Rebekah - Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUCC)

B. Commerce / Arts
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

I began studying 4 courses at the university but decided to drop to 3 due to the heavy time commitment required (similar to UQ but in Spanish). I studied an exchange student course, an economics course and a history course, each with varying degrees of difficulty. For instance, the history course required 5 pieces of assessment where you had to write two essays in 1.5hrs (in Spanish) on 5 texts that you had to read (in Spanish) whilst the exchange student course was one very general question about the topic that was covered (and everyone passed). Therefore, heavy research into each course is necessary BEFORE the semester begins because you can end up with a heavy workload very quickly.

Personal experience

I learnt a lot about a country that most people know little about. I was exposed to many situations that were both amazing and challenging. I met people from all over the world, learnt a beautiful language and got exposed to a completely different way of thinking. After 8 months abroad, I have definitely become a more well-rounded person and a lot more understanding of people from all walks of life. 

Accommodation

I lived off-campus in San Joaquin, five minutes walk from the university with a family I met through Airbnb. I enjoyed this lifestyle as I got to attend all the family fiestas and functions and felt part of the family. Other students lived in the expat suburbs such as Providencia and Las Condes, but I was looking for a more authentic experience in a real Chilean working class suburb. My advice would be to figure out what you want to get from the experience (i.e. exchange friends or Chilean friends) and decide that way. Other exchange students found their apartments through Facebook groups and websites such as homeurbano.

Budget

I paid a little more for accommodation than most as I lived with a family. In general, accommodation costs between $400-$600 per month. Transport is relatively cheap ($1 per ride). Food is similar prices to Australia. Travel and entertainment are much cheaper than Australia and you can get a return flight to the north or south of the country for about $120. I would recommend budgeting at least $12000 so you can travel around Chile and other countries in South America.

Professional development and employability

San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro de Atacama

My Spanish skills have improved considerably and I feel like I handle stressful or unfamiliar situations a lot better than before. In terms of "professional development", I think my intercultural skills have greatly improved, as I have made friends from all over the world.

Highlight

I would say my highlights were living with a Chilean family and being immersed totally in the culture. Another highlight was being able to travel around such a geographically diverse country with new friends. My main travel highlight was definitely Torres Del Paine NP in Patagonian Chile - the wildest and most beautiful place I have ever been.

Top tips

  • Definitely, consider your level of Spanish before coming to Chile - the Chilean student courses can be quite full on, but you learn a lot!
  • Dive in the deep end, make mistakes - Chileans are very understanding and encouraging
  • Take advantage of being in South America - I travelled for 3 months over the summer prior to my exchange and that was a life-changing experience
  • Embrace the culture and "buenas ondas" (good vibes) - Chileans (and the rest of South America) are very relaxed and friendly, and you'll be sure to learn something about the "dulce vida"!
  • Make the most of your exchange - this is a once a lifetime opportunity to do as much as you possibly can.
  • Speak to your professors and don't be afraid to ask questions - the university is very accommodating and will help you solve a lot of your problems over there.
  • Top spots in Chile: Pucon (climb the volcano!), Torres Del Paine NP (Patagonia), Carretera Austral, Chiloé, San Jose de Maipo, San Pedro de Atacama, Easter Island and Valle De Elqui.
Rebekah - Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUCC)