When I left Australia for my exchange it was during a heatwave and when I first stepped foot in Zürich after leaving the airport there was snow on the ground. It kind of just sunk in at that moment that I truly was on the other side of the world and that my dream about going on exchange had come true. When I woke up the next morning and looked out my window it was like living in a real life snow globe and I was amazed by how beautiful the city was in the daylight.
I spent my first few days in Zürich wandering around and exploring my neighbourhood. I didn’t really know what to expect from the city as apart from doing some googling, I didn’t really know that much about Zürich. If you haven’t thought about Switzerland for exchange I would definitely recommend it as it truly is a unique and magical place. One of the first things you realise, as there are four national languages, is that if you want a truly international experience than this is the place to be. The fact that I can only speak English also made me really appreciate the opportunity I have to be here and has only increased my desire to learn more languages!
I began my studies during the first week that I arrived as I enrolled in the pre-semester German course which made settling into life here much easier! If you have the chance to enroll I would definitely recommend taking it (although you really need to be quick in enrolling online as the places are limited). The teachers are excellent and everyone was super friendly so I also made friends with other students from around the world, some of whom are also in my law classes. Whilst the course is tiring as it is for six hours a day, it was a lot of fun and during the lunch break everyone heads to the mensa (which is like a cafeteria with student discounts!) for lunch so it was kind of like university in the movies.
As well as offering the mensa with student discounts (there is also a vegan one too!) the University also facilitates the use of their sports centres and exercise classes for free! There’s over 100 different types of classes to choose from every week so its kind of like having a free gym membership. So I’ve been getting zen doing yoga and pilates which I’ve found really beneficial to my studies and trying to achieve a balanced life style while I’m here. It’s also nice to go to classes with friends from uni as well. It’s also been amazing because I think I have eaten more cheese and chocolate since I’ve been here than in my entire life….
As you can tell, a theme running through my blog post is discounts.There are no two ways around it, Switzerland is very expensive which is something you definitely need to consider if you are planning on completing your exchange here. For example, if you are buying ingredients to make dinner it will probably cost you twice as much as in Australia (although buying beer, wine and chocolate from the supermarket is quite cheap!). To put it in perspective a ramen you could get for $10 in Haymarket is about $30 here… Unfortunately sometimes it feels like you need to pay for everything here whether it be using a bathroom or if you’re thirsty in a club and need to buy water for 7 francs.. Applying for a visa and resident’s permit is also quite costly and somewhat time consuming because is also quite a lot of paper work involved with regards to staying here and studying at the university. Furthermore, depending on what classes you’re going to take you may also have to buy textbooks. However, in saying that, as a once in a lifetime experience it’s still totally worth it. Furthermore, because all of the services are so efficient and the city is so clean and well maintained you kind of can appreciate the cost that goes into it. Plus to put it in perspective, I think it makes a big difference that I’m not working here because the rates of pay kind of help to balance out how expensive everything is.
The UZH campus is stunning and the university is built on a hill so you have a view over the historic centre of Zürich. The university is so beautiful that its surreal to be studying there and be in some of the same buildings as Einstein! There are sculptures and water fountains in the buildings so its kind of like a castle mixed in with a museum (although there is actually a free museum attached to the uni…). You can also easily walk into the city from there as well. Everything in Zürich is quite close as its not an enormous city which is nice and the public transport is just so good (one million times more efficient city rail or Sydney buses). Zürich is also well connected to other European cities so its great if you want to travel and explore more of Europe as well (right now I’m in Paris!!).
In terms of my studies, I actually had difficulty in choosing my classes as they have a lot on offer in English and they are all really interesting. I chose to study International Human Rights Law, International Economic Law, European Institutions and Introduction to American Business Law as well as continuing with German. The Professors are fantastic and passionate about what they’re teaching. With the subjects I’m taking I have three exams and one paper as here you just have one assessment to complete per subject so I’ve found it easier to have a uni/life balance than at UTS. I had to submit my paper for one of my classes this week which was kind of daunting/ stressful, because it was the longest paper I’ve ever had to write and also at a masters level, however, the professor reads them and gives you preliminary feedback which is so helpful and then you resubmit in a weeks time. So for me it’s been a really constructive experience academically.The way in which you choose your subjects here is quite different to UTS as well as during the first two weeks you are allowed to attend which ever lectures you want so you get a feel for all of them and can choose the ones you like the best. Then you just register for the classes you intend to take an exam for.
I hope this post helps anyone out who intends to do exchange! I can’t recommend the experience enough 🙂 I feel so lucky to have the chance to be able to experience Switzerland and Swiss culture.
University of Zürich, Switzerland
Bachelor of Laws