J'adore Genève...despite the price tag July 06, 2019

By (Wellesley College) - abroad from 02/18/2019 to 05/30/2019 with

Geneva Graduate Institute - Undergraduate Semester Programme

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned that I am mentally and physically capable of living abroad for an extended period of time and would be very open to the idea of working abroad at some point in my life

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.

Excellent and interesting courses with dedicated professors (similar to Wellesley). The mentor program was incredibly supportive, professionally informative, and fun. IHEID also keeps you informed of different internship opportunities available and connects you with their career education center

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

On a whole they were incredibly lovely, while not always physically present. They were graciously helpful and understanding with my visa process as well. However, one of the shortcomings as they were from a graduate institute was how they were unable to provide for our needs as undergraduate students in some cases-- including housing resources/ advice, social spaces, etc.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Wellesley and IHEID did not provide us with housing, unlike the Smith and Colgate programs, and had few suggestions as to where/how to acquire housing. This made it very difficult to navigate when searching for accommodations in a country you've never been that predominantly speaks a language you aren't fluent in. I found my lovely 2-bedroom apartment in Plainpalais (city center) on a site called Glocals.com that advertises different social events and sublets. However, it was much more expensive than the undergraduate dorm rooms that many UNIGE exchange students occupy. Going forward, look up Cité housing.

* Food:

There was no dining plan made available to us, so we cooked our own food. It can be very expensive to grocery shop in Geneva, so keep an eye out for sales at Migros and Coop, and for fresh fish or more int'l staples, try Manor (my roommate and I loved the Asian food store near there). Going out to eat can be upwards of $30 per entree so be wary!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Join the ESN facebook group! It was incredibly helpful in meeting other Expats and young people to hang out with, and there were many opportunities for parties and to go on weekend trips to other parts of Switzerland and beyond.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had Wellesley College health insurance which works worldwide, but Switzerland requires you to have health insurance up to their standards or they will charge you in time (not in before our semester ended though). I did not have need to access my health insurance and I did not need to get any specific vaccinations.

* Safety:

Geneva is quite safe, but as always be aware of your surroundings. I've yet to hear of a case of pickpocketing much less anything more severe, but know how to ignore men who try to approach you in French/English because sometimes people can sense when you're new to the area.

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

While it would have been incredible to do an internship while I was studying abroad, my flexible schedule provided me an incredible opportunity to travel to over 9 different countries which wouldn't have been possible otherwise. The program also arranged a generous Swiss day trip that was so unique and lovely!

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)

As most of the student housing and apartment sublets were full by the time I discovered the different choices, I opted for a relatively affordable city-center apartment, but was much more expensive than living in a dorm room, 1000CHF vs. 450CHF/month.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $30-$40
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? 1. Make sure you get travel debit/credit cards so you won't have to pay additional fees for the exchange rates 2. Get a Coop/Migros (chain supermarket) savings card 3. If you open an Swiss bank account with UBS, you will receive a $40 voucher for Manor (higher-end supermarket) 4. Look early at Cité housing, be patient as they make take some time to get back to you. If not, check out glocals.com for other sublet options. 5. Flixbus for short-distance travels! 6. Buy the monthly tram pass, it's unlimited and they do not check often/ if at all. 7. Remor and fondue at Bains des Paquis if you want to have a sit-down dinner that isn't ridiculously priced

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

There was no introductory class offered, only intermediate. You were able to jump in but it was not highly encouraged.

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? N/A
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? Learn from your friends or visit the glocals site and find local conversation groups that want to practice French! It is exceedingly helpful and I wish I had known to become more comfortable with, at least, greeting people in French before I arrived to Geneva. Most folks do speak English, but it's always appreciated to at least try.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
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?
  • The international friends I made
  • My courses
  • My mentor!
* What could be improved?
  • Housing resources
  • Social resources
  • Affordability; some stipend/voucher would be helpful
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Geneva is a very international city and most people speak English but I wish I knew to be comfortable with some very introductory French, if only to greet and thank people and apologize for not speaking French! It's also a very quiet city that closes early so living close to the center has its perks, and joining ESN connects you with fun, young people. Additionally, people were not kidding about how expensive it is, for not necessarily high quality things. Being from NY, I thought I would be accustomed to high prices but Geneva is different. Despite it all, I loved my experience in Geneva so much. Be sure to take in its lake and the mountains every day! I would love to go back.

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 Networker
An active student leader, it was important for you to network abroad as well. Once overseas, you sought out student clubs, volunteered with local organizations, or attended community events. You encouraged your friends join you, and often considered how you could reflect your international experiences in a resume.