Annabelle - University of Zürich

B. Law
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

I went to the Universitat Zürich (University of Zurich) in Zurich, Switzerland and undertook four subjects which were credited for my Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Queensland. The courses which I undertook were each worth 6 ECTS. I studied the following subjects: (1) Islamic and Middle Eastern Law; (2) Introduction to US Business Law; (3) Internet Law and lastly, (4) European Institutions. 

I also undertook an Intensive German Language Course for two weeks prior to the semester commencement. This course assisted me in learning some German to make it easier for me to get around. This course was independent of my Bachelor of Laws degree requirements. 

The thing I enjoyed most about this different academic system was the ability to interact with other exchange students from across the globe as well as being able to interact with Swiss locals. The courses I undertook did not have weekly tutorial exercises which were very different to the typical UQ law courses. Through not having to do weekly tutorial exercises, I was able to do self-reflection on each week’s lectures as well as individual study which was intellectually stimulating. I also had the opportunity to focus on the speeches required for two of my subjects and the preparation of essays for assessment. 

One of the challenges that I faced was that there were no breaks in the middle of two of my courses which minimised the further opportunity to make friends. However, this was only a minor challenge for me. I overcame this issue by attending events organised by the Erasmus Social Network. These events assisted me to make friends, not just inside the University of Zurich Law School but also with other students from different faculties at the University of Zurich as well as students from ETH University (another Swiss university).

Personal experience

From this experience, I gained new friendships, not just from UZH but also from ETH. The friendships I made were with people from all over the globe as well as with Swiss natives. I wanted to make my exchange as cultural as possible and really experience Switzerland and all that it has to offer. I explored all over Switzerland, from Bern, the capital of Switzerland, to Lausanne. I learnt that different Cantons have a slightly different accent when they speak German. Switzerland has four languages which are spoken; German, French, Italian and Romansch (which only a small number of the Swiss population can speak). I also travelled to Portugal and France which was fun and inexpensive since both countries are geographically close to Switzerland.

Accommodation

As UZH is located in the Zurich city centre in Switzerland and since housing prices are so expensive, there is not a "campus" around UZH. Rather, I lived in a shared flat about 41 minutes away from ETH/Universitätsspital. What I enjoyed the most about my living accommodation was that there were many other students living in the vicinity, so it had a very much international student feel to it. It was easy for all students to visit each other. The advice I would give to future students is for them to try and put in a request for accommodation closer to the University as soon as possible.

Budget

Snowboarding in Arosa, Switzerland

Snowboarding in Arosa, Switzerland

Rent was relatively cheap by living in outer Zurich. On the other hand, food was quite expensive. Many students sometimes travelled to Germany to do food shopping as basic items were significantly cheaper compared to similar items in Switzerland. Transportation in Switzerland is also very expensive, especially if you travel all over Switzerland like I did. I used the monthly GA ticket. This meant I could travel all over Switzerland for a set price. It was a lot cheaper than buying individual tickets as train rides are very expensive. For budgeting, I would recommend about 1000chf per month in order to cover all the necessary costs which come with living in Switzerland and complying with all the government procedures.

Professional development and employability

The skills I have developed pertain to being more culturally aware of the different cultures and mannerisms of the Swiss. This will enhance my professional development as I now have a greater sense of what the Swiss people are really like in their day-to-day activities. I will be able to use this knowledge when conducting business with Swiss individuals and organisations in the future. My knowledge of some German, albeit at a beginner’s level, will also assist me if I was to be actively involved in German-speaking Europe in my profession.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was being able to go to the famous Swiss Alps, go snowboarding and trying to improve on my very, very limited skills! I also went tobogganing which was very exciting as the "schlittel" tracks in Switzerland are really steep and are very curvy. The amount of snow was amazing allowing me to make snow angels and just to be able to fall into the depth of it. I also had the opportunity to see horse races/ jumping races on an ice track. This was very interesting because I didn't realise horses had the ability to run and jump on pure ice. It was really an amazing experience and has left a lasting impression of Switzerland for me. I really loved the Swiss Alps; it was very much the highlight of my experience! I hope to go back to the Swiss Alps sometime in the future.

Top tips

  • The advice I would give to other students participating in a student exchange in the future is to be willing to broaden your horizons and to not be afraid to plunge into a different culture or language. I would say to make sure you pack in all you can each weekend and ensure that you make the most of what your exchange country really has to offer. If you choose Switzerland you will find that it is really a beautiful country and has great cheese fondue!
  • I would definitely apply to do an exchange to the University of Zurich; it has been such a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience. The fact that you can immerse yourself in another culture and have the opportunity to learn another language is really a great experience. If you go on exchange to the University of Zurich, definitely take the German classes that are offered. Also, I highly advise you to bring gym clothes. The ASVZ gyms, which are freely available for university students to attend, are a very good outlet to make new friends, to exercise and to improve your skills in whatever class you undertake, whether it be learning how to scuba dive or ski/snowboard.
Annabelle - University of Zürich