Bachelor of International Studies
Bachelor of International Studies

Academic Experiences 

From my experience, the Spanish course was helpful in terms of making friends but definitely don't think it was worth the extra $500 USD and wouldn't have done it if I was not forced by Centrelink due to having been out of Australia for more than 13 weeks before semester started in March (a Centrelink rule to keep in mind if you travel before your exchange). 

I don't recommend Mujeres and Sociedad. The content wasn't interesting despite an enticing name, the workload was unreasonable and the assessments were unclear.

Favourites were America Latino Siglo XX which had good interesting information about the region and photography because I got to meet a lot of nice Chileans.

Branch out, use your electives to have fun!

In terms of challenges I would say that just adjusting to the teaching style was a big hurdle for me. Don't expect UQ style lectures, classes often got cancelled with no notice and the assessments are badly outlined. Definitely not the strict ECP style courses that UQ offers. Having said that the teachers are a lot more inclined to help exchange students if you show that you're trying your best. Try spend some time each week doing readings, it helps a lot and is actually interesting sometimes.

I found some of the teachers gave us a LOT of content and it helped to form groups with other students.

Personal Experiences

If there's ever a time to make close friendships with people it's exchange. Being away from home and comfort zone means that people become so much closer and very quickly. I can safely say that the friendships I have made over the last 5 months are some of my most treasured and now I have places to stay around the world.

I travelled a lot in Chile. Patagonia was a highlight for me, despite being touristic. The landscape is amazing and the culture is a world away from Santiago. I went skiing, diving and did a lot of trekking. People in Santiago are always keen to get out, take them up on the offer!

Speak Spanish, speak Chilean. It's super fun and creates a strong bond between you and other Chileans.

Apart from Spanish I would say my biggest improvement is being interested in soccer! Never thought it would happen but it's contagious and a great way to meet people.

Accommodation

I lived in a share house in Parque Bustamante with three others. Look for places in Providencia because it's the best location to be in terms of getting to university and going out to interesting parts of the city. I spent 250,000 Chileans pesos a month which was on the more expensive side but I had a massive room (too big!). You can expect to find things between 200,000 and 250,000 (around $400 to $500 AUD). Look around, keep your options open. There's heaps of rooms available all the time so find a place with good people! I found my apartment on Facebook through a rental group and there was always plenty being put online.

Budget 

I think I spent around $800-900 p/month. This includes rent, food, transport and going out. I definitely wasn't on a tight budget either. Of course travelling outside of Santiago is an extra expense that will vary depending on where you want to go and what sort of traveller you are. Keep an eye out for flight sales and plan in advanced if you want to go further abroad. I went away a lot but that's just personal preference.

Supermarkets are expensive but if you can be bothered there are local markets that are a lot cheaper and better. I would go to La Vega, a big market, every weekend to buy my vegetables and others groceries (there's literally everything there) and spent no more than 15,000 pesos ($30) which would be more than enough food for a whole week.

As far as food as uni goes, there is street vendors that sell an array of things for a standard price of 1000 pesos ($2) which means that there's really no motivation (or need) to bring lunch!

Academic development and employability

I think that there's a lot of aspects of exchange that have contributed to my professional development.

I had to sort out a lot of banking, accommodation and other things that we take for granted in Australia. What's more, dealing with the bureaucratic processes of Chile has given me a newfound patience and calm. Doing all these sorts of things in Spanish makes me confident I can handle anything that Australia throws at me.

I have become even more independent, organised and confident that I can handle challenging situations. More over, as someone who hopes to work in this region one day I believe that my grasp on Spanish and the political, economic and social situation in the region is a big contribution to any future employment opportunities.

Highlight

A hard one. There have been so many life enriching experiences over my exchange. I would say a weekend away in a beach house with a group of very great people was definitely one highlight!

Completing a nine day trek alone in the Torres del Paine was a really special experience.

But to be honest, my highlight was the people I met. Everything I did with the friends I have made was so amazing. The hardest part of leaving Chile is saying goodbye to the people I have met and the community we have created.

Doing salsa, bachata and mambo classes was amazing and I met so many great people through it. It's something that young people don't do so much in Australia so give yourself a chance to discover dancing somewhere where people your age are passionate about it!

Top Tips

Do it! Throw yourself into it and don't look back. If your degree permits it do a whole year. I felt that as I left I was just settling into my life, finding my groove and had a better understanding of what I wanted to do at the end of the semester.

As far as Chile goes I recommend taking camping gear. It's a place where it's widely done and you can discover so many awesome places cheaply if you camp. Plus, the interesting travellers are there!

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