UQ Program: Bachelor of Arts

At PUC you are able to pick and choose courses for the first two weeks of semester. I was so excited to be studying in Chile and even more so to be studying another language that I went a bit ahead of myself and chose four mas o menos difficult courses. As I am studying political science I thought it would be fantastic to be able to study courses in Spanish in this area. Of course it was and I thoroughly enjoyed it, yet at the same time in choosing such courses I bit off a little more than I could chew. I managed, but it required a lot more work than one may want on their first semester of exchange in a non-English speaking country.  I was also enrolled in two courses especially designed for exchange students: Cultura Chilena and Mujeres y Sociedad. I enjoyed both courses (especially as they complemented one another in content), however it is necessary to keep in mind that Chilean students won’t study these courses, limiting the amount of contact you will have with Chileans on the university level.

I made the most amazing friends on exchange. Of course the majority of them were other exchange students but the reality is that one spends most of the first few weeks-months with other exchange students in orientation and welcome events organised by the university. PUC has a really fantastic student organisation called CAUC that organises weekly events such as skiing in the Andes, visiting Valparaiso (a funky town on the coast around 1 hour from Santiago where amazing graffiti covers the walls), to Mendoza (a wine town in Argentina just over the border), Cajon del Maipú (to go rafting), as well as many nights full of dancing and pisco tasting! The CAUC students are incredibly welcoming; encourage you to speak Spanish, help you to make friends with other exchange students and they in turn become great friends of yours!

Miercoles Po! Every Wednesday night there is a student night at a different club or bar. Each week there is a different theme. It is a lot of fun and a great way to spend time with your new friends.

Keep in mind where you choose to live. Finding a place to spend your semester or year of exchange is a lot of fun. There are lots of average places and some pretty amazing ones. I suggest looking in areas such as Barrio Brasil (for a real south American neighbourhood), Parque Bustamente (close to everything and a really nice area), Bellas Artes (lots of cafes and restaurants- a little more expensive) and barrios such as ñuñoa are also pretty central and safe.

I began my semester living in a really comfortable house in a great location but I moved halfway through the semester as I was living with other exchange students and I wanted to better my Spanish by living with Chileans. I hence moved into a house full of Chileans, yet my mistake was in overlooking the fact that they were all workers and lived a different rhythm to the exchange student I was. It was still a lovely experience but I would suggest looking for somewhere with Spanish speaking students. After all, you are there to learn Spanish right?!

Chile is one of the most expensive countries in South America. I would equate a lot of living expenses in Santiago with those of Brisbane. Fruit and vegetables are cheap if you shop at the many ferias and markets that set up on various days of the week. You can definitely find cheaper rooms to rent but the rent is not drastically cheaper.
Bus trips to places such as La Serena, Cajon del Maipú and Pan de Azucar for example are quite cheap, as are most tickets traveling around Chile. Flights are expensive. Beware! The metro system in Santiago is amazing and so easy to use yet the price adds up as every time you use the metro you pay the equivalent of $1 regardless of your destination. If you are staying for longer than one semester make sure you organise yourself a student BIP card. The university will help you with this. And learn to use the buses. They are cheaper and run later into the nights.
An expense that I did not consider so heavily before leaving Australia was the bank fee I received every time I withdrew money from an ATM. If you have a Commonwealth bank account I would strongly recommend organizing yourself a Travel Money Card.

I had an absolutely amazing experience and I got so much out of it. Firstly, my Spanish definitely improved, despite it’s littering of chilenismos that I now hold close to my heart. I made amazing friends who I will definitely spend a lot more time with in the future, even if this means making frequent trips to Europe and South America. I learnt a lot about the culture- having been in Chile for the Bicentenario, taking part in teaching English classes and in my second home I learnt how to make different types of Chilean foods!

5 top tips:

1. Make an effort to speak Spanish as much as you can! (learn chilenismos)
2. Don’t eat too many Choripan in one sitting.
3. Go to La Vega or a Feria close to you to buy fruit, vegetables, meat etc.
4. Enroll in a taller (extra curricular course) in the university- salsa, capoeira, yoga etc
5. Try a sopa pia around once from one of the stands at the top of metro stations or out the front of the university.

 

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