Study Abroad at University of Viña del Mar (1)
Selection of the university and application process
The first time I heard about the Universidad Viña del Mar (UVM) in Chile was in a Spanish course from fellow students from the higher semester. They told me that they were currently in the intensive phase of preparation for the semester abroad, that they were free movers and that they could hardly be supervised by the university, but that they would receive excellent support in the application process from the MicroEDU agency. At that time neither the term freemover nor the agency MicroEDU meant anything to me and I knew little more about Chile than that it is a very narrow, but very long country in South America. Still, I was fascinated by the thought to spend my semester abroad there and not in one of the Erasmus countries as planned. A good year passed before I remembered that conversation and the decision had to be made as to where I would go now. A lot came into question, but I was actually convinced by the good advice from MicroEDU, which was able to answer my many questions about the university, the country and the city as well as the financing of the semester in detail and always promptly by email or telephone calls. The application was then easier than I thought. MicroEDU sent me the UVM application form and, to help me fill it in, a supplementary form in which every single question on the application form was explained again. So I hardly had any questions and was able to work through all the points quickly.
One hurdle I still had to overcome was financing the semester abroad. MicroEDU was able to give me an approximate budget of € 7,000 that I had to raise for the semester. This included the tuition fees of the UVM (private university!), Living expenses and flight. In the end, I was able to cover the financing from various sources. A large part of the semester fees of US $ 3150 should be paid through BAföG abroad are covered. I only sent the application away in October, which I regretted very much in retrospect, as the positive decision only came in May and I found it difficult to calculate in advance. At the same time I applied for QSL funding at my university in Fulda (a scholarship holder that, unlike promos, can be applied for independently of a partnership) and was largely supported by family members.
I was able to clarify the visa question very easily. On the advice of MicroEDU, I did not apply for a student visa, but traveled to Chile normally and got a tourist visa for 90 days at the airport. Before the 90 days were up, I traveled with a couple of friends for a long weekend to Mendoza / Argentina (the nearest border town from Viña). On the return trip I got a stamp for another 90 days residence permit in Chile. This saved me a lot of organization and money in preparation that I would have had to spend on a student visa.
Housing search and Valparaíso region
On the important point of looking for an apartment, I once again sought advice from my fellow students, who strongly advised me to do it locally, as this would be many times easier than from Germany and you can get to know your future roommates personally. I didn’t want to live with a host family that was organized by the UVM so that I could retain a certain freedom. Rather, I imagined a shared apartment where I could cook as I pleased and invite friends – preferably together with other Chileans. That’s how it turned out. For the first two weeks after my arrival, I temporarily lived with a German-Chilean family in Valparaíso that I found at compartodepto.cl. The family took me on many excursions and so I was able to get a very good overview of the area. The ability to switch to German if I had difficulty understanding also made many everyday situations easier for me. However, I wasn’t really able to arrive until I had found my new roommates – both Chileans – (again through compartodepto). Living with the two of them was super pleasant and exciting. My room had a beautiful view of the Valparaíso coastline. We learned a lot from each other. Starting with the different dishes that we cooked for each other, through Chilean slang, to current social issues in Chile, South America compared to Germany and Europe.
- Learn more information about Chile and South America on ask4beauty.
Viña del Mar is quite a beautiful coastal town in the Valparaíso region and the fourth largest city in Chile with almost 300,000 inhabitants. Due to the good surfing beaches and the many cafes and restaurants, it is a popular travel destination for Chilean as well as international tourists, especially in summer. Viña del Mar is directly connected to the neighboring town of Valparaíso. Valparaíso (Unesco World Heritage Site) has a completely different charm than Viña due to its special architecture, the many musical and artistic interpretations and the port. Since Viña is almost on the same level as Santiago, you can easily spend the weekends in the capital. Less than 130 km separate the two cities from each other. However, life in Viña del Mar and Valparaíso is much slower than in Santiago due to the sea on the doorstep.
Supervision of the Universidad Viña del Mar by the international coordinators
The early days at the UVM were made much easier by the good organization and support provided by the international coordinators. My arrival at the university and the contact with the other students on the international campus couldn’t have gone better. The whole introductory week was designed in such a way that in a very short time you could get to know many people from different countries who were studying in the same winter semester. Starting with a “How to Survive in Chile” lecture, in which I received important survival tips, such as using a colectivo or mini-taxi, or handling Chilean cocktails (Terremoto alarm! :)). On the same day every international had to take the Spanish test in order to be assigned to the different Spanish levels in which we could then take the language courses. In the days that followed, the university offered all sorts of programs: City tour through Cerro Alegre, probably the most beautiful artists’ quarter of Valparaiso, or a scavenger hunt through Viña with the main prize of a surf course on one of the nearby beaches. During the semester, too, the UVM repeatedly offered trips to the region. You could take part in a wine tour to the nearby wine-growing region of Casablanca or take a trip to Isla Negra to visit Pablo Neruda’s resting place and his world-famous artist house. A really fun experience was the dance lesson on campus to get to know the most important traditional dances of Chile, such as the “Cueca”, which every Chilean child from the Atacama Desert to Patagonia must know. If you have any questions about the courses.