Well, I have completed my first midterm week in Chile, and yes, it is almost May. Due to the season inverse, the fall (which is our spring) semester did not start until early March. The past few days of intense studying have me reflecting on some of the distinctions between being a university student in Chile and the USA.
For starters, the fotocopiadora (photocopier) is a Chilean student’s best friend; books are incredibly expensive here (thanks, neoliberalism!), and so I have made many trips from the library to the copy center with a bundle of libros (books).
Chileans are notoriously unpunctual–a characteristic embraced by its students. There are some folks who consistently show up to class in excess of 20 minutes past its starting time. Most of the professors don’t bat an eye at the tardy students, however I have one professor who locks the classroom door at the start of class. So during the first half hour, the door is repeatedly rattled and knocked on, followed by a series of choice words by the excluded student.
Being a student gets you a substantial discount from Transsantiago, the operator of the city’s metro and bus system. On weekday mornings, the metro cars serve as impromptu study halls. And during the first week of classes in many universities, students get the opportunity to carreter (party) on campus; there’s no better way to start a semester than dancing in an academic hallway.