Sylvia - University of Lausanne

B. Science
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I did the 6-week cours de vacances before the semester started which was really good. Since it provided 10 ECTS it meant that I only needed to doing 20 ECTS during the semester instead of 30 ECTS. During the semester I studied Littérature suisse romande ; Discours : écrits et oraux and Didactique et cognition in the faculty of French as a foreign language. I wanted to challenge myself a bit more and so I also studied a climatology course and an environmental science course which were taught in French. 

The academic system isn’t that different to at UQ. The science courses I took didn’t have tutorials, only lectures, which was not ideal for me. The French courses are a lot like French courses taught UQ. All the assessment for my French subjects was finished by the end of the teaching semester while my science subjects had exams during the exam block in January. 

The French courses are very easy to pass. If a piece of assessment is insufficient you are given the opportunity to redo it. The science courses I took were less easy to pass. For one of them the only piece of assessment was the final exam and for the other, there was an assignment worth 50% and the final exam worth 50%. The 100% final exam definitely didn’t suit me. My advice would be to make sure you look carefully at the assessment for any courses you’re interested in doing to make sure if they suit you, however having very few pieces of assessment seems to be the norm at UNIL.

Personal experience

I gained so much from living and studying in Lausanne for one semester. I met loads interesting and cool people from so many different places. With some of the friends I made, I was able to explore Switzerland as well as other countries in Europe.

Not only did I improve my French a lot, I also got exposed to so many other languages through the other exchange and international students that I met. Switzerland being a multilingual country also meant that I picked up a couple German and Italian words here and there. 

I found it so much easier to get out of my comfort zone while on exchange and I know most of the other exchange students I spoke to felt the same. Being on exchange helped me improve my communication skills and increased my confidence in my abilities.

Accommodation

I lived in the accommodation provided by FMEL which all exchange students are signed up to by UNIL. I shared an apartment with three other students and lived just a few minutes walk from the university and a metro stop so the location was definitely one of the best things about it. The fact that the whole apartment block was solely for students was definitely the most enjoyable aspect of it. 

My advice would just be to be glad FMEL exists and that UNIL signs you up for it. It’s all so easy.

Budget

Switzerland is very expensive and so if you’re going to go on exchange here you need to be prepared to spend quite a bit of money. I recommend shopping at Denner, it’s the cheapest out of the three main supermarkets but everything is still good quality. There’s also Aligro if you’re willing to buy in bulk. If you can't live without having meat for every meal you might find it difficult to live in Switzerland. Meat is really expensive in Switzerland. I know most people on exchange in Switzerland ended up basically becoming vegetarians for economic reasons. You also won’t want to eat out very much. A “cheap” meal at a restaurant in Lausanne will cost around 20Fr. 

Most of the accommodation provided by FMEL has rents around 510 Fr/month, however, some places had rents around 700 Fr and unfortunately, you don’t get to choose which apartment you’ll live in. The university provided me with 500 Fr per month throughout the semester which covered almost all of my rent so I just had to focus on budgeting for the day to day living expenses. 

I did quite a bit of travel around Europe and tried to make the most of my time in Lausanne plus ended up living in Lausanne for almost 7 months so I spent around $15,000. It’s obviously possible to spend a lot less but I recommend trying to make the most of your exchange experience if you can. When you go on exchange (especially to Switzerland) it’s best to try not to stress too much about how much money you’re spending and end up missing out on some amazing experiences.

Professional development and employability

The university campus in summer with its field of sunflowers
The university campus in summer with its field of sunflowers

I gained a lot of confidence on exchange. I’ve never been a very confident or outgoing person but through my experiences on exchange I was able to push myself to get out of my comfort zone more. It feels like I experienced more in the 7 months I was away from Australia than in my entire life before leaving. I also improved my French and my communication skills in both French and English.

Highlight

It’s impossible to think of just one experience. Some that stand out include swimming in the gorgeous Lac Léman and riding bikes along the lake. Going skiing with the ESN (exchange society) as well as a weekend trip to the Black Forest in Germany organised by the ESN were also highlights. Even the small things like dinner with friends and trying Swiss food are great memories.

Top tips

  • Get the demi-tarif and make sure you make the most of it by travelling around Switzerland 
  • Get the ESN card and participate in as many ESN events as you can
  • Rent a bike for the semester through Recyclo
  • Sign up for the buddy system
  • Get a Tandem 
  • If you want to travel around Europe by trains get the Interrail pass instead of the Eurail. The Interrail pass is the same as the Eurail pass except it’s a lot cheaper and only for European residents (so just make sure you have your residence permit)
  • Say yes to everything. Participate in whatever comes your way. Really make the most of your time on exchange!
Sylvia - University of Lausanne