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University of Zurich, Switzerland

Hi there!

Thanks for taking the time to have a read of my blog. To set the context, as I write this I’m in my first of six months here in Zürich on exchange. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the area since August, having taken part in the Bodensee Summer School in Konstanz to learn a bit of German. Universität Zürich (University of Zurich) offered its incoming exchange students the opportunity to undertake the course for free. I’d highly recommend it if you’re starting in the second half of the year.

I nominated Zürich as an exchange preference because I wanted to study in a city where the main language isn’t English, and I wanted to live somewhere where the landscape is vastly different to Sydney. It appears to be a wise choice so far!

I’ve been in Zürich for the best part of two weeks and feel very comfortable here already. Summer is wonderful time to arrive. I am living in student housing (Cäsar-Ritz-Strasse) 42 minutes from the university by public transport. The Swiss reputation for punctuality is well-earned; I haven’t yet caught a tram, train or bus that hasn’t arrived perfectly on schedule.

I’ve been struck by the Swiss people I’ve met. Not in the sense of being physically assaulted, but by their warmth and generosity. They are exceedingly polite and well-mannered and expect the same of those around them. It makes for a calm and peaceful environment and one I’ve really come to enjoy.

I haven’t yet started classes at Universität Zürich but have been completing a 2-week intensive German course at the uni (again, highly recommended). My teacher is first-class, and I get the impression this is par for the course for this institution. Incidentally, Albert Einstein was awarded a PhD here, so you might like to mention that to your friends if the opportunity presents itself…

One of the key attractions of Zürich was its location and proximity to the most dramatic and awe-inspiring landscapes the world has to offer. I’ve added a few photos to give you a taste.

The city is as beautiful as the photos and postcards suggest. It is eye-wateringly expensive but, as with all things Swiss, you get what you pay for. Below I’ve listed some tips which may be of assistance if you’re able to come to Zürich. All the best with your decision making and please feel free to get in contact should you have any questions about Zürich or Switzerland.

Tips

Phone provider

  • Migros (M Budget) is worth a look as a phone provider. Consider it similar to Aldi mobile in Australia in that it uses the best network (Swisscom) but is cheaper. I would recommend getting the SIM activated over the counter there and then rather than online. You’ll your ID for the process.

Bank account

  • If you wish to set up a Swiss bank account you’ll need to wait until you have a Resident’s Permit (you do this within the first two weeks of your uni orientation). Some banks require you to have a Swiss mobile number
    • It’s worth looking at a few different options. For example, UBS offers a free student account (even if you’re here for less than a year) and it comes with student discounts. If you have someone refer you, they sometimes offer a referral bonus too
  • If you plan on using an Australian bank account, I’d recommend a UBank or CitiBank account as they both offer free withdrawals and purchases overseas. I think Macquarie and ING Direct also offer a similar deal. For credit cards (to use if you don’t trust the merchant), the Bankwest Zero MasterCard offers fee-free overseas transactions and has a pretty handy app. I used a combination of a CitiBank Plus account and a Bankwest Zero MasterCard.

Learning German

  • I’d highly recommend taking part in the IBH Summer School program (if you’re heading over there for the Australian Spring session). The cost of the program was refunded by Zurich University and it’s a great way to get settled into Europe and begin to feel comfortable with the language
  • If you’re learning German, “Leo” is a very helpful app as is Duolingo

Transport

  • FlixBus is worth a look if you’re hoping to travel around Europe. It’s generally reliable and often much cheaper than alternative modes of transport
  • Flying from Zurich can be expensive, so consider flying out of Basel where some of the cheaper airlines are based. It’s not too far from Zurich by train/FlixBus
  • For train travel, check out https://seat61.com for handy tips on getting around Europe
  • Use the SBB app to book transport tickets. It provides the convenience of instantly booking tickets and storing them in your wallet. If you are prepared, you can receive discounts on tickets by booking through the app a few days in advance. These are referred to as SuperSaver tickets.
  • Within Switzerland, if you’re under 25 there are a few options which most students will take advantage of:
    • Gleis 7 card
    • Half fare card
    • ZVV monthly pass

These are tickets that you pay for that offer the following:

  • ZVV monthly pass: You can move around Zurich using any form of transport (there are differing zones depending on where you travel, so best to check with the SBB office when you arrive
  • Gleis 7 card: Free travel anywhere in Switzerland after 7pm
  • Half fare card: It is a significant upfront investment but with this card, you are entitled to 50% off any public transport ticket. This card is often recognised by private operators (including ski operators/cable car operators) too. If you’re planning to travel most weekends, this is certainly worth getting

Timothy Alice
Bachelor of Laws
University of Zurich
Switzerland

For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au

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