Georgina - University of Lausanne

B International Studies
Semester 1, 2023
Exchange has probably been the best experience of my life.


Participating in an exchange as an International Relations student was a requirement for me to complete my degree. However, I didn't see this exchange as simply a check to fill for me to graduate but as an experience for me to go outside my comfort zone and use my prior learning in a different environment than I was used to.

Personal Development

Honestly, I don't even know where to begin. Exchange has probably been the best experience of my life. I had the incredible opportunity to live by myself for the first time which taught me independence and allowed me to grow as an individual. Having this freedom also meant I was in charge of all sorts of tasks which I hadn't been in charge of completing before, like paying bills, completing visa's etc. Though these all sound very mundane, they were integral for my language learning and forced me to interact with a large range of people in French. I also was so lucky to make the most amazing group of friends from around the world. We travelled around Europe together and got to experience a number of different cultures and meet some amazing people.

Academic Development

Going from UQ learning which is very much tech and computer-based, to UNIL was definitely difficult to get my head around. UNIL is very much paper-based, which I found very surprising, and course outlines and even assessment summaries were often only handed out in paper form. Additionally, none of the content we covered in the classes where recorded and a lot of the time even summarized, which really forced me to attend all of my classes. though these differences were very difficult for me in the beginning (especially when I wanted a criteria sheet for one of my assignments, but my professor said they didn't use those ??) I was really forced to interact with my teachers and other students which was really helpful for both my academic development but also my language learning and even just to help me settle in and make friends.

Professional Development

Exchange has definitely made me much more outgoing and confident in my abilities. Before I left Australia, I had never even flown by myself before, now I am proud to say I have done so. It sounds small but small things like this have boosted my confidence and given me a massive self-esteem boost which is incredibly helpful for future employability. I am now much more sure of my own skill set and am much easier able to communicate with strangers than before. Additionally, my French language skills were able to sky-rocket in my time living in Switzerland which will definitely add to my resume.


I started my exchange with 11k that I had saved from working part-time over the last 2+ years. As I choose to live in Switzerland for a semester, one of the most expensive countries in the world, I was concerned that, on top of travel and rent this wouldn't be enough. Because of this I applied for the OS-help loan (7k) and was able to receive the UQ Widening Participation Grant (2k) which made me feel much more secure in my living situation. I decided to use the help loan to pay exclusively for my rent, which was 750CHF a month (roughly 1330AUD), use my own money mainly for daily living expenses, and use the grant - which came in halfway through exchange - for travel. Though I had to make a few sacrifices to save money while away - eg. public transport over ubers, cooking rather than eating out, EURAIL and Flixbuses rather than planes - these alternatives, though a little irritating to begin with, not only helped me save money but also made me live more independently, and taught me to rely on myself. As Switzerland was so expensive food was very expensive which actually forced me to become vegetarian at one point, but learning to smart shop and not waste food was super important - cheaper shops like LIDL and ALDI will 100% be your best friend over Coop and Migros (and if your smarter with you money than I was you will easily be able to afford meat I just decided to spend my grocery money for the week on a new pair of shoes so). I would definitely recommend getting a spending tracker and designating how much you would spend on what weekly - my weekly budget was about 250CHF a week which I split on groceries, public transport and going out. most UNIs also have their own events, UNIL was amazing with their student services and each week they would have at least 4 different activities or parties planned - all of which were either free or max 20chf. through this is was able to get super-cheap food. Being part of this not only helped me keep my going out expenses down but also helped me make friends.


Without the loan and grant that I got, though I would have been able to scrape by, they helped me really immerse myself in the experience and not worry too much about money (I go into more detail above on how I used my funding).


It was super easy for me to book my accommodation through UQ resources. Lausanne is very much a UNI town with both UNIL and EPFL right next to each other so there was plenty of accommodation for me to choose from. As I wanted to live on campus I choose the FMEL Vortex - though it was a bit more expensive it would allow me to live in a newer building, closer to uni, with better facilities AND I wouldn't have to share a bathroom. A majority of my friends lived about 10 minutes away - still very close to uni at Bourdonette, though still good housing it totally paled into compression to the vortex for me. I LOVED living at the vortex I had my own private room and bathroom. only having to share my kitchen space which was separate from my room so I could move freely in my own space. by room came already equipped with a small fridge, desk, bed and ample closet and storage space - the heating was amazing in the winter with heated floors, my only issue was there was no AC which meant it got really hot in the later months but honesty the Vortex is still 10000% worth it, maybe just invest in a plug-in fan. The Vortex is a massive building for students and UNI staff alike so their facilities were amazing - rooftop bar, cafe, small restaurant, barbers, kids daycare, second-hand store and convenience store all accessible to both residents and the public. For us living there, we got free and private study spaces, laundry rooms (still had to pay for laundry, but free dryers), a secure post room, and a cleaner for the shared kitchens. Even though I shared the kitchen with 17 other people in my section the kitchen was always clean and we had a good system for taking the bins out. Unlike my friends at Bourdonette and most other accommodations, I didn't live in a shared apartment (consisting of 5 rooms, a shared kitchen and 2 shared bathrooms), I was a little concerned about this initially as I was afraid I would meet many people the shared kitchen let me meet a massive range of people from all over - we would have kitchen parties and if any other kitchens in the building were having a party everyone was invited as well. Apart from the heat during the summer months, my only complaints about the Vortex were 1. the noise rules and 2.  the help centre and services. In Switzerland, there is a cultural norm that insists that everyone be quiet after 10 pm - totally valid but a little irritating after a while - due to the layout of the massive building it was very hard to get away with making much noise at all or even hanging around outside after 10 without security coming and scolding you in french. Other locations such as Bourdonette and EPFL acom as they were a bit older didn't have the same rule enforcement or security so it was much easier to get away with being a bit louder longer. Though it was irritating, it was in no way debilitating - just instead of hanging out outside my room we would move to the shared kitchen which was practically soundproofed, and I just got really good at sweet-talking the seccys. Secondly, was the student acom, though the people in there were lovely it was hardly open, with its open time being from 7:30-8:30am and 12:30-2pm Monday to Thursday, only open on Fridays in the morning and completely closed on the weekend.  this was the only place you could buy the building specialized tax bin bags*, hire cleaning supplies or just get to if you had an issue. On the first night that I got my key, my mum and I had just got back from ikea with loads of stuff for my room, my phone without battery and my mums with no reception for some reason, my key wouldn't open my door (the rooms had electric doors rather than simple keys which was cool but a little fiddly), it was only about 5pm but as it was winter it was already pitch black and FREEZING. We didn't know if we were making a mistake with how we were trying to open it, if my key or the door was broken. When I was given the key early that day it was drilled into me that if there was a problem with the key outside office hours (eg most of the time) we would have to can security from the university to sort it out and If in the end it was our fault I would have to pay 100CHF for making then come out. Long story short I managed to find a nice guy who lent me his phone after trying to open the door and try to find someone to help for 45 minutes (it was before uni sem started so the place was empty), and it turned out it was a common problem that when it was really cold the doors sometimes froze and couldn't be opened. Luckily we had a hotel room that we were staying in and were able to leave the ikea bags in the shared kitchen because the security wasn't able to open the door that night. Honestly, though my door could have frozen 10 more times and I would have still loved the vortex, on my last day when I moved out after 5 months I sobbed leaving my room - if you choose Lausanne as your exchange location the Vortex is 100000000% the place to choose to live. *which were also insanely expensive, but this was a thing all over Switzerland so not a complaint on the Vortex - 1 x 10 medium bin bags was 35CHF, actual insanity, PLUS you could only buy these bags in cash which was irritating.


The highlight of my time on exchange was probably the friends I made. I was a bit lonely for the first month, getting used to my life living by myself away from my family and usual support system, but I soon found the most amazing group of people from around the world. Through uni events, other students at the vortex and my classes. Without these people that I met, I would not have had half of the memories that I have from my exchange. I was able to travel all around Europe with them, going to Portugal, Germany, Spain and Italy. But also just mundane life in Lausanne was made 100 times better with the people that I met. I didn't have my real family close by so I made a new one with the people that I met.

Advice/Top Tips

  1. 100% get the OS-Help load and any other grants and loans that are offered, when you're overseas having extra money that you know is there if you have any issues is extremely comforting. I got really sick about halfway through and had to go to the hospital which was scary - but I knew that any expenses were fine as I had extra and insurance would help cover it. the more funds you have also the more travelling you can do which was an incredible experience for me and helped concrete my exchange into what it was
  2. Familiarise yourself with public transport and buy a metro or bus pass. I made the mistake of not buying the 50chf monthly metro pass opting instead to buy a ticket every time I travelled - I one time forgot to buy said ticket and ended up with a 100CHF fine. Also in the long run I spent way more than if I had just bought the pass. Public transport is your key to exploring your city, most likely you won't have access to a car, and ubers and too pricey, so buses and trains will be the way you get EVERYWHERE - invest in it.
  3. Go to as many UNI events as you can. These events are often super cheap and a great excuse to meet friends. When I was in Lausanne, I went wine tasting, kayaking, star gazing, to a music festival, a boat party, and so much more spending max 20CHF for each event and was often given super cheap or oftentimes free food and drinks. Going to these events help you save money, be social and try new things.