Do not go on this program, but do visit Geneva/Switzerland January 29, 2016

By (International Relations, Bucknell University) - abroad from 08/30/2015 to 12/14/2015 with

Boston University: Geneva - Internship Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot from the internship, which was probably the most worthwhile part of the whole thing. I also became a really good traveler and had an amazing time traveling Europe. Switzerland is also a place I would consider living in the future. The only part that soured the whole thing was the way that the program was run.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The classes were a mixed bag. The Art History class was very interesting and informative, and if you end up doing this program absolutely try to take it, although the instructor (who is also the head of the program) is very punitive and unfair with her grading. She sometimes would penalize things such as not being able to visit a museum for a project although the museum was closed. The IR classes were informative but boring (3-5 hours of lecture), and the professor has a thick Malagasy accent that might be hard to understand especially if English is not your first language. Most people got around a B on the IR classes. The exams were difficult and stressful - if you want a rigorous academic experience where you are unable to miss a single class for fear of either being harshly punished on your final grade or for fear of being actually kicked out of the program (not an exaggeration), this is a good fit.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

If I could give this a zero, I would. I have absolutely never seen a program with more of a lack of professionalism or more punitive and insensitive treatment of the students that they are supposedly caring for.They are wholly unhelpful, inconsiderate, and actually just backward-thinking regarding issues relating to mental health. Some members of the staff, like the RAs, were perfectly pleasant to deal with, while Carla Rachman (program director) seems to operate on a basis that left the students wondering how it was possible she spoke to and treated the students that way without legal ramifications in some instances. They were completely inflexible and would charge excessive fines for the most absurd things, like failing to recycle properly. Skipping a class could result in expulsion from the program, as they were quick to point out/threaten the students with. I truly cannot believe this program is still afloat.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The one thing this program did do well was match up roommates. Almost all of the 40 ish students on the program were pleased with their roommates. There was a kitchen rota which was hardly followed and caused drama on floors sometimes.

* Food:

They provide you with "breakfast" - cereal, un-refrigerated orange juice, peanut butter, and bread (sometimes fruit, once a week, and usually just oranges). Food in Geneva is unbelievably expensive, you can't really get a meal for under 15 CHF (which is basically 15 USD). Other BU Abroad programs offer stipends for students, but this one really just screws you in every way possible.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Taking Art History got me acquainted with the area, but apart from that, there was little to no integration made possible. Technically, you could join a sports team or a club, but they were expensive and difficult to join and far from our residence. I had several friends who utilized the tandem language program, and it worked out great and led to us making friends in Geneva, which was great. However, the program doesn't really foster any integration.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Mental health was the only thing that I was ever exposed to with how the University handles health problems, and it is one that they completely flubbed. One of my friends reached out to various members of the staff in the first few weeks of the program, letting them know she wasn't feeling well mentally and was going to take a mental health day. However, they reacted with anger and as though this student was trying to get away with something. I was blown away by this response, which led to the student being called in for multiple disciplinary meetings with the program director and being threatened with being sent home "if she couldn't even handle classes." They were incredibly unsupportive of one of the students they were responsible for, and I was incredibly disappointed.

* Safety:

Geneva is a fairly safe city; almost at no point did I feel compromised.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

This was an incredibly poorly run program. I would absolutely never participate in it again and will tell everyone I know not to go on it.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Geneva is truly one of the most expensive cities in the world. I didn't think this would actually affect me that much before coming, but it really did and it was depressing and consistent. I wish someone on the program before me had warned me about it rather than minimizing it. Unless you truly have an unlimited bank account/your parents are funding it indiscriminately, I would not go here for a full semester when BU doesn't provide a meal plan of any kind.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Easily $150, which really adds up
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don't go to Geneva if you want to save

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

No encouragement whatsoever

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 200 level
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Get a tandem partner early on through the University of Geneva, and don't be afraid to "shop around" for one you actually enjoy meeting with so it isn't a burden.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The people I met (although the BU people and I never got close)
  • The internship
  • The RAs
* What could be improved?
  • How the staff interacts with the students
  • Where is all of our money going? It was a bare bones program that was unbelievably expensive
  • There should've been a better schedule that allowed for the students to easily travel on weekends
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known how crazy the program managers were, and how intense the schedule itself is. We were expressly discouraged from traveling outside of Switzerland by the program, which I found completely contradictory to the reasons for choosing that location.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.