Struggled Sweetly in Switzerland March 01, 2018

By (The University of Texas at Austin) - abroad from 09/01/2017 to 02/18/2018 with

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich(ETH): Zürich - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Verify the identity of the person that you are renting housing from. Always choose the trip instead of homework. Take interest in other people's cultures and ask them about it. It was incredibly worthwhile.

Review Photos

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich(ETH):  Zürich - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich(ETH):  Zürich - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Academic rigor was strong. Just recognize that the format is different; instead of having 3 or 4 midterms during the semester that add up to your final grade, you will have one grade for the entire class, which is the exam at the end. This means you need to keep up with studying on your own time. I enjoyed my courses. I felt less of an interpersonal relationship between my professors than I did in the United States. Study is mostly independent and self-driven. I recommend taking a language course during the semester if you can, because it is free (besides materials) and you are learning about the culture you are in.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I didn't feel truly supported by the ETH Zürich staff. This isn't a reason not to go, but just know that things in Zürich are generally independently-driven. It is up to you to remember deadlines, send forms, and take care of administrative things.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

After I arrived in Zurich, I found out that I was victim to a housing scam. This housing listing was posted on the University housing portal for ETH and UZH. Yes, they send warnings, and this is another warning-- be careful! But there are measures that they could take to increase security, and I was left to find my own housing after this occurred.

* Food:

The food quality of Switzerland is great. The variety in the cuisine is sort of bland-- expect mostly German food, like bratwurst and rosti. I mostly cooked for myself because eating out is incredibly expensive in Switzerland.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I understand the Swiss, but I will never feel like one of them. That is not bad; just a fact. Learning the language is difficult, because it is already so different from High German. I mostly connected with other exchange students, but had good Swiss friends as well. The Swiss people are welcoming if you keep an open and positive mind.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I attempted to get an appointment for a women's health doctor but the one that I approached was not taking new clients. I was too lazy to search for an available doctor, check if they worked with my insurance, and figure out how to use the insurance with my health needs. So, I waited until exchange was over to see the doctor. I also had Groupe Mutuel insurance, which I do not recommend, because they were incredibly slow to get back to me and I had to wait until the day before I left to pay off my bills because they could not set up direct debit. I would recommend a different insurance company.

* Safety:

Zürich is incredibly safe.

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

I would have avoided the housing scam and perhaps chosen a place with warmer people where I understood the culture more. That said, I wouldn't take it back. I made amazing friends, met amazing people, saw amazing places, and did amazing things.


* 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)

If you cook your own food and bring tupperware for lunch and all meals, expenses are not very high. Housing is affordable if you are given student housing. You should account for health care, which can be around 100 francs per month, and a train pass, which is around 60 francs per month.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 100
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Cook your own meals. Shop at Aldi.


* 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 language course was free, excluding materials.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 0
How many hours per day did you use the language? 0
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Don't learn Swiss German or use the Swiss german podcast; learn High German.

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Exchange

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • International Students
  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
  • Other
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?
  • Friends
  • Beautiful places
  • Growing as a person
* What could be improved?
  • Housing opportunities
  • Meal opportunities
  • Student support from ETH/Austin
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? It will be incredibly self-sufficient and independently driven. Your grade is based on one exam. Switzerland is as expensive as they say it is.

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.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Human Adaptation

Course Department: UZH - Evolutionary Studies
Instructor: Many
Instruction Language:
Comments: Very interesting, and fairly assessed. Taken with UZH
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Computational Biology

Course Department: Biology
Instructor: Carsten Magnus & Tim
Instruction Language: English
Comments: I truly enjoyed the teaching here, learned a lot of data analysis skills, and developed my R skills
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Data Mining

Course Department: BSSE
Instructor: Karsten Borgwardt
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The class itself taught me very valuable information. I would recommend it. I felt very disconnected from the professor, though, because it was broadcasted from Basel. This meant that I could watch lectures online. I was assessed by an oral exam, and it was the first time my professor ever gave an oral exam for that class. In this way, I felt I was evaluated a little bit unconventionally, so I would take the written exam if possible.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

German Level A

Course Department: UZH language center
Instructor: Sabine & Melanie
Instruction Language: English
Comments: I recommend taking German. It never felt intrusive upon my other courses, and it helped me with integrating in to the culture.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:


Course Department: Biology
Instructor: Many
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The exams required you to know a lot of small, finite details about the courses. It sometimes felt like more of a memorization test than a test of my true knowledge. The subject matter was interesting, except for learning about specific spinal cord syndromes and similar information, because I don't think I will ever have to clinically diagnose somebody like that just from doing research.
Credit Transfer Issues: