Study Abroad at University of Viña del Mar (4)
If you want to learn Spanish and already know Spain, I can only recommend spending the semester abroad in South America. I chose Chile because the country (despite the earthquake in 2010) seemed to me to be the safest country on this continent. I got on the plane with almost no knowledge of the language and little knowledge of the culture. I returned to Germany with good Spanish, new friends and, above all, lots of impressions and experiences. And that was exactly what I wanted.
Last year, I applied very easily to the Universidad de Viña del Mar through MicroEDU. I recommend you not to do this at the last minute, simply because the flights get incredibly expensive the closer the departure date gets.
Since I mostly financed my semester abroad with student loans, there was a lot of paperwork to do here. Aline from MicroEDU was also very helpful here. As always, the earlier you send the application away, the sooner you will see the money in the account. It is very important to take out private international health insurance in advance. There are several health insurances that offer special tariffs, it is worthwhile to compare. The costs for this are included in the student loan.
I opened a so-called “young account” at Deutsche Bank and was able to withdraw free of charge at Scotiabank in Chile (also in Viña). Unfortunately, there are no partner banks in other South American countries, so I always paid heavy fees when traveling. The better option is to apply for a credit card at the DKB.
In general, I advise you never to walk around with a lot, i.e. more than the equivalent of 50 euros. The risk of being robbed is simply higher than in Germany.
By chance I booked my flight so that I arrived in Santiago on the morning that Carlos from the International Office was picking up the students from the airport. I have to say, after the long flight and without knowing exactly what to expect, this warm welcome was worth a lot. I took a minibus to Viña del Mar, where my host parents were waiting for me.
If you arrive on another day, change some money at the airport, get on the airport bus for 1400 Pesos and drive to the “Pajaritos” bus terminal. There you take a bus to Viña del Mar, which costs around 3500 Pesos. In total, you can get away with 8 euros, the taxi drivers from the airport pull you over the table for 100 euros.
Mainly because of my barely any language skills, I decided in advance to live with a Chilean family during the semester. In the application form, I gave a few facts, such as whether I want to live with children and pets and to what extent I would like to be integrated into family life.
- Learn more information about Chile and South America on behealthybytomorrow.
I think it was mainly due to the fact that my family wasn’t doing so well that I now more or less regret this decision. My host parents are extremely nice, but they are around 65 years old and they never talked to me except when it came to food. Shortly after I came an exchange student from Arizona who even changed families after 2 months. In general, I do not want to advise against a host family, many international students were absolutely happy with it, at least for me it was not worthwhile (also financially).
During my semester I almost exclusively took Spanish courses. Among them was grammar, communication, and ortofonia. The latter is a subject from Carlos, is only 2 hours a week and is really fun.
The International Office didn’t exactly recommend taking a “real” university course if you don’t have sufficient language skills – but I did it anyway, just to get to know a few Chileans. It turned out to be difficult, of course, and I really didn’t learn anything, but it was nice to see something from everyday life in Chilean university. I can only say that it is a lot more relaxed than ours…
The Spanish courses for international students take place on the “Diego Portales” campus, which is very centrally located. For the normal lectures of the Chileans you have to take one of the free university buses to the main campus, about 20 minutes from the center.
All in all, public transport in Chile is incredibly cheap, but it sometimes costs a nerve or two. During the day, hundreds of smelly buses and just as many collectivos and taxis move around Viña, all of which have one goal: to lure you into their vehicle with horns and shouts.
There are 3 systems in Viña which are not easy to understand at first. The cleanest and safest is the metro that connects Valparaiso with Viña, a trip costs around 400 pesos. The so-called collectivos, one could compare them to shared taxis, charge 450 pesos during the day and 700 pesos after 11 p.m. These have fixed routes, but you can get on and off where you want. It’s the same with the micros (buses). They are often full and drive like the hangman, but also cheap at 150 pesos if you have a student ID. (You will get it from Carlos in the first 2 weeks)
And when it gets longer in the evening, still use public transport and don’t get into the car of one of your many Chilean friends. Certainly he has at least 3-4 Piscola intus – the Chileans have not yet understood why one should drive soberly. Collectivos and micros usually also operate at night. The girls in particular shouldn’t wait alone at the bus stop.
I actually never felt unsafe in Chile. In general one can say that it is better to live in Viña and to celebrate better in Valparaiso. It is clear that as a foreigner you stand out here and, especially as a blonde (like me), you are exposed to looks, whistles and stupid comments. Simply not reacting to it has proven to be the best solution.
Basically, it is important never to be alone in the evening, even if it is only 5 minutes from one door to the other. During this semester some of the international students were attacked and robbed (actually only in Valparaiso and mostly they were traveling alone).
Do not take credit cards and IDs with you to the disco and always have one hand on your pocket, or better not take any with you.
Carlos offers trips for the Intercambios once or twice a month. I went there a couple of times, for example skiing in the Andes, visiting vineyards and horse riding on the beach.
But even without an organized tour, you will definitely not get bored in Viña and the surrounding area. Like most of them, I chose the place mainly because it is on the beach. At first it was still quite fresh, I think from November we went to the beach regularly after the lecture. Bathing is prohibited on many beaches due to the strong currents and the water temperature is around 15 degrees all year round.
You will probably find out right away in the first week that partying is not neglected. The Chileans are very hospitable. In my life, I’ve never been to so many birthday parties for people I don’t really know. The rule here is that more guests equals more fun, and that’s a good thing.
One last tip from me would be that you plan enough time and a little money to travel. During the semester there are always a couple of long weekends and the professors also turn a blind eye for 1-2 days, but if you want to see more of South America, you shouldn’t fly home the day after the last exam. My semester ended in early December and I stayed until mid-March. Who attracts snow and cold when you are only a stone’s throw away from countries like Peru, Bolivia and Argentina?
Enjoy your stay, you will get to know a culture that at first glance is very similar to Europe, but at second glance could not be more different from Germany.