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Tina Harter

My semester at the Universidad Andrés Bello in Santiago de Chile. Chile
Tina Harter

In January 2014, my fellow student Anna Strobl and I set off for Chile in South America to spend our semester abroad there. After an 18 hour journey, we finally stepped out onto South American soil. We were soon surrounded by taxi drivers as they came rushing towards us, spoke to us and tried to entice us into an (overpriced) taxi. Our apartment was based in an area where you could purchase (used) car accessories and so there were mostly men living there.

The facilities in our apartment did not match up with Austrian standards in any way, of course. It was fairly loud and got increasingly cold towards the end of our semester because the temperatures often fell below zero at night and there was no heating in the apartment. The beds and slatted frames were made from simple wooden boards nailed together. The chests of drawers were crooked and we only had a gas stove for cooking. But all of these unusual and atypical things are part of visiting South America.

Anna and I decided to travel to Chile one month before the semester began so that we could use the time beforehand to travel around the country a bit. Within a period of three weeks, we travelled from Santiago along the coast to northern Chile (Santiago – Vina del Mar – Valparaiso – La Serena – San Pedro de Atacama – Iquique – Arica), on to Peru (Cusco – Machu Picchu) and then Bolivia (Lake Titicaca – La Paz). The most impressive stops on our trip were undoubtedly Valparaiso, the Atacama desert and Machu Picchu.

Since the semester was not all about travel, Anna and I also had to attend university while there. We chose the Universidad Andrés Bello and took four courses there. We were free to choose all of the subjects and levels. The Universidad Andrés Bello does not offer any classes in English, apart from its English course and so we completed all of the classes in Spanish. At the start in particular, it was all Greek to us, but with time we got better and better. I must add that the people of Chile often use terms and words which are not used in any other Spanish-speaking country and so there was sometimes a double challenge.

Since each class took place on a different campus and the campuses were dotted all across the city, we had to travel across the city by metro, bus and mini-bus on some days. It was a challenge to find the right bus straightaway in Chile, especially at the beginning when our Spanish was still somewhat clumsy. But we overcame this obstacle with a little patience and help because the people of Chile were always very helpful and curious.
The city of Santiago in itself is a very vibrant city with an old central square, home to a giant cathedral. There is an exceptional metro and bus network so everything is accessible by public transport. The long-distance bus network is also excellent and all of the larger cities and smaller towns in Chile are within easy and comfortable reach by bus.

At the weekends, we often took the bus from Santiago to Vina del Mar or Valparaíso. It was quite normal to see open doors, loud Chilean music and young men jumping out of the bus part way through the journey to take people on-board. And so we certainly knew we had arrived in South America! All in all, during our half year in South America we gained numerous impressions, experiences and adventures which we will remember for a lifetime. Y Viva Chile !

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