I organized my semester abroad with the help of MicroEDU. The preparation and the application process were very straightforward. As part of the application process at the University of Chile via MicroEDU, all I had to do was fill out a few forms, as well as submit my transcript of records, proof of insurance and a copy of my passport. If I had any questions, the advisors from MicroEDU were quickly available at any time and thus made the entire organization much easier for me.
In addition, no student visa was required for the semester abroad in Chile, so that at that time I could simply enter with a “tourist visa”, which was much easier and cheaper to obtain than the student visa. You only had to leave the country and re-enter the country after 90 days (as long as the tourist visa is valid) to get a new tourist visa for another 90 days. Therefore, shortly before their tourist visa expires, many students take the opportunity to travel to Mendoza, a city in Argentina that is only six hours by bus from Santiago de Chile.
Furthermore, the support from the FEN by the International Office was really great. You were regularly and very reliably informed about all important information (such as current strikes or formal issues). Mrs. Catherine Rooney and Camy Ortiz Silva from the International Office were always at your side with advice and action and tried very hard to maintain a friendly relationship with all international students.
Since Santiago is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons here were the other way around than in Germany, so I was in the Chilean summer in February. The summer in Santiago de Chile is very warm, the air is dry and the metro is incredibly hot. However, it always cools down well in the nights. In winter, which usually starts properly around June / July, it is also quite cool during the day, a thick cloud cover hangs in the sky, so that everything appears gray. For a semester abroad in Chile you definitely have to pack summer clothes as well as warmer winter clothes. In addition, most apartments in Santiago have neither air conditioning nor a heating system. For this reason, in many (older) apartments, especially in the “Centro” district, it was always very warm during the day in summer and always very cold in winter. Of course, the smog in Santiago should not be forgotten. In winter, more than in summer, Santiago de Chile sinks under a hood of haze, as the surrounding mountains prevent wind circulation. Poor air quality has long been a major problem in Santiago.
Although Santiago de Chile is one of the largest cities in South America, I never saw Santiago as such. Only when you have climbed a high mountain on a hiking excursion on the outskirts of the city (Cerro Manquehue, Cerro Provincia) and have overlooked the city, you became aware of the size and extent of the city again and that of the 16 million inhabitants of Chile around Half live in Santiago.
Like any big city, Santiago is noisy, crowded and very dusty. However, Santiago has a good and uncomplicated infrastructure (metro and bus) and has a lot to offer as a city. There are many sights, excursion destinations and many different and exciting city districts. Street cafes and restaurants are always well attended, especially in summer, and the streets are full of hustle and bustle. However, this changes as soon as autumn / winter sets in, as Chileans prefer to stay at home in colder temperatures.
In addition, Santiago is a perfect starting point for many different trips and activities. In the north of Chile there is the Atacama Desert with a breathtaking starry sky. In the west is the Pacific for relaxed days on the beach, for surfing, sand boarding and with the places Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. In the south of Chile there is Patagonia with incredible nature, glaciers and many national parks (e.g. Torres del Paine) and to Last but not least, in the south there is the Andes for trekking, hiking and skiing. In terms of diversity and nature, Chile has a lot to offer – whether desert, glaciers, beaches, fjords or river landscapes – and makes every outdoor and nature lover’s heart beat faster.
In addition, there are many and very modern shopping centers in Santiago, such as the Costanera Center (tallest building in South America), which is comparable to the European and American standards, where almost all brands (Adidas, H&M, Nike, Forever21, Esprit etc.) are represented.
Something I didn’t expect before starting my semester abroad was the high cost of living in Santiago. I had expected that the rent in a big city would be high, but I was really surprised at the general high price level. My weekly shopping in one of the big supermarkets cost almost three times as much as in Germany. However, smaller fruit and vegetable markets, where the earth still sticks to the carrots and potatoes, offer a cheap and very healthy alternative. You can pay almost everywhere by credit card or otherwise with cash in Chilean pesos. However, eating and drinking is also very expensive – for example, a hamburger costs at least CLP 8,000 (equivalent to € 12) and a simple beer around CLP 4,000 (equivalent to € 5.50). Only in comparison to the USA, for example, the Uber ride was inexpensive in Santiago. In addition, it has to be said that everything in Chile is generally slower and more complicated, with Chile being the most progressive and even relatively structured compared to the rest of the South American countries.
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On the subject of safety, it can be said that I always felt very safe in Santiago. There are security officers at all metro stations and there are small guard houses in all quarters that are manned 24 hours a day. In addition, the police actually do control everywhere and are particularly noticeable in “wilder” parts of the city (e.g. in the Centro or in the Bellavista nightlife district). From time to time, of course, you hear about incidents like robberies, rip-offs from taxi drivers or pickpockets, but nothing like this happened to me during my time. In addition, at the beginning of the semester, on our “Orientation Day” at the FEN, we were extensively informed by the International Office on the subject of safety and informed about the dangers and corresponding measures, so that we knew what to look out for and how to use it behave in certain situations.
Regarding the language, one should be prepared for the fact that Chilean Spanish is considered to be the “worst” and most difficult Spanish of all. Chileans speak extremely quickly, use many abbreviations and slangs and do not emphasize the “S”, for example. Even students with a good knowledge of Spanish had clear comprehension and communication problems at the beginning. However, my teacher from my language course always said that once you understand Chilean Spanish, you can understand any Spanish – practice makes perfect!
In summary, I can say that I really enjoyed my time in Chile. Above all, the diverse and impressive excursions into nature offered a great balance next to the hectic South American city life in Santiago. Although everyday university life was challenging due to the high level and workload, I was able to take a lot with me from my time in Chile for my further career – I made many contacts, both inside and outside the university, I learned a second foreign language and got to know and appreciate a completely new culture. I can definitely say that my stay in South America made me much more relaxed and flexible in certain things and that I was able to develop personally. I can only warmly recommend the Faculty of Economics and Business (FEN), which is considered to be one of the best business schools in Chile – both the International Office and the student organizations have really tried very hard to attract international students, so that you can immediately felt at ease and easily made friends.