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“Por la razón o la fuerza” – An Introduction to my Exchange at PUC

 Michael Aleman, PUC Exchange, Fall 2012

I’ve been in Chile for nearly four weeks and already I’ve learned more than I ever expected to. Let’s start with the basics. I’m currently in a homestay in Las Condes, a middle to upper middle class neighborhood to the east of the city centre.

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Map of the general area around my homestay. The other colored markers represent the homestays of friends.

I live with Grace  (another American exchange student from Notre Dame), la señora María Eugenia (my homestay mom), and her brother Carlos. I have a small room in the back of the house – it’s good I’m not claustrophobic.

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My room is sized such that I don’t waste too much space… but I do get my own bathroom!

I entered Chile on a Mexican tourist visa rather than an American student visa partly due to cost ($23 vs. $160) and partly due to a delayed FBI background report required to obtain a Chilean student visa.

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It really pays to have multiple passports.

This combined with my Mexican accent has led to an identity crisis when meeting Chileans. Saying I’m “México-Americano” usually results in a slightly mystified look. It also means that I am known as “Mike”, “Michael”, “Miguel”, “Paisa”, or “Gringo-Mexicano” to different people.

The Chilenismos haven’t been too bad yet, probably because they recognize my accent and fix up their Spanish accordingly… cachai? It’s not a perfect system, but it helps.

I’m here with three other exchange students – Matt Jones, Vanessa Bishop, and Sam Houskeeper, though we’re far from being the only foreigners here. PUC actually has a large number of exchange students from all over the world in attendance, making it easy to internationalize the exchange experience.

I’m taking 3 engineering courses and one bioethics course taught by an Austrian professor who travelled from Spain just to teach this class. Although heated rooms are something of a luxury at the university, it does have a lot of resources and is well taken care of considering the tuition for the student body (~$8000 per year). It should be noted that the average income of a Chilean family is significantly less than that of an American one, so the cost is most likely relative to what most families can afford.

I’ve begun to explore some of the sights in and around the city and can say with certainty that this place is awesome. The pictures below certainly back up that claim.

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“Love of power or the power of love?” Food for thought on the bus.

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La Moneda Presidential Palace

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Side street in La Ligua, 160 km northwest of Santiago

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