Study Abroad at University of Viña del Mar (12)
VINA DEL MAR
The city of Viña del Mar – located in the heart of Chile – with its population of almost 300,000, its location in the Pacific and its good infrastructure, is a recommendable city for an exchange semester.
Viña del Mar (or simply Viña) is not a typical Latin American city, rather comparable to its North American or European counterparts. The city center is quite clean and offers many large supermarkets, an XXL mall, cinemas, casinos, international restaurants and countless bars and nightclubs. If you get bored, you can get into the micro (city bus) and drive at breakneck speed to Valparaíso. It should be said that bus drivers obey as few rules of the road traffic regulations as possible – should these even exist. While Viña is more like a tourist seaside resort, Valpo is the complete opposite: loud, colorful, lively, alternative, chaotic and typically Chilean.
What all these cities have in common are streets full of street dogs – a typical Latin American feature. These are usually not dangerous, but you should refrain from feeding or petting them because it will be difficult to get rid of either the dogs or their associated fleas later.
The University of Viña del Mar is characterized above all by helpful and personable lecturers and study coordinators. If you had any questions or problems, Carlos Torres (International Students Coordinator) was really a point of contact day and night. In spite of everything, the Latin American slowness and disorganization hit the mark (if you need important documents for your home university, you should let them know weeks in advance). Especially for international students, the International Office offers a wide range of joint activities (visit to the congress, paintball, Valpo city tour, etc.) to get to know the area and fellow students. When planning short trips to see more of Chile, the lecturers do not stand in the way, but understand and turn a blind eye to one or two missed lessons.
The range of courses is divided into courses that are accessible to all students and courses exclusively for exchange students. The introduction to everyday Chilean life is made much easier by courses such as “Cultura Chilena”, but it should be said that the knowledge imparted is heavily dependent on the lecturer. In general, it can be said that the course level is significantly lower compared to Germany – both from the point of view of the content and from the work ethic.
- Learn more information about Chile and South America on healthvv.
There is a wide range of accommodation options for exchange students. The university organizes host families for those who want to experience Chilean family life up close. Those of you who want a little more freedom can easily find rooms in so-called “Hospedajes” or “Residencias” or in furnished shared apartments. “Hospedajes” or “Residencias” are usually a bit more expensive than simple shared apartments, but special services such as breakfast or laundry service are usually included. These additional services are not offered in a shared apartment, but a typical insight into the life of young Chileans. Those who ultimately decided on a flat share were mostly enthusiastic about the helpfulness and the celebratory mood of the Chileans and would always choose that way.
Viña del Mar is definitely a city to feel safe. Anyone who observes safety standards and does not act recklessly generally need not be afraid. Pickpocketing is particularly common in the high season (December to February). Furthermore, girls (and if possible boys too) should avoid walking through the city alone in the dark. Given the low prices of collectivos (shared taxis with a fixed route), taxis and micros (minibuses), it is generally advisable to use public transport.
It looks a little different in Valpo. Unfortunately, violent attacks on foreigners as well as on Chileans are not uncommon. But if you leave the house without a handbag, large amounts of cash, credit card or even passport, show up in groups and are not necessarily drunk in dark corners, you don’t need to fear here either.
In your free time it is of course very advisable to take advantage of the convenient location by the sea.
The beach can be reached in a few minutes and, especially after a few hours at university, it is really totally relaxing and, above all, something that makes many fellow students in distant, cold Germany very jealous.
In addition, experienced surfers as well as beginners are sure to find the right spot to surf.
Those who – like us – only wanted to try it once were given equipment and surf instructors for little money. Even a short excursion to the nearby national park “La Campana” offers a breathtaking view from the coast of Chile to the Andes of Argentina. However, be careful: risk of getting lost!
If you don’t have a surfboard or hiking, you can also get on horseback, because riding on the beach is of course also possible and, like many leisure activities, a lot cheaper than in Germany.
However, it must be pointed out again that Chile is absolutely not a cheap paradise. In a price comparison with other South American countries, Chile is clearly in the upper range. Brazil is the absolute leader in terms of price, and Bolivia is the most economical place to travel. Spectacular landscapes and a lively and cheerful atmosphere can be found everywhere. During possible trips to other South American countries, the best thing to do is to find out for yourself.
In the evening Viña del Mar and Valparaíso are mostly in young hands. The two cities have something to offer for every taste when it comes to discos, bars and clubs. However, it should be clear that there is one musical direction in particular: El reggaeton, el reggaeton….
If you want to come into contact with other exchange students, but also with many Chilean students, you should definitely go to the “Café Journal”.
During the day it is a rather boring café, but in the evening – especially on Wednesdays – the Journal turns into a large party scene with lots of pisco and cerveza, but very little space.
Viña del Mar and Valparaíso offer a huge variety of culinary and sometimes just quick delicacies.
If you want to try good and typical Chilean cuisine, go to “La Flor de Chile” (located in 8 Norte). The prices are quite low, the atmosphere rather quaint, but the food is of good quality and above all it is more of a place where you can find locals and not be ripped off in tourist fashion. The most typical dishes on the menu are “Lomo al pobre”, “Chorrillana” and “Pastel de Choclo”
Above all, Chile is known for its filled dumplings, the so-called “empanadas”. To eat the best empanadas in town and perhaps from all of Chile, you have to go to “Masita Rica”. The owner Julio is always ready to talk and coffee and Arabic pastries can also be served there perfectly.
If you like it extra greasy, you should take a look at the famous “Las deliciosas” in Concon, because there the bags are fried again, are a little cheaper and can be eaten right on the surfing beach.
Chile is also known for its fish and seafood, so sushi is not to be despised in Chile either. Our tip: The Sushi Home with a modern ambience and the freshest preparation.
On the subject of drinking it can also be said that in Chile there is no way around drinking “pisco”. Pisco is a grape brandy that is usually mixed with Cola – then Piscola – or in the refreshing, sweet version of “Pisco Sour” (with lemon, crushed ice, egg white and lots of powdered sugar). As a small tip it should be mentioned here that we advise against pure enjoyment;)
TRAVEL AND TRAFFIC
Chile is an excellently developed tourist country with efficient and almost always punctual bus connections (i.e. more often during departure times).
The hub for the buses with all its bus companies is Santiago, but long-distance transport is also excellently developed from Viña.
Generally speaking, traveling by bus is more comfortable in Chile than in Europe. The buses usually have more legroom and even a few small snacks are often included in the price (it is best to take a bus in Argentina, because then you can expect warm food).
Very often current movies are shown in brilliant pirated quality (: Pay attention to the choice of seats, because you can see very little of the film at the very front.
Those who prefer to fly should pay attention to offers from the two Chilean airlines “LAN” and “Sky Airline”.
In our opinion, single flights are a lot more expensive than in Europe, but the combination of a return flight is usually worth considering.
There are of course plenty of travel destinations in Chile and its neighboring countries. Most destinations are highly interest-based, but there is certainly something for every taste and budget.