Geneva is Beautiful, this program is not Past Review

By (International Relations, Brandeis University) - abroad from 08/27/2019 to 12/05/2019 with

Boston University: Geneva - Internship Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
The internship was great, but this itself would not make me want to endure this program again. I have a job because of this program, but BU needs to make some serious administrative changes before anyone is able to enjoy this experience.

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.

The classes were interesting, but were brought down by numerous factors including poor english spoken by one of the professors, the time and length of classes (there was a cumulative 6 hour long classes once a week in the middle of the internship), and though the grading scale seemed fair, the professors were used to the Genevan scale and it was impossible to score higher than a 95% on any grade.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The RAs were great. However, the program director left me very disappointed and, to be very honest, angry that someone so unprofessional and problematic is allowed to run a study abroad program. She offered her support for all student issues, but when situations, issues, and questions arouse, she was the opposite of receptive. She displayed a very classist attitude and enjoyed talking about the socio-economic status of Geneva in relation to us as broke college students. Many suggestions that were brought up at the end of the program by students were tossed to the side and directly ignored by the program director, who after the first "lunch and program review session", did not bother to attend another one. If I could give the program direct 0 stars I would. When she noticed students dealing with stress and personal problems, she would often aggravate those issues though backward and disparaging remarks.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The location of our apartment/dorm was very nice, situated in the middle of the older area of the city and was a block from the lake, jet d'eau, and a 15 minute walk from a beach. The interior felt somewhat cheap though. The furnishings, blankets, and desks were all poorly made (definitely not Swiss). For example: the headboard of my bed was broken and the bottom sheets of half the students' beds did not last a whole semester without ripping. Although the building was 5 floors, the administration had the idea to pack all 30 students into the bottom four floors. This resulted in cramped and gross kitchen conditions, as 8 college students struggled to share a small space. Be prepared to have to eat at weird hours as everyone gets off of work at the same time and will try to cook dinner when they get home.

* Food:

You'd have to be extremely wealthy to enjoy good food in Geneva. I cooked nearly every day, eating out maybe 1 or 2 times a week and still spent 5-6K on food and living expenses. Meat is very expensive. When you do want to live lavishly, be prepared to spend over one hundred dollars. Though Swiss cuisine is mostly bread and cheese.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I spoke french to locals and was complimented several times on my ability. The people are generally nice, but since everyone is extremely wealthy, arrogance can be felt from roars of Ferraris to the multi-thousand dollar outfits locals wear on a day to day basis. You will never feel more poor in your life living in Geneva.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not have to use Swiss healthcare luckily. In terms of mental health, the administration seemed to not believe these forms of issues can be real. They offered the services of two therapists, but urged students to not use them unless their issues were "important". The administration had a very backward view of mental health which plagues millions of people, and as I mentioned earlier, their blatant disregard for this topic led to the antagonization of students. Students dealing with stress of classes and personal things were not helped by the administration, and only judged.

* Safety:

Geneva has a reputation for being safe, but like most urban cities, that reputation does not apply at night or in less patrolled areas. For men, Geneva is generally safe. For women, please do not go out at night by yourself or even in small groups without other male friends. Harassment and sexual assault is prevalent.

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

The administration made this program a hundred times worse than it could have been. If you want a relaxed and low stress program with progressive and understanding staff, this program is not for you. If you take this program be prepared to have more class-time than you can consume in one serving (3 hour classes and 6 hour classes), more work than expected, and a staff with viewpoints from the 1950s. Or maybe, 1984, as the apartment is under 24 hour surveillance which was reviewed daily.


* 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)

Do not go to Geneva is you are already struggling in Boston. Eating out multiple times a week is not economically viable. Be prepared to spend $40 a month on transportation, >$5 on chicken breast, and $11 for the cheapest fast food.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? A lot.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Buy food in France, which is kind of a hike to get to, but is much cheaper. Chez Marino is a good restaurant (take out is cheaper than eating there and you can get a full pizza for $14). Save your money for wine, which is very cheap.


* 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

We were not encouraged. I was the only reasonably capable french speaker in the program

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? 106
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? Speaking French in Geneva is easier than in France, as the local dialect is more clear and slower. Take higher level the french classes that are offered. The professors are easy and it forces you to at least try and speak to keep up your language skills.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* 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? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Internship
  • Nature
  • Architecture
* What could be improved?
  • The program director should be replaced
  • More investment in student welfare
  • Provision of some form of payment of stipend during the internship to offset the ridiculous cost of living
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? If I had read more reviews I would probably have not taken this program. I wish I would have known how poorly run it was and how little the program administration cares about their students.