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My Chile experience : Academic & finances

Academic

The university offers exchange students two options for subjects, of which you can mix and match. You can take “pregado” courses (regular classes, in Spanish, designed at a level for Chilean students) or “specially designed courses” for exchange students, some of which are taught in Spanish, some of which in English. I took 4 specially designed courses, 3 in English and one Spanish Communication class.

The specially designed courses are significantly easier and more flexible then the “pregado” courses because they understand that exchange students want to travel and don’t have study as their number 1 priority. They focus on Latin American cultural immersion such as Latin American film, politics, economics etc and the assessment can be easily passed. I really enjoyed these classes and they suited me because I didn’t want to study too much. However my Spanish would definitely have benefitted from at least taking some specially designed courses in Spanish, not just English. I wish I had taken 2/2.

The university offers opportunity to volunteer with local organisations. UAI asks that you pay a $100 fee deposit to them to show that you’re serious (to discourage students from signing up and going once and then pulling out), however if you want you can just contact the organisations directly. I volunteered at the Valpo Surf Project and I’d strongly recommend anyone to do the same. The organisation aims to teach leadership, environmental responsibility and give confidence to at-risk kids in Valpo through English classes and surf lessons. Check out their website!

Finances

I’ve always worked throughout university so I had about $7,000 savings before going. I also received a $3000 bursary from QUT and got the $6000 additional HECS loan. This was more than enough and I travelled comfortably throughout semester and did everything I wanted to do.

I just used my regular bank card in ATMS however I would recommend loading money onto a travel card. You don’t need to get a Chilean bank account. It helps to get cards two, and keep one in safe place eg don’t take it out in your bag. Or just leave your cards at home and carry a small amount of cash on you if you go out. I had a backpack stolen with both my credit cards in it in Santiago and it was a BIG PAIN because I was about to go on a trip to Peru and had to get an Australian friend to withdraw a big chunk of cash for me, and I just transferred the money to her account.

Chile is probably the most expensive South American country. Transport, alcohol and food are extremely cheap however items in restaurants, big supermarkets and shopping centres rival Australian prices.

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