A Mercedes with an Empty Tank

Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
Trip End Aug 2006

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Flag of Chile  ,
Friday, March 10, 2006

To the casual observer, the facilities at Chile´s most elite universities vary widely in quality. And to a certain degree they do. One week and several classes in, though, the distinctions are beginning to blur, and what one campus lacks in techonology or cleanliness, it somehow makes up for in its ability to stick to a schedule.

The PUC, the catholic university in Santiago, usually enrolls the students who score highest on Chile´s corrolary to the SAT. The students seem to pick the PUC over the Universidad de Chile, the other renowned university in town, because the campuses are, well, prettier. Every classroom has a computer and a projector, new desks and a well-swept floor. There´s always an ATM wihin a block of you.

La Chile, on the other hand, has about a dozen walls covered with murals of Che Guevarra, and 3/4 of the campus is under construction. It´s main campus is not easily accessible by the subway. Every classroom vibrates with the rhythm of the jackhammers downstairs. But I´ve never had a classroom changed, nor has teacher cancelled classes without informing the students.

Both things happened on my first two days at la Catolica. I went to the library there to use the WiFi, and it didn´t work. No one could explain why, they just blamed it on my computer, because it was a Mac. But half of their computer labs run on Macs. You explain it to me.

Like in the US, though, la Catolica is largely filled with the wealthiest of Chile´s students, though many deny it. Like in the US, it´s usually the wealthy kids who can afford to prepare for the standardized college entrance exam (meaning classes). Most of the students have friends they´ve known since childhood, when they went to the same private schools, and seem to ignore the Americans. Sure, you can ask them for help or directions, and they´ll answer you (chileans pride themselves on that). But after a curt response, they´ll promptly turn their shoulder and resume conversation with someone else.

La Chile seems to have more character. Chileans on the whole are pretty cold (or shy) people. At least that´s the sterotype as it plays out. But at la Chile, the help you get is friendly. They ask you if you need anything else. Nobody gives you an ugly look. Who cares about the facilities if they´re welcome? La Chile seems to truly accept something the PUC claimed to believe: that the international students might have something to offer.


But what have i been doing? Not much, really. I saw -Good Night, and Good Luck- last week. It´s amazing the amount of American arthouse flicks the major theaters play in Chile. I´ll go out tonight with some friends, and may visit Valparaiso this weekend. The family is still kind and helpful, though they´re going through a rough patch (their 24 year-old son, divorced with a child, quit his job last week because his boss wasn´t paying him).

The city is becoming more familiar. If i haven´t spoken to any of you recently, it´s because i haven´t had an internet connection to connect my computer to. Just internet cafes. Soon, hopefully, i´ll post some pictures up here. Until next time...
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