Study Abroad at University of Viña del Mar (5)
First of all, I can only say that personally I couldn’t have chosen a better place to do my semester abroad than in Chile. The time there was amazing. How much experience you gain while traveling in world history and learning so much about languages, cultures, people, countries and life. I can only recommend the experience to everyone !!
It was clear early on that I wanted to go to Vina del Mar in Chile, as the testimonials from previous students (via MicroEDU) particularly appealed to me. The inclusion in the Latin America Facebook group also helped me to get more information in exchange with people who had already been to Chile for a semester abroad. I also used the group to exchange ideas with people who, like me, plan to do their semester abroad there or who are already there. And it’s really nice to be able to exchange ideas in advance.
Since I decided pretty quickly to look for a flat share for the time in Vina, I set my flight so that I arrive there a few days before the start of the semester and stay in a hostel there (recommendation: Street Garden Hostel), where I have already met other internationals. I was also told that it was easy to find something there, and so it was with me.
After 2 days I already had a flat share. I was in contact with the landlady beforehand, as I got her number from one of the Facebook contacts. But since I was advised to first look at the flat share on site and then make a decision, I did so when I arrived. I really liked the flat share in a small house in the middle of Vina (and only 10 minutes from the beach). From the beginning it was important to me that I also share a flat share with Chileans to speak more Spanish in everyday life. So during the time in Chile I lived together with 2 other German girls and 5 Chileans. It was particularly difficult to communicate at the beginning, as the Chileans spoke almost exclusively in Spanish and my Spanish was not very good yet. But that got a lot better over time and my Chilean roommates also tried very hard.
In contrast to my university and working life here in Germany (doing a dual degree), pure university life in Chile was very relaxed. The choice of courses was ultimately decided on site, as unfortunately not all courses took place. We then had 2 weeks to make a final decision on the courses and were allowed to try out all possible courses and take part in the lectures beforehand. I only chose English courses because you also need a certain language level for the Spanish courses. The only regret was that these courses in English were almost exclusively taken by international students. But I also took a Spanish language course, which demanded a lot through regular tests and homework, but where I not only learned a lot about the language itself, forms of communication, presentations but also about the Chilean culture.
What I liked about the way of teaching there is that homework, presentations and smaller tests spread over the entire semester ultimately put together the overall grade, so that I only wrote one exam in the last week and was saved from this stress.
Leisure and travel
In addition to the university, I was of course there to get to know the culture, the people and the country better. Since my weekend started as early as Thursday noon, so to speak, there was enough time in my free time to do something, go on smaller trips or, especially in summer, just hang out on the beach. The UVM also offered several different leisure activities, such as sandboarding, hiking or small trips to the Chilean congress in Valparaiso and to a holy place of the native Mapuche (Chilean indigenous people). It was always a great opportunity to do something with the other students, Chilean or international. Usually afterwards we went to the student bars.
- Learn more information about Chile and South America on clothesbliss.
Since I love to travel, I wanted to see as much of Chile and South America in general as I could. Together with the other internationals, you have always found groups to travel together over the weekend. I thought it was great that other people were often there and it was never just the same people. It was very easy to travel around Chile and South America in general by bus or plane (cheap airline Sky). In Chile itself I was in the south in Patagonia. There we went hiking and camping for 5 days in Torres del Paine, which I can definitely recommend, as the region is simply beautiful and it is also good to enjoy nature away from the mobile network.
I was also in Pucon (also in the southern part), which is a super nice place, right on a lake (hostel recommendation: Chili Kiwi Hostel). In order to explore the capital Santiago de Chile, we also spent one night there.
In the northern part of Chile we were in La Serena / Pisco de Elqui and also in San Pedro de Atacama, the desert of Chile. From there we made a 4-day tour to the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt desert in the world, in Bolivia. The tour was one of the best of my time in South America and I can only recommend it! There we drove through the desert in a jeep for days, stayed in a salt hotel and saw beautiful places.
Furthermore, we used a weekend to travel about 8 hours by bus to Argentina, more precisely Mendoza. The city is on the other side of the Alps and offers many wine regions and a beautiful city. There we organized two wine tours through the hostel. On one of the two tours we rode horses for 2 hours with an incredible view of the Andes.
In a lecture-free week in September we traveled to Peru with a larger group by plane and long bus trips. The goal was of course the Machu Pichu. We made smaller stops in Arequipa and Puno on Lake Titicaca, as well as several days in Cusco, from where you can get to Machu Pichu itself. This experience was amazing too! Above all, it was unbelievable how the Inca managed to build this city so hidden high above. Even if it is unfortunately very touristy and therefore expensive, it is definitely worth visiting this magical place.
An equally magical place was Easter Island, which we visited for a weekend. Since the island belongs to Chile, the best way to reach it is via the airport in Santiago, so we took the opportunity and I was able to fulfill a dream. About 4 hours from the mainland, Easter Island is more remote than any other island. The Moai statues are scattered all over the island and each one was just amazing. So, if you’re in the area, you should definitely go there too!
Those 5 months in South America were just amazing! I got to know so many new people from all over the world, I was able to exchange cultures, had a lot of great experiences, learned a new language and also improved my English significantly. Sure, there were sometimes difficult times, after all, you’re so far away from home, but I thought it was important to enjoy the time there as much as possible and didn’t let myself be disturbed (the Chileans are nice and relaxed). I think a semester abroad is definitely always worth an experience and I am glad that Chile was the right place for me.