The International Affairs Office provided continuous support for UFRO students abroad during the current health crisis.
When Javiera Fuentes, who is a student at the Universidad de La Frontera (UFRO) and who went to England thanks to the program “English opens doors”, arrived after a 14-hour flight from Bristol, she was a little bit tired. But that was not only because of the long flight and the distance between these two countries. It was also because of all the great experiences she made during this opportunity of a lifetime.
Despite the pandemic, the UFRO students who spent a semester abroad did everything possible to continue with their studies and the activities that were part of their exchange programs. “The first few days, I made some progress in the subjects I wanted to take. It was quite complex to deal with the health crisis, but at the University of Bristol everything kept working well. The classes, for example, were carried out remotely,” Javiera explains.
Javiera was able to fulfill her objective and to acquire new language skills and knowledge, which will be very helpful for her English Teaching studies at UFRO. But she also emphasizes that this experience helped her to grow as a person and to acquire new skills when it comes to problem-solving in complex situations.
Javiera Solano, who had started an internship at the Dr. Josep Trueta Hospital in Spain, had similar experiences. The young UFRO student of the Nursing program went to Spain thanks to the different agreements of UFRO with foreign universities – in this case of the Faculty of Medicine with the University of Girona. “I was able to work at the hospital for 2 months, when the university decided to send me back home, given the shocking spread of coronavirus. Actually, many exchange students had to consider their return. However, during the time I was there, first, I joined the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and then the Endoscopy Unit. In addition, I also had another interesting challenge, which was the Catalan language. Although most people speak Spanish, they love to speak their own language,” she explains.
It was a challenging time for Javiera Solano as well, but it helped her to see that she is capable of coping with any challenge, even when she is far away from home. “I’m glad that I got the chance to get to know the way a hospital of that size and complexity works – the shift system, the good treatment and friendliness between the teams and team members. All in all, it was a great learning experience that encourages me to look to the future in a positive way,” she points out.
Some exchange students had to change their plans for the first semester of 2020. Some of them were able to complete the six months, and others only half of that, since the global situation caused by COVID-19 is highly complex. “As soon as the number of COVID-19 cases began to increase, the authorities proposed that the international students should return earlier,” explains Constanza Soto, who had just started her student exchange at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.
When she arrived in Germany, the UFRO student in Civil Industrial Engineering, with specialization in Bioprocesses, felt that everything was completely normal, but after a few days, she started to notice the consequences of the first outbreak of COVID-19 in Germany. “The university warned us very quickly and I had to finish the exams online. But the good thing is, that they offered us to carry out our exchange semester in 2021. At least, that is something that relaxes me a little bit. During this experience, I have learnt not to get frustrated that easily and that even this kind of situations can bring something positive,” she comments.
All of the exchange students have been very grateful for the management of the International Affairs Office and the Student Mobility Unit of UFRO during this exceptional situation. In this regard, Dr. Lorena Vieli, the director of the International Affairs Office, points out: “The well-being of all our students who have been abroad since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic has been a clear priority for us. The Student Mobility Unit has been in permanent contact with all of them, in order to monitor their situations and to help them with their return. In this respect, the Chilean consulates abroad have also been an important support for the coordination of the students’ return and we are very happy that all our undergraduate students were able to get back home and that they are all in good health.”
Written by: UFRO Communications Office