University of Zurich, Switzerland

Exchange was a last minute decision for me. I put my initial application in without much thought and it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made so far. I wanted to be in a city where I knew no-one and knew nothing about it and in Zurich I got just that.  Arriving in a city where these are the circumstances is overwhelming and there were many “what the hell am I doing here?” moments, but surely enough you meet people and things fall into place. I have only been here for two weeks but it feels like 2 months because I have already met so many interesting people and been to so many new places.

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The University goes out of its way to provide start of semester parties, information sessions and get togethers which are a good way to get to know people – but its also important, I have found, to branch out of these exchange events and meet people in different environments – go to concerts, go to the UN and Amnesty International meetings – whatever your interests are, there will be something in your new city which caters to this and naturally people with the same interests will be there. I guess it’s shortcut to meeting the right kind of people. Zurich, and Swiss people in general, at first impression can seem pretty straight and hard to crack but after two weeks of being here, and making a concerted effort, I’ve found really interesting people, places and things to do here from hiking, to mushroom and pumpkin picking, to underground concerts, to pop up markets and film festivals and much more.

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The best thing about Zurich is that you can feel how international the city really is. The majority of my friends here are not Swiss but are Italian, French or German (and also some Australians of course). My lecturers are the best in their field – often coming from Germany just for our classes. Weekend trips to another country are so easy to organise and pretty cheap– I have already planned to do a weekend in Berlin and another in Munich, which, in Australia, is simply never a possibility. I have been pushed, socially and intellectually, so far out of my comfort zone over here, which I have found terrifying and exhilarating. Two weeks in and I have already learnt so much about this country, other nationalities and cultures and also about how adaptable you really are. Throw yourself into something and you change, you adapt and you thrive. If you’re thinking about doing exchange – DO IT.

Isabelle Doyle

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