UQ Program: Bachelor of Arts

My time on exchange in Santiago, Chile was unforgettable for many reasons. I was there for semester 2 of 2010 - my third year of a Bachelor of Arts degree. Choosing courses wasn’t as challenging for me as it may be for those trying to complete degrees abroad as I studied only electives. Enrolment was very straight forward and allowed time to attend some lectures before making final subject selections. However, some subjects have a limit to the amount of foreign students allowed in the class so you have to be more decisive and quick if you wish to study outside of subjects specifically set up for study abroad students.

I found this particularly with a subject called ´Bailes Teatrales´which was a latin dance course that only allowed 2 exchange students per semester. All 4 of my subjects were conducted in Spanish, which was a mix of several things throughout semester; challenging, amusing, frustrating, exciting and rewarding. I advise anyone heading to Chile to take at least 1 or 2 courses in Spanish. At first it´s hard and nerve racking, but I was only at a basic level of Spanish before leaving and I can definitely say that my language level and confidence in speaking spanish has improved imensely. Sometimes it felt too hard or too much but I learnt that this is simply part of the process of improving.

All of my professors at PUC were welcoming and helpful and definitely understanding of travel interests I had during semester as an exchange student. When my Mother came to visit me I was able to sit an exam 1 week ahead of schedule so that I could go to Peru and do the Inka trail with my Mum. This was certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Travelling within Chile and South America more generally is relatively easy, though Chile is a very long country and South America is huge. Unfortunately flights within the continent are extremely expensive so buses are a far better option if money is an issue. However, give yourself plenty of time for your trips to avoid spending more time on buses than off.

Santiago is a comfortable, easy city in which to live. While for me it doesn´t have quite the same charming hecticity that I love in other South American cities, it still has its own quirky colourfulness that would make me stop and think "wow, I am surely in a very different place and culture". Overall, everything in Santiago is cheaper than in Brisbane. I stayed in a 2-storey house that was about a 10 minute metro ride to the main university campus, had a lovely backyard, good atmosphere and big bedroom with double bed. Where I stayed wasn´t the cheapest available but still very good- 160mil per month which is about AU$220 including electricity, gas, water and internet.

You can´t find all your food type creature comforts in supermarkets so stock up on vegemite before you go! Santiago isn´t known so much for its cafes or restuarants but the Ferias (fresh fruit and vegetable markets) are easy to find so it´s cheap to cook at home and stay healthier. If you are dying for a good coffee or icecream though Bellas Artes metro station on the green line is where you want to be. If you´re like me and love a good pub meal and beer you´ll start to miss it being in Santiago. Never fear though! There´s a place called California near metro stop Los Leones on the red line that will reboot you.

You should know that efficiency isn´t the first characteristic that comes to mind when thinking about South America. Prepare to learn the art of patience. Try not to leave things to the last minute and be in a rush because things tend to take a while to get done and systems are not always conducted in a particularly straight forward way but, that´s all part of the experience waiting for that extra minute at merlo for your coffee will be far less painful when you get back!

If you´re thinking about going on exchange, just do it! It´s not as hard or daunting as it may seem and you will meet, see and experience people and things like nothing else!

On this site

Go to top