a result, we always had something to do, but not a stressful exam phase. The courses were interesting in that you could learn a lot about the history of Chile and South America, which we as Europeans and North Americans knew little about, but technically more fundamental (for example, concepts of “self”, “other” and identity were explained, which are basic terms in cultural studies). Nevertheless, I learned a lot about the country and can have some modules credited to me.
Protests from October 2019
Normal university operations came to a standstill at the end of October when the unrest began in Chile and President Piñera declared a state of emergency including a curfew. The social injustice in the country is actually obvious, even if often overlooked by travelers: with prices like in Germany and a minimum wage of € 360 (before the protests), thanks to many super-rich, Chile is considered a neoliberal economic miracle in South America, but this wealth is also there very unevenly distributed. It is the only country in the world where water is privatized. The constitution dates from the time of the dictator Pinochet, which was never properly worked through. For these and many other reasons, I can fully understand the anger of my Chilean fellow students and found it not so much as a limitation, but morechance to “experience the historic moment”, as my history professor said.
The UVM reacted quite well: they took care of the exchange students so that we could end the semester normally. A lecture was also organized for everyone, in which questions were answered and the background was explained. Reference was made to this in courses and the syllabus was partly changed in order to deal more with the current situation. The Spanish speakers in the Chilean courses, for example my roommates, had to keep asking, write countless emails and were left in the dark. Despite tough crackdowns by the police and the military and a ban on the UVM, some internationals even took part in demonstrations to support friends from Chile. However, many people were injured or died by police violence during these protests, while we, as privileged young students, went on trips or returned to our home countries. Even if you naturally felt (insecure) at first, we were probably able to learn more about power relations, injustice and privileges than in any seminar, and we will continue to follow the situation in Chile closely.
It was really a special kind of semester abroad: a unique opportunity to gain new perspectives on this “foreign” continent of South America and the country of Chile, but also on your own home, Germany and Europe; getting to know incredibly different people from other countries and cultures with very different views; To learn a new language – and in between to put your toes into the cold Pacific.