Multiculture, Profiles

Luis Hernán: “Chileans demand political change”

He is a Chilean student living in the United Kingdom with a scholarship. This is the only way that many Latin Americans can study in the country due to high university fees and visa restrictions.



Luis Hernán 10Ramón Alabau


He came to the UK with a scholarship provided by the Chilean government. If it were not provided, it would have been “impossible” for him to do his Masters degree in London.

It is estimated that students who come from Latin American countries are paying university fees that are double the price that British and EU students have to pay.

Luis Hernán 13“We’re lucky that the Government is 100% in charge of tuition fees. We come from a country with a less developed system. My Masters costs roughly £16,000, while a European Union citizen would only have to pay about £8,000. We are paying for British citizens’ education. Strict immigration policies make our situation even more unfair.”

Luis Hernán 8Luis Hernán Vargas is one of the lucky 500 who, last year, was given a scholarship to study abroad by Chilean government. Between 100 and 150 candidates chose to study in Great Britain.

“I was attracted by the quality of UK universities and I also wanted to improve my language skills. Moreover, the conditions of the scholarships require students to choose one of the 50 best universities in the world, and there are several of them in England.”

Luis Hernán 14Studying at a London University, Oxford or Cambridge is highly regarded on your CV.” It also expands the Latino student’s ‘breadth of knowledge’, especially in comparison to that of the British. However, that the language barrier “is challenging and disadvantageous.”

Luis Hernán Vargas is a Chilean, who devoutly follows his home country’s latest events and news from afar. He admits that if he is offered the opportunity to stay in England, he will accept it without hesitation. “If I have a job opportunity, I’ll stay.

The scholarship’s conditions offer me a ‘grace year’ to find work. If unsuccessful, I have to go back home, unless a company sponsors me to stay here or I can get another scholarship, which will postpone my return.”

Luis Hernán 11He states, “I’m not against this requirement. It is a way to avoid the ‘brain drain’ of Chile.”

Like many of his fellow countrymen, he has faced the cultural and social differences of the British capital and has accepted a new way of life. “It is difficult to understand how the English relate to one another. There are people from all over the world here and you meet more foreigners than British people.”

But the Chilean community in the UK is characterised by its remonstrative nature, an attitude that has crossed borders.

Chileans living abroad have organised numerous protests in cities, like London, to protest about the situation in Chile.

Luis Hernán 7For example, last year in March there was a demonstration outside the Chilean Embassy in London. A group of citizens were protesting for the right to vote abroad.

“They have organised protests in Paris, Buenos Aires, Beijing, and here in London, in order to demand a law that does not exist in Chile. I’ve already missed an election and therefore I will not be able to vote in the next presidential or parliamentary elections.”

He comments that being away from Chile has changed his view upon what is happening in the country, and that he would like to “be an active part of the social movements, which take place on the streets”.

Luis Hernán 3“The latest news is slightly embarrassing, the 2012 census has been found to have been rigged.”

“Never before has the student movement had more than 20,000 supporters. The public is demanding political change, there are members of the government who have been in power since the dictatorship.”

“The disillusion exploded in 2011, inequality has not decreased in the past 23 years. 15% of the population are living in poverty.”

Despite relying on the financial support offered by the government, yet being “against it”, they are not worried about the possible reprisals.


(Translated by Emma O’Toole)


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