Located in the heart of the Alps, Switzerland is a mountainous nation famous for its small ski towns, high quality of life, and of course, chocolate and fondue. Home to a worldwide center for diplomacy, Geneva, study abroad in Switzerland is a fantastic opportunity for international relations majors. Foreign language lovers will also love study abroad in Switzerland, as there are four national languages spoken, namely French, Italian, German, and Romansh. Centrally located and close to Italy, France, Germany, and Austria, there are plenty of opportunities to travel and explore a wealth of European countries while participating in study abroad programs in Switzerland.
One of the most popular places to study abroad in Switzerland is Geneva. Also known as the Capital of Peace and Freedom, Geneva has the largest number of international organizations in the world, which makes it a great city for students seeking international exposure. Many organizations offer study abroad programs in Geneva that revolve around international relations and diplomacy. Located in French-speaking Switzerland, Geneva is also a great place to study the French language. There are a number of museums and parks situated alongside the pristine Lake Geneva, one of the largest lakes in Western Europe, for students to take advantage during their free time. Additionally, Geneva is famous for its expertise in the art of watchmaking and boasts lovely countryside vineyards.
Another popular location for study abroad in Switzerland is Zurich, a German-speaking city located in north-central Switzerland. An important financial center, Zurich is a great place to study business or finance. Zurich is also a great place to study German in Switzerland, and there are a variety of study abroad programs focused on language immersion. One of the world’s major art trade centers, Zurich is home to numerous museums, art galleries, and the important Schauspielhaus Theater.
Lugano, a city located in Italian-speaking southern Switzerland, offers study abroad programs for students interested in a variety of fields. from business and history to foreign language courses. The city is situated on Lake Lugano, where students can embark on a cruise with picturesque views of the Alps. Students can enjoy shopping on via Nassa, taste exquisite chocolate at the Alprose Chocolate Factory, or walk down charming streets filled with Renaissance style churches. A central location for travel, Lugano is a wonderful place for students to study abroad in Switzerland, especially if they want to have the chance to explore the rest of Europe too.
Subjects & Courses
Four of the best subjects of study in Switzerland are international relations, business, finance, and foreign languages.
Geneva is the headquarters of the United Nations and home to the largest number of international organizations in the world. Students studying in Switzerland will be constantly surrounded by international professionals, which makes Switzerland a perfect place to study international relations.
Business and Finance students should definitely consider study abroad in Switzerland! Zurich, Switzerland’s international financial center, is one of the six most competitive financial centers in the world. A top ten on business environment, financial market access, and financial markets, Zurich’s competitive and business-minded environment makes it an attractive location for business and finance courses. Studying abroad in Switzerland will allow finance students to be completely immersed in the world of finance while exploring an internationally influenced culture.
A multilingual nation, Switzerland is terrific location for foreign language lovers; with French, German, Italian, and Romansh spoken within such close proximity of each other, it’s very possible to practice multiple languages throughout a semester of study abroad in Switzerland. Though local language proficiency isn’t required for many study abroad programs in Switzerland (aside from programs with a foreign language focus), it is definitely helpful to have a basic knowledge of the region’s native tongue to communicate with locals.
Study abroad programs in Switzerland are offered in the summer, semester, and for full academic years. Semesters typically last from September to December and January to April or May. Summer terms last around six weeks, with winter terms lasting three weeks. There isn’t a bad season to study abroad in Switzerland, it just depends on each student's interest, because there is plenty to do throughout the year. Skiers will enjoy studying in Switzerland in the winter or spring during ski season, while hikers and lovers of warm weather may prefer a summer or fall term.
Scholarships & Costs
Unfortunately, Switzerland is an extremely expensive country. Food, clothing, and souvenirs are all quite pricey; consumer prices are about 46 percent higher in Switzerland than in the United States. Thankfully, some providers offer scholarships directly to participants of their programs, but funding can also be found through outside sources. To start your search for scholarships for study abroad in Switzerland, check out GoAbroad's Scholarship Directory.
Accommodation & Visas
International students in Switzerland normally stay in a homestay, dormitory, flat, or apartment, depending on the program. Homestays are a great option for students who want to meet and live with locals, immerse themselves fully in the culture and language, and have the treat of home cooked traditional meals. Students looking for more independence may prefer to live on their own in dorms, an apartment, or a flat. Students can choose to stay by themselves or with a group of local or international students. Those living independently will have to cook, clean, and do laundry by themselves.
Some study abroad programs in Switzerland may give students the option of choosing their accommodation, but other programs will have accommodation pre-arranged and will not give students any option. Regardless, most study abroad programs in Switzerland will include accommodation in program costs.
To study abroad in Switzerland, all students must obtain a student visa before arriving in country. To apply for a visa, students must have a passport valid for six months after the end of the program. All applications must be turned in to the Swiss embassy or one of the consulates in the United States (find a Swiss embassy or consulate near you through GoAbroad’s Swiss Embassy Directory). It’s recommended to renew or apply for a passport and visa as early as possible, as processing takes at least eight to ten weeks. Some programs offer assistance with visa applications, but contact specific program providers directly to inquire about these services and inclusions.
Benefits & Challenges
One challenge of studying abroad in Switzerland is the multiple foreign languages spoken. Even if you know French, you may not know Italian or German, which can make it hard to communicate and get around the country. Furthermore, Switzerland is one of the few European countries whose currency is not the Euro, so if you’re planning on traveling around Europe during your study abroad program, currency exchanges will be a hassle.
Of course, every country has its challenges, but that is what allows study abroad students to grow, develop a new perspective, and learn how to problem solve.