When I signed up to come to Chile I was under the impression that I would be directly enrolling in 1 or more universities in Santiago. I would get to choose, from 3 prestigious Chilean universities, where I wanted to take classes and what classes I wanted to take. I would be taught be Chilean professors and have class with REAL LIVE CHILEAN STUDENTS! How cool! Sounds almost too good to be true! Exactly.
It’s not that my study abroad program reneged on their promises, it just so happened that there are lot of things in life you can’t control. For example, politically active Chilean university students. I am currently living in a country that is a relatively new democracy (21 years out of a dictatorship) and still working out the kinks. The people here are passionate about their country, especially politics, and enjoy a good protest. The quality of the public education system has been under criticism for many years, but the movement has recently gained a lot of strength. From what I understand, you only send your kids to public school if you can’t afford private school (both my host siblings go to really good private schools). And the quality of the education you receive through high school then determines you eligibility to go to college, etc, etc. It’s a really complicated, but basically, a lot of students (high school and college) have entirely stopped attending classes and now spend their time organizing and participating in protests around the city.
A kiss- In.
Running laps around the Presidential Palace, 1800 in total, due for completion this Saturday.
As exciting as this all is, it has also greatly complicated my ability to be a student here. All 3 of the universities in which I can directly enroll have had trouble with strikes. The University of Chile is on strike indefinitely. At La Católica, where I’m enrolled, the students in each academic department are voting on a week by week basis to continue the strike. Luckily, my professors have (more or less) been continuing to teach because there are enough foreigners who have continued to come to class.
Since I’ve arrived, there has been a lot of protesting going on. Luckily, I’m living in the sleepy, safe suburbs of Las Condes, about 4o minutes (commute on metro) from downtown, so my daily life hasn’t been affected by tear gas or the “cacerolazos” (banging on pots and pans, most nights around 9pm). Today and tomorrow are national strike days, sponsored by a workers union (it actually doesn’t have much to do with the education protests, but of course, the students are always on board for more protests). People are being encouraged to boycott public transit, not go to school, not buy anything, etc. Class was canceled today, so I avoided public transit (there were some doubts about whether it would be functioning as normal) and went shopping at the mall near my house and bought a new sweater. There were some students parading around the metro station, chanting and carrying banners, but otherwise, life continued as normal.
I’m used to having snow days.
But not yet used to strike days.