Switzerland, an international and life changing experience. Get outdoors! Past Review

By (Wildlife Biology, Kansas State University) for

ISEP Exchange: Lausanne - Exchange Program at Université de Lausanne

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
If you can't tell already, I'm bitter about not learning French the way I was expecting. That was my goal in coming to a French speaking country, and I've failed. I have certainly made a lot of progress, but France or Belgium would have been better choices for French. I am also not happy that I wasn't told that I didn't have to take all of the French courses that a traditional student earning a bachelors in French has to take. The bachelors courses didn't interest me as much as other courses. I will now graduate a year later since I didn't take biology courses, but this year was not wasted. I've learned more about myself than I could have ever imagined and I made friends with someone from just about every European country and a huge number of countries outside of Europe. France and Belgium do not boast this type of diversity. I learned so many lessons here and I feel like I have matured a lot. I've had a great time here, I just wished I knew what I was getting into with the French before coming.

Review Photos

ISEP: Lausanne-Dorigny - Universite de Lausanne Photo ISEP: Lausanne-Dorigny - Universite de Lausanne Photo

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 absolutely hate the grading system, all of my courses were to learn French and so the system was different, but if someone takes a course outside the French department, Biology, Business, etc. Generally there is one exam at the end of the semester which makes up all of your grade. For me, it's too much pressure but the upside is you don't have to work as hard during the semester. This potentially gives you more time to travel, party, etc. It's also annoying not knowing the date of your exams at the beginning of the semester. There is a 2 or 3 week period and the professor choses a date and time during that period but it's not known until the semester is nearly over. Again, this wasn't a problem for me since I was taking French courses, but because of this and the grading system were some of the major reasons I chose not to take biology courses.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

There are apartments for university students here but they are scattered throughout the city. Some are close to the university, like mine, but far from the city itself. Others are right in the city. I came to the French part of Switzerland to learn French and was more or less expecting to have French speaking roommates. However, this was not the case. Only one was a native French speaker and he was never there because he was always studying (pretty common for students who attend the EPFL, the other university here). I had quite a few changes of roommates throughout the year and they were all from different countries which was really cool at times but also disappointing other times because my main goal of coming here was to learn French. One of my roommates knew French but we never spoke it because the other roommates didn't and it would be impolite to speak in front of them if they can't understand.

* Food:

Food here is crazy expensive!! If you go to the right stores you can find a pound of beef for about $6 and a kebab costs around $9. Expensive when compared to other european countries where you can get a kebab for 4 euros. LUCKLY there is a large stipend I received every month for my stay here. Yes, I could have eaten better, but I preferred to save my money from traveling and other adventures.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

It's really easy to find something to do here, which is great!! There is a committee for the exchange students that plans Pubnights each week and you can go to a bar/club and get discounted drinks and such and it's a great way to meet new people. The same organization plans trips about every 3 or 4 weeks to do different activities such as wine tasting, skiing, hiking, traveling, etc. Finally the sports center here is excellent!! You can find a class to learn or practice any kind of sport you want, and also dance classes. The problem is that most start at the beginning of the semester so you have to decide quickly if there is something you want to do. The sports center also plans ski trips every weekend from December to the end of March where you can go skiing and stay in a chalet that they own. Basically, if you're into sports and the outdoors, the opportunities are endless.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

People talk about the ghetto of Lausanne but seriously, it's Switzerland, probably one of the safest places in the world. I've never felt unsafe and can't understand why people would feel unsafe here.

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


* 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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Anywhere from 50-100 francs each week on groceries and about 50 francs a month of public transportation, housing costs around 500-600 francs a month but you can find it for cheaper.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? The prices of food here are still shocking to me


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Lausanne is really great!! I love the city and the people I've met. But if your main goal is to learn French, you would be wise to pick another location. However, if you know some French, but your major is anything but French you can learn French taking classes in your major in French. I didn't try this, but I know a lot of people who have, and it's not as daunting as it might sound. There are also a crazy number of classes in English, so knowing French before coming here isn't necessarily a prerequisite, but it would certainly help. Plus, just about everyone in Switzerland speaks English. If you know Spanish, you will have a lot of fun! There so many Spaniards and people from Spanish speaking countries here. I should have tried to learn Spanish! If you like sports and outdoor activities, skiing, climbing, hiking, etc. Switzerland is a prime choice.


Adam participated on an ISEP program, for which KSU Study Abroad Office staff receive most of their information from ISEP, including course offerings, requirements, and language learning expectations.

KSU June 23, 2011