Harriet - University of Zürich

B Laws (Honours)
Semester 2, 2022


My motivation for studying at the University of Zurich was to experience a new culture whilst studying a civil law jurisdiction. I also chose Zurich as it was centrally located in Europe and meant it was an easy place to travel throughout Europe. I wanted to complete an exchange because I wanted to challenge my personal skills and gain independence. Having only lived in Australia, I wanted to broaden my horizons, make new friends and gain a more international perspective.

Personal development

Coming from Australia, I had the opportunity to experience a new culture, new languages, and a new legal perspective. I was able to study alongside the International Law Masters students, which was challenging yet rewarding. My personal experience of University of Zurich and Switzerland has been very enjoyable. It is definitely quieter and less open to socialising than Australia and other European countries such as the UK or Spain. I am grateful I completed my exchange in Zurich as I found great educational value and organisation from the university. Zurich is expensive however very safe at all times of day. It is not a social city but there was good interaction at the university and within my Woko, and it is well connected to the rest of Europe for travel. I gained a different perspective on a different social culture that was very different to Australia. I discovered that I am an extrovert who enjoys socialising. As a result, I have a new appreciation for Australian culture. The friends I made were mostly fellow international students as I found Swiss people were often closed off to new friendships. Everyone was polite and kind but I would not say they were wanting close friendships. The international students I did make friends with are now friends for life. It was a challenge to socialise within a different culture but it allowed me to gain a new perspective on friendships, study life and cultures.

Academic development

The course structures at the University of Zurich were quite different than traditional Australian law courses as most only had one piece of assessment worth 100% of the course. Further, classes consisted of only one 2-hour lecture a week. Content was delivered in class and also group discussions occurred. I had to study masters level courses as these were the only law courses delivered in English. The courses came from the International Law Masters Program. I found that the difficulty of these courses was at the same level as my LLB(Hons) courses. The most challenging aspect was being exposed to the wide range of European laws and comparative legal systems. 
One aspect I really appreciated was at the start of semester students ‘shop around’ for classes. They attend multiple introduction lectures given by the professors who ‘sell’ their courses. I found this really helpful as it allowed students to understand what the course entailed and the course structure. As a result, I was able to tailor my semester courses to my liking, rather than discovering half way through a subject that it was not completely aligned with my interests.

Professional development

As mentioned above, the professional development skills I gained from my exchange has been a new perspective on culture, independence and a strong sense of self. I was able to budget in a country with a high cost of living and still enjoy myself. I also managed to go through all the red tape that comes with moving to Switzerland. The public law requirements were very demanding for anyone moving to Switzerland but I managed to tick all the boxes, taking one step at a time. I also overcame the challenge of being alone in a foreign country. Although I had family in the UK and Spain, it was a challenge to be isolated from family. I overcame this by making lifelong friends around me and also maintaining friendships via WhatsApp and social media. I never felt alone but just needed to gain independence to feel secure in my new house. This will help me in my professional career as I now have the skills and personal belief that I can survive new challenges that are outside of my comfort zone.


Switzerland is one of the most expensive places to live. Having the OS-Help and the BEL Faculty scholarship allowed me to participate in my exchange. I was conscience of spending during my exchange as I wanted to travel around Europe during the semester breaks and long weekends. It is easy to save money by not eating out (restaurants in Switzerland are very expensive) and only using public transport. I was not aware I required mandatory health insurance, that did not include travel insurance. I had to budget this in mid exchange but the University was very helpful in assisting me on finding the best type of insurance for my budget. Accommodation was surprisingly cheap as it is subsidised by the government. Public transport is expensive monthly however you can get anywhere in Switzerland without a car so it was very worth it. Food is expensive, especially with dietary requirements. My advice is to be prepared to have a high cost of living, but if you are conscience of spending, it is possible to enjoy Switzerland.


The funding I received from OS-Help and BEL Faculty allowed me to participate in more travel than I had initially budgeted. This included travel within Switzerland, Europe and even East Coast USA. I also received a scholarship from the University of Zurich. This allowed me to have my rent completely covered. This also eased the cost of living but I still needed to be conscience of spending and food expenses.


I lived in a Woko residence (student accommodation) during my stay. I highly recommend anyone to apply for a room in one of the Woko residences as they are centrally located, extremely clean and had a good sense of community as both Swiss and international students are residents. My residence in particular was located next to the train and tram line which meant I almost never had to wait long to reach the city. A supermarket and the post office were also within walking distance.


The highlight of my experience was being able to live in such a historic city, making lifelong friends throughout the world and being able to study a completely different jurisdiction. The highlight of my travel was sailing in Montenegro and visiting the northern most point in Europe in Norway. Being able to travel to amazing places over a weekend was the main highlight of my exchange. Previously these places were at least 24 hours of travel away, but being able to jump on a train and be somewhere new in a few hours was extremely rewarding.

Advice/Top tips

My advice would be to research as much as possible. I was unaware of the private health insurance requirement it took me by surprise when I arrived. I recommend relying on your host university for assistance as my university provided lectures for incoming students and were very quick to respond to any emails asking for assistance. I also highly recommend applying for the OS-Help loan.