B. of International Studies, 3rd year
B. of International Studies, 3rd year

Academic experiences

I took all of my courses in Spanish, with only my language course designed for foreigners.
Spanish- Highly recommended, my favourite course
Economia Política- reasonably tough, not highly recommended.
Guerras Civiles- A pretty good course, recommended. Readings in English.
Historia de America y Chile Siglo XIX- Tough, but you learn all about Latin American history since independence.
Only recommended if you're comfortable writing long essays in Spanish.
There is no Turnitin, which makes submission of assignments simpler, as the administrative side of things is a complete pain.
I never learnt to print on campus, instead going to a print shop, because of the process involved.
At the start of semester you have to go to the offices of all the different departments to confirm your courses (this can't be done online), which can be hard to find.
Lastly, a lot of classes were cancelled due to strikes, and dates changed for tests.
Be aware of this when making travel plans, but you can probably negotiate something with the prof if you explain that you're an exchange student.

At the top of San Cristóbal, overlooking Santiago

Personal experiences

I recommend at least one trip organised by CAUC (the exchange student activity organisation) at the start of semester, you'll meet a bunch of new people while seeing a bit of Chile and learning a little of how to get around the country.
After this you can organise your own trips with the people you've met.
A lot of people speak English, and if they really want, practice with them, but otherwise- speak Spanish all you can!
One of the best ways to learn the lingo is to go out at night: you learn the Spanish not of the classroom, and all the colours of Chilean slang.

Accommodation

There is no campus accommodation - most people live with their parents.
I shared an apartment with a Chilean (found via Homeurbano), we got along really well and there were no problems.
However, she also spoke English perfectly, which limited the amount of Spanish I was able to learn - it's hard when they speak your language better than you speak theirs!
So, if you want to maximise your learning experience, make sure you live somewhere with native Spanish speakers who preferably don't speak too much English.

Student attendees from the U21 Student Summit, Santiago

Budget

Groceries are a little cheaper than in Australia for the most part, but it is possible to live much cheaper than at home because of street food.
It's generally fried and often cheesy or meaty, but if you're out at night, it's great.
Every day out the front of the uni (San Joachín campus) people set up stalls where you can buy burgers, sushi, fajitas and a few other things for about $2.
I gave up bringing my own lunch after about the first week.
Unfortunately, unless you're studying abroad for two semesters, you won't be able to get student prices on transport, but that only means you'll be paying a little over a dollar per ride.
Long distance buses are incredibly cheap compared to Australia, while flights can be extortionately expensive unless you buy well in advance.
An example: US$700 Cusco-Santiago by plane (6.5hrs), or around AU$110 by bus (about 50hrs...).
If you have the time, I recommend the bus and stopping in various cities on the way.
Finally, an overall budget?
Presuming you pay around $200,000 Chilean Pesos a month on accommodation (this is standard, equal to +/- AU$400), Plus $40,000(AU$80) on transport, $90,000(AU$180) food, including eating out, plus $70,000(AU$140) assorted other expenses.
Total expenditure can be roughly $400,000 Chilean pesos per month, or AU$800.
Add in any long-distance trips you wish to do, which vary widely in cost.

Academic development and employability

Employers, so they tell us, are always looking for experience beyond academic achievement to show that we are not simply limited to book learning.
Exchange is certainly a kind of proof of that.
Learning to communicate with people when there is not only a significant language but also cultural barrier between you is an important transferable skill to bring to the workplace.
It also teaches you endurance and patience against the frustrations of learning to get around a new country - whether navigating the bureaucratic system, the public transport, or the country at large. Being able to overcome these obstacles builds you up for the trials of navigating the professional workplace.
Regarding my academic development: trying to stay switched on for entire lectures enough to process both the Spanish and the information being given, doing long readings in Spanish, and then attempting to write coherent Spanish essays, has been a challenge.
However, I now feel like my ability to concentrate and process information has been improved, as well as my skill in expressing myself concisely through writing - not to mention the improvements to my Spanish.
I feel like going back to study in Australia, where the information only has to be processed once, is going to be much easier than it was before my exchange.

Trip with CAUC at the start of semester to Viña del Mar

Highlight

That's tough.
I enjoyed trips out of the city, and making new friends.
Being a non-local, you tend to meet a lot more people than otherwise when you go out, because you're foreign and 'interesting', and people know that you probably don't have a whole lot of friends.
They also love to practice English with you.
Going out at night and dancing- really dancing, Latin-style (ok, trying while everyone else around you shimmies away) was great fun.
A few big musical acts also came through Santiago while I was there, which were a bit cheaper than they would have been in Australia, and were incredible.
So I've not got a single event to point out, but my trip through Peru and Bolivia won't happen until exams end, and I think that might be the crowning experience of my time away.

Top tips

Relax.
Don't view the uni work as something that is getting in the way of you having a good time, but an opportunity to see how other people do things.
Who knows, maybe you'll learn ways that suit your method of learning better, or perspectives you hadn't considered.
At the same time, don't stress the work, go out and experience your temporary city/country/region as much as you can.
This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do it precisely in this way.
Your experience will be different if you come back as a graduate, with your partner, with your family.
Talk to as many different people as you can.
You won't just learn new vocabulary from them, but different stories to remember or to share, hot tips on how to get around like a local, a cultural tidbit that you won't learn from a textbook.
Not all of your interactions will be pleasant, but they might be just as valuable.
 

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