Latin America. A throbbing life force full of music, food, art, culture, energy, wine and so much more! Choosing Chile as the ultimate exchange location was not hard for me. South America calls to me. Chile in particular calls to me. Something about the bustling life of Santiago Centro with the awe-inspiring backdrop of the Andes gives me goosebumps each and every time I see it. One moment I’m on the back of a motorbike battling through the endless traffic and the next I’m staring up at snow topped mountains, majestically towering over the busy city. This place is nothing like Sydney, and that’s exactly why I’ve come here.
Night life starts after 1am here, getting to a club any earlier is pointless as you will be the only one there. Where is everyone? “La previa”… loosely translated to “the pre” . Tradition here is to get together at someone’s house, drink up a storm and get into the spirit before heading out for a “carrete”. The “carrete” is so accepted and part of the culture here that during our orientation session at the university, they discussed responsible “carrete” techniques, how many piscolas (pisco + cola) to consume and pouring techniques. Yes, that’s right. How to pour piscolas so that you can handle the tasty little beverage so many Chileans call theirs. Drinks are free-poured by the staff here and more often than not there is more pisco than cola in a single drink so I now see the value in the staff of the university educating the exchange students – nonetheless I don’t see people complaining when the bartender is free-pouring quality Chilean pisco into the glass!
Chile is so diverse in its natural landscape. Being here in summer means I am seeing the Andes with vegetation and little snow and can trek my way through to find amazing places such as el Embalse del Yeso.
El Embalse del Yeso:
2hrs from Santiago and many kms of winding narrow rocky roads through the heart of the Andes, the mountains give way to a breathtaking natural glacial lake of a deep blue colour that I have never seen in my life. This place is magical. The water is clear, fresh and so pure that I knew each handfuls I scooped up had never been touched by any other human – this is a very powerful feeling.
Valparaiso and Viña del Mar
Iconic towns a little out of Santiago that are a must see for all visiting this amazing country. Valparaiso – “Valpo” is a beautiful seaport city that needs to be explored either on foot or on a motorbike. Taking a ride on a 100+ year old funicular up to the cerros allow you to enjoy views of Valpo and by making your way through the rocky streets you find yourself greeted by colourful houses and street art on walls and stairs alike. Amazing!
Viña del Mar like many beach towns has a bustling culture and feels a bit like Bondi (South American version) with it’s “beautiful people” jogging along the coastline and walking their expensive dogs. It seems like a lot of the glamour of Chile has ended up in this city. Aside from the nightlife, the best part about Viña is that only a small motorbike ride away is Reñaca….
The waves of this long surf beach roll in onto the beautiful white sand and thousands of people occupy spots on this amazing shoreline. Music stands here & there can be heard as you walk along the promenade, some blasting out salsa and reggaeton, other with throbbing electronic music. The people like it loud here! Oldies and families don’t seem to mind having a huge sound system right behind their picnic on the sand! I love this place! Behind the beach (literally crossing the road) Reñaca offers clubs and nightlife that are packed late into the night. My favourite bar – sunset bar – has the dance floor covered in sand and looks out over the beach to – you guessed it – watch the sunset over the horizon. The place is pumping all summer and the music here is sensational if you like electronic music.
These tasty little suckers are addictive, watch out! If I could somehow healthily survive on a diet of empanadas and fruit juice, I would and Reñaca would be the place for it. The fresh seafood (prawns, clams, scallops…) mixed with melted cheese and wrapped in homemade pastry cooked in stone ovens makes for the tastiest snack/dinner/even breakfast I could ask for!
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
The core reason to why this experience is so amazing. Although it may not seem like it, I am not here merely to enjoy myself and travel, I have actually chosen this university for a reason. The uni – known as UC (Universidad Católica)- is number one in Latin America and has an incredibly high academic standard. The students here want to learn, they motivate each other, they study hard and know how to balance that with a fun lifestyle. I admire that and have instantly become more motivated than ever in terms of study. There are subjects here not available back at home that are opening doors and inspiring me for my career. Workload is demanding but the courses are super interesting and classes are much shorter so the attention span holds for the whole duration and I walk away feeling satisfied that I’ve learnt the content. San Joaquin – the campus that houses the faculty of engineering – is green and lush with tree-lined walkways and grass everywhere. There is a huge sporting complex and people are always riding their bike around. Undoubtedly though, the best part of the day is 1pm where all classes stop for a lunch break and thousands of students meet to relax in the shade and even indulge in the well known siesta!
Overall, this exchange experience is changing my life for the better. I feel enriched and invigorated. Exchange is quite possibly the best decision I’ve made in a long time.
Chile, you have won my heart!!