An incredibly formative experience June 18, 2018

By (Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/15/2018 to 04/30/2018 with

Boston University: Geneva - Internship Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
One of the biggest take-aways from this program that has fundamentally changed my worldview is just how much of an impact the United States has had on the world and how (often unknowingly) privileged Americans are simply by holding a US passport.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

* Food:

You will be provided a good quality light breakfast each morning (breads, yogurt, cereal, fruit) and will have a few communal meals, but will have to fend for yourself for lunch and dinner as there are no dining services.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The first half of the program was taught on the campus of The University of Geneva, but because American and Swiss school systems work differently, the local students were all studying for and taking their winter final exams. Once they were back to a regular class style, we entered the internship phase, and our once-per-week class was taught in the classroom within BU's local office space. I pursued involvement in local groups off-campus as I felt we were in a very distinct group from the local students.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had difficulties with obtaining prescribed medications because of faulty information I got from GeoBlue before I left; however, the BU staff went above and beyond in helping me resolve the issue.

* Safety:

The only two times I felt remotely unsafe as a woman (read: was catcalled) were when I left Geneva. However, other Jewish students should be aware that Geneva is a very liberal city and there are cultural pockets of deep antisemitism, so publicly wearing a star of David would likely be a risky move (especially as very few local Jews wear clothing of any kind that indicates they are Jewish, and the country has a very small population of Jews relative to many American cities). Overall, Geneva is the safest city I have ever visited.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

This was, without a doubt, the most obviously formative experience I have had, both academically and personally.

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)

I found it easy to budget in Switzerland, especially as all item prices are the final price (e.g. an 8CHF sandwich will cost you 8CHF, whereas an $8 sandwich will likely cost you closer to $9 when you add in tax). I also do not eat meat, and meat is very expensive in Switzerland. In addition, I rarely travelled outside of the country.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Buy your base product groceries (e.g. dry pasta, bread, potatoes, milk, cheese) and cook for yourself. Eat out sparingly. Splurge on restaurants only occasionally (it easily costs $16 per inexpensive lunch,$34 per inexpensive dinner).

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

The only course taught in French were the French courses; however, for someone with more than three semesters of French under their belt, this was highly unuseful. In addition, most people in Geneva are multilingual (including English). If you would like to practice French, you need to pursue it on your own.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? French 105 (Conversational)
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? Go to local groups that are unaffiliated with academic programs. It is helpful if these local groups include a high immigrant population from countries where neither English nor French is the dominant language, as this often means that they learned French as a second language.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
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?
  • Sunoor Verma's classes
  • how encouraged we were to be independent
* What could be improved?
  • French-language immersion
  • Cultural immersion (local)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? You will only be in class with other American students.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Controversies in International Health

Course Department: PH
Instructor: Sunoor Verma
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course was one of the best courses I have ever taken, if not the best, and much of that was due to Mr. Sunoor Verma. The material dives deep while covering a wide breadth of topics (including current events in all subjects), which makes this course rather challenging. The class size is small, and you are encouraged to collaborate with all of your peers.
Credit Transfer Issues: