I have now been in Bern for 6 weeks and it has been an amazing experience so far. I have gone skiing in the Swiss Alps twice and experienced the beauty of winter in Switzerland, enjoyed the sun in Milan and saw spectacular views of Switzerland at the top of Rigi-Klum. I have also travelled to a few different regions within Switzerland and am making plans for future travels with other fellow exchange students I have made friends with here in Bern.
The city of Bern has a peaceful atmosphere and is a beautiful place to walk around in especially the old area of Bern with its cobblestone streets and various fountains, which you can drink from. I very much enjoy walking through the streets during my breaks from Uni and to sometimes sit in front of the main building to watch the view of the Swiss Alps in the distance.
I have been living in a student accommodation called Fellergut, which is located next to a train station and is a convenient 6minute train ride to the center of the city of Bern. I chose this accommodation based on previous UTS exchange student comments about the liveliness of Fellergut and it has definitely lived up to the expectation. Although it is not the newest building it is a very welcoming place with a lot of other exchange students willing to meet up and organize trips together. I have made a lot of new friends by living in student accommodation from many different countries such as Finland, America, Belgium, China and South Africa. I definitely recommend staying in student accommodation however Fellergut will be under renovation in 2020 but Tscharnergut is another student accommodation close to Fellergut that provides the same fun experience.
During the week before classes begin at the University of Bern, events are organized by the university for exchange students to meet each other and learn about life at the university. All the events were well organized, informative and very welcoming. These included information presentations, welcoming lunch and an Apero (free drinks and food!). You will be notified via email about these events. Similarly, an exchange organization called ESN has provided various events for exchange students to interact, such as a skiing weekend and pubcrawl. If you can, I highly recommend going to all the events provided for exchange students, as it is a great opportunity to make friends. By joining the ESN Bern Facebook page for exchange students I was put into a group chat with all the other exchange students therefore am able to stay informed and connected.
The campus of the University of Bern is spread out throughout the city of Bern with different buildings for Law, Chemistry and Biology, Geology and Social Sciences etc. The walk between buildings is usually a short 5 – 10 minute walk or you can take the frequent busses to the different parts of the university. Although being an old University all the buildings are well maintained and there are many libraries to chose from. One underneath the main building is specific for Law students and my personal favorite for Social Sciences was originally a Toblerone chocolate factory!
At the University of Bern I have found the teaching style to be quite different to UTS as for most of the subjects at the university there is only one test given at the end of the semester, which is worth 100% of your grade. However, for some social science and science subjects a presentation or essay is the required exam your grade is based on for the subject. Depending on the subject, a pass/fail or a grade is given for the subject but because UTS students only require a pass/fail this should not be a problem.
At UTS I am studying a Bachelor of Medical Science and I chose to use three free exchange electives for my study abroad. Using free electives allowed me the freedom to organize my study plan so I could have a four-day weekend for travelling in Switzerland and around Europe. Therefore, at the University of Bern I am studying a variety of subjects, which include religion, gender studies and German language. All of my subjects are given as either a 1-2 hour lecture or seminar, once a week. For my lectures it is not compulsory to attend however like in UTS for seminars there are specific requirements for attendance.
If you are a fan of sports then you are in luck because the University of Bern provides a large variety of sports for you to participate in. The main sport complex has a direct bus from the Bern main station and provides a gym and many indoor and outdoor sports. Most sports have limited spots available and require you to register, so make sure you are aware of the requirements for each sport.
Things to know
The main thing I can suggest to future Bern exchange students is to be well informed and aware of your budget because the pricing in Switzerland for most things is high. Travel by train is the most expensive, with a one hour trip costing around 50 Swiss francs (around $70). There are a few options for travel cards, this includes the GA (around 240francs a month for unlimited travel), Half-fare (pay around 185francs for a year) and Track 7 (129francs for free travel after 7pm for a year) and a monthly cost of 60francs for unlimited public transport within Bern. It is a must that you research these different transport options before coming to Switzerland and find out which option suits you best to avoid paying around $70 like I did for the train from Zurich airport to Bern when I first arrived.
Bachelor of Medical Science
University of Bern
For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au