Came for the Academics, Stayed for the People Past Review

By (Wellesley College) - abroad from 09/16/2019 to 12/20/2019 with

Geneva Graduate Institute - Undergraduate Semester Programme

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned so much about how I operate in a non-Wellesley, non-US setting. It was so valuable for me to have to adapt to a completely different way of life and academic program, especially one with much less structure than I am used to. I found strength in things I could do that I didn't think I could (including completing the longest paper I have ever written) and learned a lot from my failures or mistakes.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I found the classes to be the right level of challenging in the amount of independent work they required and the high level of discussion during class time. The overall atmosphere of encouraging and allowing space for students to pursue studying topics of personal interest added authenticity to questions posed and themes explored during class discussions. All my professors at the Graduate Institute were phenomenal: organized, professional, clearly experts in their field, inspiring, open-minded, warm, accessible in office hours, and dedicated to their roles as both researchers and teachers. I absolutely loved learning from them as well as my remarkable peers.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

All of the administrators I interacted with were so wonderful: kind, welcoming, very knowledgeable about Geneva beyond the institute, and interested in me as a whole person, not just a student. I am so thankful for their help organizationally and personally--I felt supported for my entire time in the country. I am particularly grateful to Eliane Minassian, Head of International Programmes, is one of the most thoughtful, caring, and all-around wonderful people I have ever met. Her door was always open for anything I needed and she is simply the best at her job. Also, the mentorship program was one of the most valuable experiences I have ever had: it helped me grow in my ability to ask questions, connect with new people, share my story, identify my professional goals, and get comfortable with networking.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Since this program does not allowed students to apply for housing in the Institute's student residence, finding housing was definitely challenging and expensive.

* Food:

I am honestly not really a fan of fondue or wine, so in that regard I do not have much to report on the food culture that Switzerland is known for (though the chocolate was excellent)! Know that, like everything else in Geneva, going out to eat is pretty expensive and at times prohibitive from having as much of an immersive food experience as you might like. I enjoyed cooking for myself a lot and also found that asking around for the spots that students like best and are cheaper is definitely a helpful strategy.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt very integrated into the lifestyle of so many in Geneva, which is in a transitional stage: coming for a short while to be a part of the unique and exceptional opportunities and global community it offers, while always keeping an eye towards the future and planning for one's next step in work or life. I did not expect or choose to experience a lot of broader Swiss culture itself, so it was perfectly fine by me that that was not a part of my abroad experience.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I felt extremely safe in Geneva--much more so than in other European cities I travelled to. Being female, at night I still always made sure I walked with a friend, but overall the streets are well lit and public transport is easy enough to navigate that I always felt like I had options and didn't have to have a lot of fear for my safety.

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

I chose the Geneva Undergraduate Semester Program with goals to study political science from a different perspective, learn from students of different backgrounds, learn about the UN system as an organization and as a place to work, explore the option of grad school, and challenge myself in a different living environment while having the safety net of being able to use the language I was most confident in (English). The program absolutely met and exceeded my expectations (especially the support and opportunities given through the phenomenal mentorship program!) and I absolutely loved the city and the people.


* 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 you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Explore different chains of supermarkets in your area to get a sense of the best pricing options.


* 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

So many people speak English in Geneva that I had no problem getting by without knowing any French, but I was frequently encourage to try out French I learned at least in simple moments, or reminded that knowing as much French as possible is advantageous for working and living here.

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
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? I took a weekly yoga class entirely in French and it was extremely helpful for exposing me to the language in a way that increased my auditory comprehension as well as allowed me to test and expand my vocabulary as I matched what I was seeing from the instructor to the words she was saying.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • N/A
* 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?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Mentorship program!
  • Brilliant professors
  • People at the institute
* What could be improved?
  • Present housing advice upfront
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Be prepared that the academic program requires you to get comfortable and skilled with dealing with a lack of structure and regular feedback on your performance. Learn to set boundaries and routines early or be ok with adding them later!