Universidad Finis Terrae – Santiago de Chile, Chile
1. Valid formalities before, during and after your stay.
One of the most important formalities before leaving for Chile is to obtain a visa.
Citizens of the Republic of Poland and most EU citizens have the possibility to stay in Chile without a visa for up to 90 days, so sometimes some people obtained a visa during their stay or did not do it at all – they traveled to Argentina and returned to Chile and then they had 90 days again. But it's a way that's not appreciated by universities.
The visa application process is quite fast, in my case it took 2 days from the completion of all the documents and the submission of the visa application to the appointment for the interview. You have to go to Warsaw to get your visa in person and it will be stamped into your passport during the visa meeting.
The meeting takes place in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, which allows you to talk to the ambassador about things that concern you.
However, to apply for a visa, you will need the following documents:
- ORIGINAL Letter of Acceptance from the host university
- passport valid for at least 6 months
- passport photo
- a certificate of no criminal record with a certified translation into Spanish (not older than one month)
- certificate stating that there are no visible symptoms of infectious diseases (it is recommended to write it yourself in English and go to your general practitioner with a request to stamp and sign it).
- bank statement or parent's certificate confirming the potential responsibility for costs of the stay
Upon arrival, you will need to have the originals of all documents and pay the visa fee of $63.
The costs should be increased by the issuance of a certificate of no criminal record and certified translation.
Before applying for a visa, it is recommended to call the embassy and confirm that the procedure has not changed.
Learning Agreement – the courses must be approved by the Dean and the host university.
Flight ticket – the sooner the cheaper. Be careful with flights through the USA - they are the cheapest, but they require an additional visa to the USA (there is no transit zone there).
Even if you have a valid tourist visa, it is said that it is better to avoid such a connection, due to checks and delays (baggage does not fly directly to Santiago, but you have to pick it up in the USA and check it in again). My flight was from Warsaw via Paris to Santiago, a fast and pleasant connection. Flights via Amsterdam, Madrid, and Frankfurt are pleasant, too.
The cheapest airline is AItalia. Return ticket costs around PLN 3,000 (if you know the date of return)
There are not many formalities during the semester – you can submit changes to the LA up to 2 weeks, and they must be approved by the Dean in Poland.
You also need the original of the LA to sign it here and when you return, you will need to pass it on to the Bureau for International Cooperation and finally to the Dean's Office.
Please ask for a certificate that you were a student of the given university in the given months (needed for International Relations to settle the mobility)
You will need to register with two authorities within two weeks of your arrival to obtain documents, but your new university will guide you.
Returning LA to the International Relations to settle the student exchange and then passing it to the Dean's Office. Then you will receive the Transcript of Records by post, which you will also need to hand over to the International Relations.
2. Regarding the courses offered, their availability, where did you get the information from or who did you contact?
Finis Terrae offers a wide range of courses from orthodontics to law and business. All these courses are available to us but in Spanish. There are about 10 courses in English and only from the Faculty of Business & Administration. We can select up to 6 courses. The points given for the course are not ECTS! You have to ask the exchange coordinator from the host university for the conversion rate table.
My courses were: Change Management, Business Strategy, Español para extranjeros, Creativity and Problem Solving, International Business and Business Challenges in Latin America. The credit conditions for all the courses were more or less the same: 2 chapters of the book to be presented, a case study every week, 3 midterms (exams) and one final exam. Compulsory attendance – 75%.
3. Accommodation conditions, dormitory or private renting? Your opinion.
As far as accommodation is concerned, there are no dormitories, but the university will send you an offer from the SEN (Santiago Exchange Network) with student dormitories. There are about 12 people in a house and the house is located in safer districts of Santiago (Las Condes, Providencia). Many people choose this option as it is a guaranteed accommodation that can be booked even if you are still in your own country. However, I do not recommend it because of its price/quality ratio. The price of monthly rent is about 260 dollars for a double room, single room costs about 290 dollars. The best option is to arrive in Santiago with a booked hostel for about a week and then start looking for accommodation on advertising portals, or ask the students who were here before us. There is a chance that you will find a nice room for about $150. The university is located in the Providencia district, so it's best to look for a room in the neighborhood. If you can't find accommodation in Providence, I would rather recommend accommodation in districts that are closer to the mountains or those on the other side, but no further than Santiago Centro. I lived on Barrio Yungay, it's behind Santiago Centro – I only decided to take this room because I met great people there. I spent the first two weeks at AirBnB and decided to move there for good, even though I had my SEN house booked for the rest of the semester. However, the subway trip to the university took me 50 minutes (the Chilean subway was unpleasant during rush hour), plus I had to be much more careful and cautious about my safety.
4. The cost of living in Chile is very expensive.
During the semester (5 months) I spent about PLN 13 000, and I didn’t live a wasteful lifestyle (not including travelling – I visited Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and Peru – if someone wants to know more about what is worth seeing and what are the costs of such a sightseeing, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
I recommend doing shopping at La Vega Central – a big market in the middle of town where you can find the lowest prices. When it comes to normal shops, the cheapest is the Leader, the most expensive is Jumbo. Prices in shops also vary from their location in Providence and shops located uphill are more expensive. Public transport is also very expensive, there is no possibility to buy a monthly ticket. When using public transport routinely, the monthly cost is about USD 60 This amount decreases drastically when you get your student card, but unfortunately, it will happen sometime after 2 months of your stay.
5. Can I have additional work? What conditions?
You can try to ask the Exchange Office at the host university if they need a trainee. When it comes to working outside the university, a separate visa and work permits are required, which are not easy to obtain – you have to wait about 2 months, plus you need to have a certificate from your employer that they have a job offer for you. I had the opportunity to talk to other Polish women who had studied in Chile before and decided to work illegally, but the conditions and pay were poor.
6. Opinion on the studies at the university, equipment, and approach to the student (a form of credit, standard hours of classes).
Finis cannot be compared to Universidad Catolica or Universidad de Santiago. A lot of individual work at home, little teaching during classes. However, the university is very well equipped – computer rooms, a large patio, a theatre, a cheap canteen. If the courses are in English, they are usually arranged on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – so that you have a 4-day weekend for traveling. Classes last 75 minutes and there are 2 such units per week per course. Attendance is checked in every class. There is no rule for courses in Spanish – many people from my exchange group replaced courses in Spanish with courses in English because they couldn't cope with the amount of material and the level of language, even Spanish speakers struggled with it – it is advisable to take a course in English for your convenience. There are various events organized for exchange students, both mandatory events – by the Exchange Office and voluntary events – by Yunte, something like our ESN. It takes a long time to get something sorted out.
7. General remarks.
Chile, in my opinion, is a beautiful country and it is worth studying there. What else you should know:
- A very small part of the community speaks English and the Spanish language is not standard.
- Safety: if you are leaving a big city – there is nothing to be afraid of, even walking alone at night. However, big cities, especially Santiago, is another matter. Around 60% of the exchange students lost their phones and there were also home burglaries. The basic principles to be followed are:
• It's best to use Uber at night, generally, taxis aren't very safe.
• Don't go alone to Barrio Bellavista (the most entertaining district)
• Don't walk around with your phone in your hand in the street because somebody can still it.
• Keep about 5000 Chilean pesos in your pocket to give away in case of robbery, the rest, together with the documents keep hidden (I recommend a bumbag that you can put under your trousers).
• Don't leave your backpack at a table in a café, etc. no matter what.
- Money: I recommend that you create an account at an online exchange office such as Cinkciarz.pl and transfer your Polish zlotys there and convert them into USD when the exchange rate is good. We keep it in a "cloud" and transfer the amounts we need to the currency card in USD (you only need to check whether our bank does not charge a fee for transfers from Cinkciarz, I recommend Tmobile). What is the benefit? When someone steals our debit card, we have only a small amount of money there, and all the rest is left at the Internet exchange office, plus we can exchange USD at a more favorable exchange rate. In Chile, we normally pay with a USD card or choose cash from an ATM. Scotiabank is the only bank that does not charge a commission on withdrawals from an ATM.
- Get some warm clothes! The temperature fluctuations between night and day are huge and there is no heating in the houses.
- In Chile, an earthquake is quite normal – don't be scared, the houses are designed in a way that allows you to feel safe.
If you want to learn more about these places, explore interesting restaurants, find out what's worth visiting – please write to me at the email address below.
National Taiwan University (NTU) – Taipei, Taiwan
There are basic formalities regarding documents on the Taiwanese side. In addition, you should get the insurance that you are obliged to have. When it comes to visas, we - Poles - are granted a 90-day visa-free stay. Important stuff! We may not be allowed entry on a plane without a return ticket from Taiwan and without a visa! Therefore, you must have a return ticket with a date of fewer than 90 days from the date of arrival before you can fly to Taiwan.
You also need to have medical tests done – however, at the price of 1000 TWD (about 120 PLN) you can do them in Taiwan. Then you can be sure that they will be done as required. You will be guided through all the formalities by an exchange office that will do its best to make it easier for you.
2. Course selection
Theoretically, you study at your faculty, although all courses taught in English are available for you. The whole registration process is facilitated by the university.
3. Accommodation conditions
I'd definitely recommend the dormitory. For 270 USD a month you have a fully-equipped place, although there is no kitchen. In addition to the fact that the dormitory was located within a distance of one kilometer away from the university (classes took place in various university campuses), the big advantage was that most of the international students also lived there, so we spent a lot of time together.
4. Costs of living
The costs of living are similar to those in Poland.
5. Job opportunities
Unfortunately, you must not work in Taiwan.
6. Additional remarks
There is everything at NTU campus – doctor, gym, hairdresser, bank – literally, everything is there. It's hard to get bored. It is advisable to buy a bike (second-hand bike costs about PLN 60-70 – you can also sell it later) and an umbrella.