Since 2010, when Chile joined the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the country has prospered and grown in many different sectors. This development has created many opportunities for individuals to intern abroad in Santiago, the nation’s capital city. Interns can expect to be exposed to a booming economy in a South American country with warm and friendly people, beautiful natural landscapes (proximity to the mountains and the ocean!), and a new language. Santiago is a bustling and vibrant city that caters to all sorts of interests for internships abroad.
Internships in Santiago
Since Santiago is the capital city of a thriving country, it offers many different industries for internships in Chile. Interns can expect to work any amount of time depending on their industry, but full time work in Chile is considered 45 hours per week. Internships in Santiago can last from a couple weeks to a year, depending on the field and specific internship placement.
One of the most common fields for internships in Santiago is business, due to the very stable and even growing economy. Santiago is the industrial and financial center of Chile and generates 45 percent of the country’s GDP. Business internships in Santiago may focus on a variety of tasks, from economic research to marketing and communications to working as an executive assistant to a manager, director, or CEO. Interns can expect to meet people from all around the world, as entrepreneurs and business-folk from Europe and the United States are gradually moving to this flourishing South American metropolis.
As a critical international hub, another popular field for internships in Santiago is medicine. In this discipline, interns can intern in a hospital, medical company, or an NGO, in areas such as physical therapy and public health, or even shadow a medical professional.
Due to Chile’s geographical layout and the city’s location in the center of the Santiago Basin, many internships in Santiago are focused on tourism. These internship placements can vary from luxury hotels to sustainable tourism companies. However, in most tourism internships in Santiago, interns can expect to learn about marketing and promotion, sales, customer service, social media, and administration.
As Chile has such a strong economy, its cities, including the capital, have been developing at a rapid rate. Engineering is a great field for interning abroad in Santiago because of the recent strong infrastructural development and expansion. Amongst many emerging skyscrapers, one large project underway is the Gran Torre Santiago, a skyscraper that will be the tallest building in South America. Engineering internships in Santiago include work at firms that cover civil engineering, industrial engineering, electrical engineering, and mining (one of Chile’s largest industries).
Life in Santiago
Santiago provides ample public transportation for interns to commute and travel around the city. With 100 stations currently in operation, and 19 other planned or under construction, the metro system in Santiago is South America’s most extensive one. Santiago is a very active city with an extensive network of bike trails too (especially in the providencia comuna). Many people even commute to work daily by bicycle.
Santiago is also home to some of Chile’s famous soccer clubs, including Colo-Colo which has 30 national titles. Many locals follow soccer as Europeans do, or as U.S. Americans follow American football, baseball, and basketball. Going to local cafes and restaurants during games is definitely a social scene you don’t want to miss, as the city is overflowing with excitement. Those who intern in Santiago can also take advantage of the nice weather in the area, and roam around the city to explore their new home.
The quality of life in Santiago is high, considering it has quite a strong economy. It is also the most modern city in all of South America. The people in Chile are warm and welcoming, and the country prides itself as one of the safest countries in South America.
Although Santiago (and the rest of Chile) resembles some other countries, in many aspects it does of course hold its own cultural characteristics. Interns should be prepared for people to run later than expected as it is commonplace to be less concerned about punctuality. However, you should make sure to always be on time! Interns should also keep in mind to use the formal form of you (usted) with anyone they meet, unless they are corrected by that person to use the informal version (tú). Typical informal greetings usually involve a kiss (or brush) on the right cheek, but handshakes in business settings are the norm.
Salary & Costs
Most internships in Santiago are unpaid, but some companies provide allowances and/or stipends that can be used for transportation, food, accommodation, or even excursions. Some companies or internship providers even offer interns Spanish courses alongside internships so interns do not fall behind in their work environment. The fields that are more likely to pay interns are business and engineering, but these are also the ones that might require the most experience (professional and/or academic) and also the longest time commitment in Chile.
The cost of living in Santiago is not very expensive, but also not very cheap. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the center of the city is around $520 per month, and basic utilities usually cost around $140. A monthly transportation pass costs around $49, and a meal at an inexpensive restaurant may cost anywhere from $5 to $7 per person. Many internship companies and providers offer housing if interns are not paid, and this housing can sometimes be with other interns, which provides social aspects and fun!
Accommodation & Visas
Private apartments in the center of Santiago can be pricey, therefore many interns may be interested in having one or more roommates. This can also be a fun alternative to get to know other interns, and locals. Those who intern in Santiago can also often opt for a homestay, which will help with their Spanish skills. If individuals are interning in Santiago through an internship program provider or a university, dorm-like accommodations may be provided. However, these may not always include a kitchen or other cooking facilities, so interns may need to budget for eating out more.
Interns are not subject to national labor laws, therefore most internships in Santiago are unpaid. A Tourist Card is the only requirement for unpaid interns, making the visa process much easier as these are good for 90 days and can be extended through an immigration office (or by leaving and returning to the country). On the other hand, if you are planning on getting paid as an intern in Santiago, you will need a temporary visa. These are good for one year and can also be applied for after entering Chile on a tourist visa. Interns should consult with their local Chilean consulate, or the Chilean embassy for particular requirements. As with all international travel, interns must hold a valid passport, and it is advised that it be good for over six months after the last day of travel overseas.
Benefits & Challenges
Connection to Nature in the Big City. Unlike other cities in South America, Santiago is a growing city surrounded by many natural landscapes. As a result, it offers a vast variety of fields for internships in Chile. Interns can immerse themselves in beneficial internship work while expanding experience in their field.
Spanish Language Skills. If you do not know Spanish, you should learn at least a little bit of conversational Spanish before your internship in Santiago. Chilean Spanish differs from Spanish spoken elsewhere in South America, so having at least a background will be helpful (and you will learn as you go, too). This will be useful in your work environment as well as in your new social and cultural life interning abroad!