Back to the testimonies
Jules - Mon expat à Santiago Chili
My Expat' to Santiago

Jules about his expatriation to Santiago

​In this edition, Jules looks back on his expatriation to Santiago in Chile. In the previous edition of "My Expat' to", we went to Japan with Camille.

In the "My Expat' to" section, we talk about expatriations lasting one or more semesters in a partner university offered from the third year of the Master in Management programme.

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

Jules: I'm currently in the third year and will do my fourth year in work-study on the Paris campus. I did my first three years on the Caen campus.

I was in the EM'VENTS association this year, a sports event association. We wanted to organise a Wegoboard competition but unfortunately, the event sector was not the most promising this year. We tried to organise something but it wasn't possible with Covid.

Where did you go on expatriation?

Jules: I went to Chile in Santiago during the first semester of my second year. The programme has changed since then as this expatriation is now done in the third year.

Was Chile your first choice?

Jules: Yes, I was lucky to have a good ranking as my first 5-6 choices were in Latin America. This is a region I really wanted to discover and where I had never been. I had selected the whole region of Chile, Peru, Argentina, etc.

Did you really want to go to a Hispanic country?

Jules: Yes, a Hispanic country and if possible to have classes in English to improve both my Spanish and my English. These are the two languages I already practised at EM Normandie.

Which partner university were you at?

Jules: I was at the Universidad Finis Terrae. I think it still exists on the list of expatriations offered. It was a bit far from the centre but in a great neighbourhood in Providencia.

What kind of courses did you have at your partner university?

Jules: I had a wide variety of classes: strategy, management, geopolitics, business with a focus on South American culture, negotiation... All my classes were in English, knowing that I had to take five compulsory classes for the credits in English. I could have taken optional classes in Spanish or English but I didn't because I already had a lot.

How did you spend your free time there?

Jules: I had about 20 hours of classes per week and rarely had classes on Fridays. At three-day weekends, I visited the city of Santiago at the beginning of my expat' experience because it is a big megalopolis. There is a lot to do. Santiago is an hour and a half from the coast, which allowed me to spend some weekends by the sea, in Valparaiso and Viña del Mar for those who want to know. I went by bus from Santiago because there are buses that leave every 30 minutes. These excursions allow you to get some fresh air.

Have you been in the Covid period?

Jules: No, I was lucky enough to go just before Covid came. Some of my friends were in Chile for a year and had to be repatriated. However, I lived through a period of revolution in Chile. It wasn't Covid but it was a bit peculiar to live through because there were demonstrations, a curfew and the army in the street. The university closed for a month just before the school year because it was too dangerous... I was with another classmate of mine and we lived through the demonstrations. We are glad we were part of it because it was historic there. They had not demonstrated for 30 or 40 years since the dictatorship. It was a bit 'hard' at times but overall it went well

How did your integration into the country go?

Jules: The university welcomed us with two weeks of integration. There were about fifty foreign students. It's a bit like the Welcome Weeks at EM Normandie. There were activities, events, visits to the city, festive evenings... before the Covid period, it was easier. This allowed us to meet foreign students and create links before starting classes. We also had a mentoring system, which was useful in case of questions or problems on site. Our referent, the director of the university, speaks French and it was quite good because he helped us if we didn't understand certain things. During the classes, we were mixed with Chilean students and other international students. It was very positive for integration.

So you didn't spend all your time with French people?

Jules: No, in this university, there were five French people from EM Normandie and in total there must have been about ten French people. And in my class, there must have been 3 or 4 French people. There were also Belgians, Dutch, Chileans, people from South America, so we spoke very little French. Even when we were among French people, we tried to speak English so that the people around us would understand. It's really very immersive and that's where you make the most progress.

Do you think it's a trap to go abroad with other French people?

Jules: Sometimes. When I saw that there were five places in this university, I thought that I would be with four people from the School and that could be helpful in case of problems. It's not like there were 50 French people in the same class. The five of us immediately blended in with the others because we shared the same philosophy,  the purpose of expatriation is to mingle with new people.

Are there any bars in Chile?

Jules: Yes, of course! In South America, there are many bars, it's very festive! For those who will go to Santiago, I advise you to go to the district of Bellavista which is very animated with nightclubs, bars... Before the Covid, it was open anyway. It's a very colourful and nice neighbourhood. There are regular international student parties, it's quite safe and all the students meet there in a good atmosphere.

What do you think are the best places to visit in Chile?

Jules: I advise you to visit the Patagonia region, which is in the south of Chile. I did a two-week road trip in Patagonia with some friends. It's a really nice region, beautiful and natural!

In the north, we have the Atacama desert where the landscape is lunar, so it's very nice. There is only one village in the middle of the desert where you have to stay. There is almost nothing around except the desert.

Another place to visit in Chile is Easter Island. To get there, you have to fly from Santiago but the tickets are quite expensive. If you can afford it, I would advise you to go there.

Around Chile, there are also Bolivia and its salt desert, Argentina with its glaciers in Patagonia region, Peru with Machu Picchu...

Do you have any school holidays?

Jules: I had two weeks of holidays in total. There are also a lot of public holidays. Also, the university closed early so I had almost a month and a half of holiday. I also thought I would stay after the end of the school year because it allows you to travel with the people you met and say goodbye before going back to France, so it was quite nice.

What are your best memories of your expatriation?

Jules: For sure, my road trip to Patagonia because we organised everything on our own, we went on a bit of an adventure! We rented a car and we booked the Airbnb accommodations. It was the first time we went on our own for most of us. It was honestly one of the best trips of my life because it was really beautiful.

Is it easy to rent a car if you are French?

Jules: Yes, as a French person there is no problem. We have a bit more rights than the others, because as Europeans, they think we have more money and that we are more serious. We had a planned itinerary because in Patagonia there are national parks for which you have to book a little in advance. So you need a minimum of organisation but it's easy to prepare.

How is Viña Del Mar?

Jules: It is a seaside town not far from Santiago. It's quite nice if you want to spend a weekend there, to go to the beach and walk around. It's a neighbouring city of Valparaiso which is very famous for its graffiti and street art so it's very nice. I had taken local guides who speak French and who make you discover the city in a different way. Moreover, the weather is often very nice so it's not unpleasant!

Do I need to know the local language to spend a year abroad?

Jules: No, because you go abroad to improve your language skills or even to start from scratch. I know a student from EM Normandie who spoke almost no Spanish and who came back almost bilingual after six months. She made an effort to achieve this, you learn a lot on the job in reality.

Have you visited other countries around there?

Jules: I had planned to go to Peru but in the end, it didn't happen. During our integration, we were lucky enough to go to Argentina for two or three days, right on the border. I think Chile is already big enough to travel a lot. If you have the time and the chance to go to Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil... go for it! When it's possible, you should take some time after the expat' to travel.

Has your English improved?

Jules: I made more progress in English than in Spanish because I spoke English on a daily basis for classes and to interact with international students. I used Spanish mostly for everyday life, like going shopping etc. I must have improved my TOEIC score by 100 or 150 points. I notice this in terms of comprehension because Chilean who speak English has a strong accent that I could understand!

Is student life different from that in France?

Jules: No, I would say it is not especially different. Life is generally cheaper in Chile, for bars and nightclubs for example. There are often student parties on Wednesday or Thursday nights. The big difference is that they start the parties much earlier than we do. You can find people in nightclubs at 10 pm whereas in France, the clubs are closed at that time. But they will also stop much earlier, around 1.30 - 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock at the most.

Do you recommend expatriation?

Jules: Yes, I recommend the university as much as the country. I met a lot of people with whom I'm still in contact a year and a half or even two years later: Belgians, Mexicans... You have to take the plunge because, at the beginning, it's not necessarily easy to arrive in a country far from home. You don't necessarily know the language when you arrive and they have a strong accent. Even if we speak a little Spanish, they don't necessarily understand us. In the end, we make friends and the expat' experience goes well.

Do you have any good advice for people who want to go to Chile?

Jules: You have to prepare for your trip well. This applies to any expat' because it's a budget. And as it's quite far away, you can't call Mum and Dad to tell them that you have a problem. As far as accommodation is concerned, it's better to find it before you leave and also to find out about the neighbourhoods. I lived in Ñuñoa. I would advise you to live there or in Providencia. I just recommend avoiding the city centre because it's far from the university, so you don't have to travel 30-40 minutes every morning. Also, the city centre is less quiet and a bit less safe.

What is the level of security there?

Jules: Before the demonstrations, I felt very safe. In any case, it is one of the safest countries in South America, if not the safest.

Is it stressful to go so far away when you are 19?

Jules: No, because I had already travelled on my own once. And if it's your first time travelling alone, you know you're going to be away for six months. Ideally, it's better if there are no problems. But on the first day, my credit card was stolen and I had to deal with the situation alone.

And the university did everything it could to support us and to help us integrate quickly. You can also make a checklist of what you want to visit to give you an idea in terms of timing and have enough time to do everything.

The final word...

Jules: Whatever happens, wherever you go, make the most of your expat' experience because it doesn't happen often, even if EM Normandie offers us multiple expatriation opportunities. These are really enriching experiences in human terms. If you have more specific questions about other things concerning Chile, don't hesitate to send me a message, I'm still available.

Can we contact you via Instagram for more information?

Jules: Yes, sure! Here is my profile.

Watch the Replay on Instagram

Back to the testimonies