Chile: Bacan! Past Review

By (Business, The University of Texas at Austin) for

Pontifical Catholic University of Chile: Santiago - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was absolutely worthwhile - I will be working in the Latin American division of a company in Denver, Colorado starting this fall. I plan to incorporate my interests in Latin American, Spanish, and travel into my career. In reference to my response to "if you could do it all over again, would you choose the same program?", I would do it all over again, just with a different university this time, and definitely not in the business school of PUC.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The grading system at La Católica (PUC) is very different compared to the American grading system. Instead of using a scale based out of 100 total pointes (with letter grades A, B, C, respectively), the scale is based out of 7 total possible points. Grades are ambiguous; you put the same effort into two different assignments, and the first time you may receive a 6, the second time you may receive a 2.5 (failing grade). Especially in the business school, the professors are unwilling to meet outside of classes and help you if you are struggling. They are also unwilling to explain the grading system (and its lack of transparency) and what you need to do to achieve your goals. I was extremely dissatisfied with the business faculty and would never chose to return to study business at La Católica.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

This is Latin America, so things get done slowly and inefficiently. Be prepared to have to wait in lines, do lots of paperwork, and wait months upon arriving in order to receive your student metro pass, Chilean ID card, student ID card, etc. Regardless, they are helpful and friendly in the International Exchange Student office.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The first semester I lived with a host family that I found through a host-family locator service. This experience was not as pleasant. Second semester I found a different host family through a friend, and this experience turned out to be wonderful. The host family has its pros and cons, but it will absolutely help with your language acquisition.

* Food:

Chilean food is rather bland. They eat a lot of meat, rice, beans, and avocados. I don’t especially like meat, so it was difficult for me to find dishes without meat. I loved the avocados and ate them every day. There are lots of Peruvian restaurants in Santiago which are amazing – make sure to try Peruvian food!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I took tango and yoga classes as extracurricular activities offered through the university. These were cheap and fun. Second semester I enrolled in a soccer class through the sports faculty – I knew nothing about soccer but had a blast in this class and made some great friends.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I ended up ill and in the hospital first semester after eating something from my host family that made me sick. Be careful about what you eat, and also be hesitant about eating food that is cooked by street vendors. In any event, La Católica has a hospital that is affiliated with the university, and they will take great care of you. Safety – be extra/ultra/super aware of your surroundings at ALL times. It is easy to be accosted on the street, robbed in the metro, robbed on any busy street, or taken advantage of with money. My advice is to be distrustful and avoid contact with the Chilean “flaites,” which are the ones that rob people for a living.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? If you decide to travel, try to stay in hostels as they are cheap in Latin America.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Advanced Spanish Grammar and Composition II
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

After studying and living in Chile for a year, my Spanish improved immensely. First thing's first, the Chilean dialect of Spanish is said to be one of the fastest and most difficult to understand. True. I had previously done an internship in Spain for two months and learned a completely different set of vocabulary words, which I had to relearn once I got to Chile. (Very frustrating.) After the first semester I was able to understand a lot more and have interesting/complex conversations. By the end of second semester, I realized how much more confident I had become with my Spanish, and how I could understand everything without having to think about it or translate it in my head. The language improvement is a gradual and very exciting process. My best advice is to avoid English speakers as much as you can (most American students tend to group together and speak English all the time), and make friends with the native Spanish speakers. I met lots of Bolivians and Peruvians that were also on exchange, and they were amazing friends.

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Exchange

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? After reading this long survey and my long commentaries, you should have an idea of the profile fit and personality type for this exchange. If you have it in you, do it, because it will change your life. : )

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Gramática Española I

Course Department: LET131H
Instructor: Marcela Oyanedel
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This is an excellent course taught by a renowned linguistics professor that has an incredible domination of Spanish linguistics. The course is for native speakers that are majoring in Letras (Spanish language, linguistics, literature, etc.), but I decided to accept the challenge and take the course. I am so glad that I did because it answered so many questions I had about the Spanish language - syntax, sentence/word construction, word origins, semantic/phonetic problems - essentially the things that are subtle but important to know as a fluent speaker.
Credit Transfer Issues: No.
Course Name/Rating:

Administración de Recursos Humanos

Course Department: EAA240A
Instructor: Andrés Raineri
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: As I studied in Chile for a year, I took a total of 4 business classes, 2 each semester. This is the only course that I enjoyed in the business faculty and found to be manageable. The professor was easy to understand in lectures, due to his clear accent and ability to explain things well. There were several group projects in the course, which were difficult, but I learned a lot about the complexity of HR in the real world (as we worked with a real non-profit business in Santiago), and the direction from the professor/TA’s was helpful.
Credit Transfer Issues: No.
Course Name/Rating:

Español de América

Course Department: LET010E
Instructor: Maria Natalia Castillo Fadic
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This is also an excellent linguistics course, and the professor is extremely intelligent, passionate, and sympathetic towards exchange students. The course highlights the different dialects of Spanish, including Spain, Caribbean, Central, and South American dialects. The idea is that by the end of the semester, you should be able to hear a native Spanish speaker and deduce what region or country they are from, based on their vocabulary, intonation, and pronunciation, among other factors.
Credit Transfer Issues: No.
Course Name/Rating:

Desafíos en la Creación de Empresas

Course Department: EAA208E
Instructor: Max Errázuriz
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: Please do not take this class. As recommended by the business faculty as a “curso lindo” and “manageable for exchange students,” I decided to take it since it would transfer back as one of the International Business electives that I needed. Over 50% of the class was exchange students like myself, and we felt mislead and deceived by the faculty because the course was everything but “lindo.” The professor was unprofessional, rude, tactless, and basically out to fail everyone. Several people cried in the class throughout the semester, and one exchange student (also a friend of mine) passed out during her final presentation as he was attacking the group’s idea with questions and telling them that their presentation was inadequate/failing. This is actually the worst class I’ve ever taken in four years of college.
Credit Transfer Issues: No.


Thanks for taking the time to write this - I found it very helpful!

Erin_4167 August 20, 2011