1. Preparation and application
I decided relatively early in my studies to spend a semester abroad. On the one hand, I wanted to gain more experience internationally, and on the other, to see something different again. My motivation was to travel to a Spanish-speaking country in order to improve my Spanish skills, which were very poor at the time. I decided against Spain because “it wasn’t far enough away”. After exploring security, standard of living and culture, my choice fell relatively quickly on Chile.
Unfortunately, our university did not have a partner school there, so I was recommended MicroEDU. The organization was very helpful. MicroEDU supported my decision-making with a lot of information and testimonials. After careful research, I chose the Universidad de Chile. They also helped me with the application process at the faculty and the choice of subjects. I was able to send all of my documents to them and they then mediated between UChile and me. When the UChile finally agreed, the joy was great. I then clarified my choice of subjects from the course catalog with Ms. Drügg in order to cover my SPF and other requirements. She was always very open to questions, even during my stay abroad. It was no problem to swap individual subjects within a certain period of time so that they both fit into my schedule and were recognized in Germany.
2. Arrival and visa
The visa was the first hurdle. I chose a student visa because it was recommended to me. In retrospect, however, I would recommend a tourist visa to anyone who also opts for Chile. You have to renew this after 90 days with a new entry into the country. In my opinion, clearly the better choice if you are generally planning to travel. Unfortunately, I spent my first days in Santiago visiting the authorities. A lot of effort was involved from registering my visa at the police station to applying for my Chilean ID card at the office. Copies had to be made, a conversation with the police officer had to be held and a lengthy registration process at the office was necessary. However, you should be prepared for that, everything is progressing much more slowly than in Germany and not as efficiently either.The positive thing about the student visa is, without question, the Chilean ID and the associated allowances, for example in national parks, and the possibility of ordering a student ticket. Here, however, the time aspect has to be taken into account again (my BIPcard arrived 1 week before the end of the semester).
I went to the other end of the world right after the last SPF exam here in Germany. The semester in Chile starts at the end of July and lasts until mid-November. At first I only booked a one-way flight because I was sure that I would still like to travel at the end of the semester, so I left my return airport open for me. My outward flight cost me around € 800 to Santiago (summer vacation price). I flew via Sao Paulo as there is no direct flight from Germany.
3. Description of Santiago
Santiago is a very lovely city. A little more than 5 million people live in the capital of Chile, which alone makes up 40% of the total population.
Chile is a particularly thin and long country and is located on the west coast of South America. Santiago is located relatively centrally in the middle and is an ideal starting point for trips thanks to the good transport connections. It doesn’t take much more than an hour to get to the sea in Valparaiso or Vina del Mar by bus. Even if you want to ski in the Andes, you can reach a well-known ski area in under an hour. Chile and especially the regions around Santiago are known for their good wine, so a short detour to a wine tasting is highly recommended. For my part, I wasn’t into hiking before this semester. Santiago with its hiking opportunities and Chile in general pulled me under their spell.
- Learn more about Chile and South America, please check ethnicityology.
The weather was relatively cold at the beginning because it was winter, but luckily it was very dry. From mid-October the temperatures rose to a pleasant 20+ degrees. In my entire semester it rained a maximum of 10 times. Santiago, however, is a small “smog boiler”. The city is protected by the Andes on the east side and a mountain range on the Pacific side surrounds Santiago in such a way that a large smog cloud often covers Santiago. In the first few days this was especially noticeable when climbing stairs and running. If it was particularly bad on some days, you should also refrain from hanging white laundry outside to dry.
Santiago makes up for this small flaw with its charm. In the city there are many small “barrios” that are completely different and each one has something special to offer. From small cafes, quaint restaurants to chic, stylish boutiques, food festivals, small markets, interesting museums and street paintings to large parks, lively bars and clubs. There is something for everyone. Above all, what should not be missing and which particularly describes Latino life is the joie de vivre that you can feel while strolling through the city. Especially on weekends, the parks are full of people dancing, singing, barbecuing and enjoying life with family and friends.
Santiago may not have the most beautiful cityscape, but there are some great hills that you can climb and from which you can enjoy beautiful views in good, smog-free weather. Especially if you love things like that, you shouldn’t miss a visit to the observation deck in the Sky-Costanera. The view from the tallest building in South America over the whole city is breathtaking and indescribable. There is always something to do and experience in Santiago, it never gets boring there.