Universidad Viña del Mar Student Review
Chi chi chi le le le, viva Chile!
An exotic country, different landscapes every few kilometers, a completely different culture and language besides German and English. This is how I could summarize my main reasons why I wanted to spend my semester abroad in Chile . Since I took the Spanish courses at my home university in my first three semesters, it was clear to me that I would like to deepen these in a semester abroad. After Spain for a semester to go, me occurred when I was a great opportunity to discover a new continent forgive. So it was clear to me that it was going to South America should go. After I’ve talked with some people and I have scoured the partner universities, I have Chile and the Universidad Viña del Mar envisaged. But as luck would have it, the partner contract with my university has expired. So I started looking for another way to apply to Universidad Viña del Mar and came across College Contact. The application for a semester abroad went very quickly and after a few weeks I had my acceptance, a good six months before the semester began.
The semester officially started at the beginning of March, but I went to Buenos Aires at the beginning of February to spend the time leading up to the start of the semester abroad with travel. I booked my outward and return ticket together, which makes perfect sense, as you would otherwise pay a lot more. For the return flight (Buenos Aires – Munich) with Lufthansa, I then only paid a mere 850 EUR, which is really not much in my opinion. I also found traveling at the beginning to be a great way to get into the language . After a month across South America, I arrived at my provisional terminus, Valparaíso. Fortunately, a friend had already spent the previous semester in Valparaíso and was then able to offer me accommodation for two weeks .
Host family or shared flat?
I asked myself this question at the beginning. I had no idea how difficult it could be to find a flat share and decided to go with the host family when I applied to the university. When a friend offered me (as already mentioned above) that I could sleep with her for two weeks and she also said that it was super easy to find something, I started pondering. One month before the start of the semester, I canceled the host family program and I am absolutely happy with this decision. When I arrived in Valparaíso (which is also a city that is right next to Vina del Mar), I signed up for the website compartodepto.cl. There you will find a lot of different apartment and flat share advertisements.In total, I looked at two apartments and then decided on the first flat share. It should also be said that in Chile the principle is first come, first come. So no annoying flat-share castings, as I was used to in Germany.
The flat share consisted of a Chilean, who was also the main tenant and architect (and had a huge amount of motivation for any leisure activities), 3 French women, two Spaniards, our house cat and me. The apartment itself was just awesome and we spent a lot of great evenings together. The apartment itself was also in Valparaíso. I think I was the only one of the Intercambios who lived in Valparaíso, as Vina del Mar is always considered safer and you are a little closer to the university. But I found the apartment perfect and you just have to say that Valparaíso is more vibrant than Vina. It only took me half an hour to get to the university by public transport (micros) and since I also lived on one of the many cerros (hills) of Valparaíso,
Life in Chile
The time in Chile was just amazing for me. There is so much to offer, especially in Valparaíso and Vina del Mar. Be it rafting, paragliding, hiking, surfing, kayaking, party boats, various weekend trips. The location is just perfect. As far as food is concerned, you will get your money’s worth as a fruit and vegetable lover. There are small shops on every corner where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables. The supermarkets are also open every day (including Sunday) until 10 p.m. In general, you hardly have to go without anything, except for feta and mozzarella. The prices can be compared with Germany and if you go to the Fería (market) on Wednesdays, you get real bargains. The mini buses (micros) are also something that I will miss in retrospect. In the beginning I found it really difficult to figure out which bus to take and how to find out where to get off. The buses follow certain routes and there are actually no official bus stop names or bus timetables. The advantage of this system was that it really never took longer than a few minutes for a suitable bus to drive by, all for a few pesos. For everyone who uses the bus every day, I can also recommend to apply for the temporary student card at the university . Only with this card can you get the student price on the buses. After university there is also a lot of things to do, for example I liked to attend a yoga course once a week (name was Yoga Inbound) for a mere 3 EUR per course unit. We were also often barbecues, or on the beach or in the dunes, which were only a 20-minute bus ride away. There is definitely a lot to experience and you will definitely not get bored.
The Universidad Viña del Mar is a university that is very geared towards international students. We were 50 intercambios in total. One week before the right courses started, there was an introductory week. There you could get to know other exchange students and you have set your courses. The Spanish placement test was also this week. This consisted of an oral and a written exam and depending on how good you were, you could attend the local courses or not. I chose the English program and attended two courses in English and two Spanish courses. The system of the Chilean universities is very schooled and consists of compulsory attendance, grades and a lot of small homework. So you were always very busy during the semester and since the classes were usually no bigger than 5-7 people, you couldn’t avoid doing your homework. But there were other delicacies for the Intercambios, for example, exchange students generally had no lectures on Fridays and could print for free with dear Carlos. Due to the fact that almost no houses have heating in Chile, it happened from time to time that it was really cold in the classrooms and one sometimes sat inside with a jacket, hat and gloves.The professors are all very nice and the exams are manageable. What I cannot recommend, however, is to take the DELE test at the university. Unfortunately, the organization was a minor disaster. The university also offers a sports program and during the semester there are also small excursions that help to get in touch with the other Intercambios .
Of course, the security question arises quickly in a South American country. It has to be said that there are robberies and that one has to be careful. Fortunately, nothing like that ever happened to me, but I’ve also adapted. So when I left I only had a copy of my ID, an old Nokia cell phone and cash with me. So that in the worst-case scenario, nothing of value gets lost. I only had my credit card with me when I really had to withdraw money and I also tried to wear everything I had valuable on my body. These precautionary measures simply make you feel safe and have the psychological effect of losing the fear of robbery.
All in all, I can only warmly recommend a semester abroad in Chile to everyone. It was a unique experience and I have many great moments with my stay in Chile.