I feel like unpacking the lifestyle of a student at the Universidad de Chile cannot be done to full justice in just one blog. I find myself unsure of where to start, let alone how to describe everything I want to say in approximately 500 words. However, I will endeavour as best as I can to illustrate my experience as a Chilean student!
During my first few weeks, the university life seemed to be, on the surface level at least, relatively equal to UoA in the fundamental elements. My university campus has a definite left-wing alti vibe, the students attend classes, hang around campus with friends during break, everything is standard university procedure. However, when I say the students are alternative, I seriously mean it. I thought the UoA kids were pretty into the hippie, alti fashion but we are put to shame by the Chilean students. Over here it would definitely be uncommon if you didn’t have either multiple piercings or a multi coloured/shaved hairstyle which you rocked with pride. Also, and this is a point I’ll expand on later in the blog, the students are seriously left wing. There is an alive and buzzing feeling of activism and social movement in the campus which I simply have never felt in NZ on the same scale. The university walls are all painted with political propaganda and my university in particular is famous for frequent marches and protests in the street to campaign social change.
To say a little more about campus life, everything in general is a little more relaxed (in terms of following rules). Every Friday the students hang around campus to party together in the quad, with stalls selling everything from tequila shots to ‘magic’ cakes. Everyone smokes all throughout the entire day (tobacco and other substances). During the lunch break entrepreneurial students often bring their own handmade food items to sell in stalls, such as vegan burgers, sushi rolls etc.
But now onto the more serious topic of this blog – perhaps some of you may have seen videos on Facebook of the large feminist movement that has spread across all of Chile. The truth is that there has been an outrage building for years in Chile against the machismo and femicide occurring within the country and education establishments. The movement is in response to several unresolved harassment cases within the university faculties which female students have lodged against professors. What started as a protest has turned into a full on strike, with university classes postponed indefinitely and in some cases with the campuses barricaded.
Therefore, I am now in my fourth week without class, with no clue if my classes will even start again before my exchange is finished. The teachers have had to meet with all the exchange students to talk about how we can finish our courses via individual tests in order to gain the credits. When I visited my campus to talk to a professor I saw that access to my faculty’s building had been blocked by overturned tables and chairs and even more propaganda had been added to the walls, now showing feminist words and sexual abuse testimonies.
I hope I have made clear what I meant when I said there is a tangible atmosphere of social activism which simply doesn’t exist in New Zealand. I could never imagine a protest of this level taking place in an Auckland university, complete with marches of thousands of people taking place on the main street of Santiago every week. Therefore, although the unpredictable university life here has at times has left me at times slightly perplexed, it has been a special experience to see university students like myself band together to try and produce a social change for the better.