Chile vs the United States

How life is different for a high school student in Chile and America as seen through the eyes of an exchange student

Chile vs the United States

Juan Echeverria, Staff writer

Even though they share some fundamental values (like democracy, liberty, etc) and other aspects of western culture, Chile is a whole different world from the United States. The school systems, the process for application to universities and the weather are among the biggest differences between the two countries, at least from the eyes of a high school student.

In Chile, students usually go to the same institution from preschool to high school, whereas in the United States, people usually go to three different schools. In Chile, the students have compulsory classes all the way to tenth grade, and then they can more or less choose courses that they like, still having obligatory lessons. In America, high school students immediately begin to choose their classes by themselves. 

But this is nothing compared to the differences between the two college admission systems. The biggest difference is that in Chile college is barely used, it is just a place to go if the student did not enter the career and/or university he wanted (for example, a student goes to law college to enter law school, his first choice, afterwards). In the US, almost everybody attends college to get a bachelor’s degree and then specialize in some university. Chileans enter university at 18 years old. Another difference noted between college in America and Chile is that in the latter, students continue to live with their parents (unless they go to study in another city, which is rather uncommon). Most of the people live in Santiago, and the best universities are there, so students just keep living with their parents until they get married or start working (from about 25 years old). In America, people leave their family home at an early age, in most cases even going far away to another town, separating families earlier than in Chile. 

Another huge point of comparison concerning Americans (especially in cold areas) and Chileans is the weather. Both countries have all the types of weather, from tropical beaches to really cold places, passing through mountains, deserts, etc. When comparing the weather between Santiago and South Bend, the Michiana area is much colder and snowy, but “santiaguinos” suffer cold temperatures all throughout the winter (even when the degrees aren’t less than 35), because most schools and universities don’t have heaters installed in the classrooms, leaving the students freezing indoors. In America, the infrastructure is really good, and, even though it might be 10 degrees out in the open, the temperature inside the school is really cozy. 

So there are some big differences between Chile and America, especially concerning student life. Do you imagine entering the university right after Senior year? Living with your parents until having a degree and a job? Well, most Chileans don’t imagine the American system either.