Study Abroad at University of Viña del Mar (17)
I study medical technology at the Trier University of Applied Sciences and I spent my semester abroad from the end of July 2017 to December 2017 in Chile at the Universidad Viña del Mar (UVM), which was my 7th semester. Viña del Mar is a coastal town that can be reached from Santiago in about 1.5 hours by car.
It was very easy to organize the stay abroad through MicroEDU. It was very quick to fill out all the appropriate forms. If you decide to take regular courses in Spanish, good language skills are very important. Due to several stays abroad in Spain, I already had a good language level in Spanish before the semester abroad. One of my most important selection criteria for a university was the opportunity to take courses for locals with as few exchange students as possible. In advance, I was able to take a look at the courses on offer and clarify with my professor in Germany which courses I can have credit for in Germany.
The UVM arranges host families in which one can be accommodated as an international student. Before you come to Chile, you receive detailed information about the host family and can contact them in advance. I accepted this offer and felt very comfortable with my host family. You got three meals a day and the family took care of shopping, cleaning and laundry. I also got on very well with my two host sisters and did a lot with them.
- Learn more information about Chile and South America on plus-size-tips.
The Universidad Viña del Mar has three campuses. There is the Miraflores campus, especially for design, the Diego Portales campus, where mainly business courses and courses for international students take place, and the Rodelillo campus for most of the other courses. You can take regular courses in Spanish with local students, take part in the English program for international students or take courses at the Spanish Center.
I have taken five courses, including three with the Chilean students on the Rodelillo campus, who I can get recognized in Germany, and two courses for international students on the Diego Portales campus at the Spanish Center. I had more or less problems with the courses at the Rodelillo campus. The problems start with taking a special university bus to the campus. But you never know exactly when it will come and whether you will still be able to get on, because the queue can be very long at certain times. This bothered me a little, because I always had to be at the bus stop very early to guarantee that I would not be late.
Organizationally, the standards in Chile cannot be compared with the German ones. Often my exam dates were postponed at short notice, so that it was very difficult for me to organize everything. However, after a while, I just got used to the fact that things just never go as planned.
The courses at Campus Rodelillo were very difficult for me, especially at the beginning. My degree in Germany is very technical and the focus is on engineering. In Chile, however, more emphasis is placed on the medical aspect and you also learn a lot about certain diseases and how the human body works. It was difficult to understand everything in class and I had to rework and learn a lot for exams, of which you had three per subject during the semester. At first it was relatively difficult for me to find my way around, but after a while I got used to the way of learning in Chile and in the end I finished my courses with a good grade overall.
I took both of my courses at the Spanish Center out of interest. One of them was a pure language course in which, thanks to the good professor, I was able to learn a lot. The other course, “Temas Contemporáneos” dealt with current issues in Chile and throughout South and Central America. It was a very political course and I found it very exciting to learn new things, for example about the relations between Chile and other countries and the domestic and foreign policy of different countries.
The UVM has an international club for exchange students, which is organized by local students. This club offers a variety of activities, from visiting museums to sand boarding on the sand dunes around Viña del Mar. This way you can quickly get to know the other exchange students as well as local students. In addition, there was a day for each home country of the exchange students, on which the students from this country could introduce their home country with certain games, dances or food. I liked that very much, because it taught me a lot about the cultures of different countries, e.g. USA, Mexico, Spain or Norway.
In addition, as an international student you always had the opportunity to contact the two coordinators, Carlos or Caroline. With any problem you could find support from them. Furthermore, there was the possibility at the university to participate socially in certain projects. I would have liked to work on a project in a children’s home, but unfortunately it didn’t come off. Some friends of mine helped out with English lessons at a school, which they really enjoyed.
I did a lot in my free time. Chile is a more western-oriented country and is considered to be very safe. Some of the wallets were stolen, but I didn’t notice any other crime during the entire period. It is therefore not a problem in Viña if you go home alone at night as a woman. This was also an important selection criterion for me, because I didn’t want to live in a city where I always feel insecure.
Viña del Mar is also roughly in the middle of Chile and due to its proximity to Santiago one has the possibility to travel relatively easily to the south and also to the north. There are very cheap flights that fly from Santiago to the largest cities in Chile and it is also very easy, comfortable and safe to travel around the country by long-distance buses. I had arranged my courses so that I had Fridays off. So I was able to travel several times over the weekend and get to know the different areas of Chile, the Atacama Desert in the north and Patagonia in the south.
Especially on these trips I got to know a lot about the Chilean culture and gained a lot of new experiences. We also had a week’s vacation in September because of the national holiday. I spent this week in Ecuador.
Overall, I am very satisfied with the UVM. You shouldn’t expect everything to work organisationally as it does in Germany, and you need a certain amount of time to get used to it. Although the Chileans are western-oriented, have expensive shops, good restaurants and a relatively well-functioning economy, you are still in South America. Personally, I noticed very positively that the Chileans are very open and hospitable. Everywhere, be it in the lecture, in the host family, when traveling or in the mini market around the corner, you are very well received and many seem very interested.
I am very happy that I chose the UVM for my semester abroad and I would do it again.