Geneva: Enriching but Expensive June 01, 2022

By (International Relations - History, Wellesley College) - abroad from 02/21/2022 to 06/03/2022 with

Geneva Graduate Institute - Undergraduate Semester Programme

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained such a critical cultural experience thanks to my travels in and out of Switzerland and the program itself taught me a lot about IR as a field and a career and gave me a better grasp of what I want to do with my future. The classes were all really cool and interesting and I really enjoyed all of them. Living alone in a foreign country was also an incredible educational experience and I learned a lot of critical life skills (like cooking lol). Overall, Geneva taught me so many critical and amazing lessons that I know I'll take with me for the rest of my life.

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.

One of the most shocking aspects of this program was how much less work we received, at least in comparison to Wellesley. I was told this in advance, and have heard that this is typically the case at most non-US schools. We were only assigned 1-2 assignments for the whole semester in each class and weekly readings. It would have been much more difficult had we been actual graduate students and had work, thesis, and projects to complete on top of the coursework, but because we're only studying abroad and academics are our only responsibility it was much less intense but still very rewarding and enriching. The smaller workload also gave me a lot of flexible time to spend traveling.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

This is not a Wellesley sponsored program and it is a graduate institute so expect to have to handle everything yourself, from housing to food and transportation. It is not covered or done for you by the program like others but there is always someone available to help you and answer any questions you might have throughout the process which makes everything a lot easier. Eliane was a wonderful program coordinator.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Unfortunately towards the beginning of the semester we had to find alternative living arrangements because the housing is not flexible or communicative because it is seperate from the school. It also became a struggle towards the end because my departure did not coincide with the rent end date so I also had to find alternative housing then. The process was stressful but the housing itself is quite nice with very good amenities and space. The Grand Morillon is a beautiful student residence and the studios are well managed with cleaning every other week and your own bathroom and kitchen.

* Food:

Again, this is a graduate school so they do not have a meal plan. They offer lunch at the school with student prices but they are still pricey and the school is 15 min away from housing and closed on weekends and dinner time so you cant get food there all the time. Grocery shopping is a must and prices in Geneva are very expensive so it wasn't he best experience.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Geneva is a very international city so there are multiple cultures present and most people speak English so I unfortunately didn't get the immersive french experience i was hoping for, however the french border is very close by and travel throughout Switzerland has also exposed me to a lot of Swiss culture which has been fun. It is very easy to integrate however since English is a common language.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I wasn't really sure about health insurance situation here in Switzerland for the entirety of my stay and unfortunately all my questions about it went unanswered. I did get COVID while here but because there are no longer any COVID restrictions in Switzerland I was able to adjust without much help and isolate. It happened right before my flight home however so I had to stay longer then anticipated thus I reccomend everyone to apply for their Permanent Residency with an expiration date beyond your expected return date just in case of emergencies like this.

* Safety:

Geneva is an extremely safe city with very little to no crime. I felt very safe here

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

I know I complained a lot in my other answers but my time in Geneva has been a real blessing. I've traveled so often thanks to it's central location in Europe and made some really cool friends thanks to that. The program itself has also really helped me grasp what kind of career I want out of international relations and giving me a better idea of the field as a whole. It was also a really cool experience being in a graduate school taking graduate level classes with graduate students and I learned a lot thanks to that. Overall, a wonderful experience despite all the technical hiccups here and there, I would definitely reccomend it to anyone, just be aware of the struggles beforehand.


* 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)

(1) Geneva is a VERY expensive city, I had to budget very well to afford everything, but luckily I received more financial aid then I anticipated which made finances much easier but the will not be the case for most people, so I reccomend keeping price in mind.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $300 for travel mainly
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Shop in bulk at Ferney Voltaire in France with friends so that you can save more money. In Geneva, shops like Lidl and Denner's are cheaper then Migros or Coop For international trips, travel by bus where u can since it's cheaper but easyjet also has very cheap flights. Also travel in large groups to split the cost of an airbnb. If you do this, typically a round trip ticket plus housing will cost under 80 francs. Do NOT eat out, the average cost of a meal in Switzerland is 40 francs per person. Save eating out for trips outside of Switzerland or at least keep them to a bare minimum. Foreign Transaction Fees Add up, so get a travel rewards credit card without them before coming OR get a digital card on the app Revolut and transfer USD into France for a very low exchange rate and no transaction fees.


* 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

Unfortunately since Geneva is so international most people speak English which is why it wasn't as immersive as I would have liked but you will have opportunities to speak french for sure.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
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? FREN 201
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? Speak french at grocery stores and shops, listen to conversations in french around you, and try to speak french first rather then English to start the conversation that way.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* 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?
  • Travel
  • Classes
  • Community
* What could be improved?
  • Housing Communication
  • Affordability
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew how the housing system worked better and I also wish that I knew how to cook and budget better prior to coming.

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.