Sruthy - University of Zürich

B. Laws / Arts
Semester 1, 2015

Academic experience

I studied three law courses and one International Relations course. Since Switzerland has a unique place in the international law context, I considered myself privileged to study international law from this vantage point. It was challenging to be suddenly expected to know details about a different legal system, but I thoroughly enjoyed this process of learning. The lecturers were mostly highly inspiring and motivated people who were happy to clarify my questions about the Swiss or European law. All that is required is to reach out to the lecturers and ask for assistance!

Personal experience

Swiss German is a dialect of German, and therefore what I studied in German classes had little applicability, it seemed, in Zürich. I think that this is a particular challenge with moving to Zürich; those who have never studied German before will have particular difficulty in picking up any German. Those who have some working knowledge of German will then have to work to pick up Swiss German.

Nevertheless, my personal experiences in Switzerland have been incredible. I met people from various parts of Europe (as part of Erasmus), and in some cases had the privilege of visiting their home countries and staying with them! The friendships made on exchange are irreplaceable; the intensity of the experiences we shared together is unforgettable. I've made many friends for life. 

Exchange taught me how to rise above personal reservations. For me, there was no comfort zone to retreat to. I had to learn to thrive in unfamiliar circumstances. Not only did I have to just meet new people, but I learnt to make connections on a personal level with every single person I met. I would really encourage people to seek out friendships with Swiss people. Although they come off as cold and reserved at the start, my friendships with the Swiss have been absolutely wonderful. The Swiss are very careful people; but once the ice is broken, they are open and warm-hearted. You just have to be open, be patient, ask the right questions, refrain from some classic "Australian" behaviours, and value punctuality above all else!

Accommodation

I lived very close to the university. The house was provided by the law faculty, although there was a very long waiting list for the rooms. I encourage law students to apply early through the law school's website. The house is lovely; it was built in the 17th century but renovated recently by a renowned architect. There is a library to study in, and the rooms are beautiful. In addition, the rent is very, very cheap by Zurich standards.

Budget

Given the weak Australian dollar and the extremely strong Swiss Franc, the semester was very, very expensive. Normal things cost absurdly high prices. I generally had a limited spending policy. I didn't go out clubbing often or spend money on drinks. 

Rent is very expensive, and although I didn't experience this, I know that apartments are difficult to find. Apply early through WOKO. The University does provide a lot of assistance for this. Travel is quite expensive too; there are different rail passes that you can opt for. I opted for the most expensive one (the GA), which gave me unlimited travel throughout Switzerland on all forms of transport. I even took a ferry to France using from Geneva, and my travel pass covered it. Furthermore, Swiss trains are a pleasure to travel in. They are fast, clean and extremely efficient (a dream, really, after my experiences with Queensland Rail!). The scenery is to die for. I've been so fortunate to be able to experience so much of Switzerland, and I only did it because I invested in the pass. 
During months that I didn't travel, I was able to make do with 700 AUD a month, not including rent. This is frugal living for the Swiss; expect for your wallet to hurt a lot!

Professional development and employability

Liberty Bridge, Budapest
Liberty Bridge, Budapest

The unique perspective I gained from studying international law in Switzerland is invaluable to me, and I am sure that it will hold me in good stead in my academic development. In being less averse to reaching out, I developed deep relationships with many of my lecturers. They helped me incredibly in my academic development by talking to me and showing me the world of opportunities that lie ahead. I cannot be more thankful to them.

Highlight

My biggest highlight of my experience was just the pleasure of living in Zurich and in Switzerland. I felt so privileged to being in Zurich. I couldn't believe that during a break between classes, I could step outside and see the alps and the lake in the distance. The streets were so clean, the people were so polite, the transport was so efficient, and the quality of life was unbeatable. There were new hikes to do every weekend, a new breathtaking lake to see, a new view of the Alps... I can't express how much gratitude I feel for having that become a part of my daily life.

Top tips

  • Take the plunge and do it!
  • You WILL make amazing friendships, you WILL see places so beautiful that you can't believe they exist, you WILL grow in a way you didn't know were possible.
Sruthy - University of Zürich