Emma - University of Lausanne

B. International Studies
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

On my exchange to Switzerland, I chose to complete my French major and therefore studied solely French subjects at the Ecole de Français Langue Étrangère (EFLE). UQ requires its students to study 30 ECTS at UNIL, which is a considerable requirement when many of the French courses are 2.5 ECTS. 

I completed the Cours de Vacances before the semester started in February and found this to be a great opportunity to get to know the campus before the other students returned from holidays, as well as complete some ECTS. During the semester I took 7 classes, my favourites being Le français en chansons and Les constructions de la phrase en français. EFLE is not like most other faculties and the learning environment is very laid back - so I enjoyed this aspect!

Personal experience

One of my wishes for my exchange experience was to travel as much as I possibly could. There is so much to see in and around Lausanne; Montreux, Gruyères and Lucerne were some amazing day trips. 

Switzerland is so central to the rest of Europe so it is easy to go on weekend trips to other cities, regions or even countries! I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to go to 21 different countries during my time in Europe - thanks to cheap airfares of course! 

This experience is even better when it can be shared with your amazing new friends. Having the opportunity to make lifelong connections with people from around the globe is truly special, and I hope to keep in contact with all these people for years to come.

Accommodation

I was placed in Atrium, which is three metro stops or a 20-minute walk from campus. Unfortunately it was also one of the most expensive at 720 CHF per month, however, the 500 CHF monthly scholarship from UNIL helped cover this cost. Atrium has everything you need close at hand; Migros, Denner, a pharmacy and a few eateries. Living in student housing is fun; you meet so many interesting people and there is always something going on. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to wake up at 8:45am for a 9:15am class!

Budget

Okay, there is no denying it - Switzerland is expensive. Whatever you think maybe your budget, you're probably going to go over it. I found that having group dinners with a bunch of friends helped to save those precious francs and making bulk meals also helped keep money in the bank. The cost of meat was sky high so I found myself eating predominantly vegetarian meals or simply not much meat. 

Don't hesitate to get the Demi-Tarif which gives you half price tickets for travel on the Swiss national trains. It may be expensive but it's certainly worth the saving in the long run. I also purchased the Voie 7 which gives you free travel on Swiss national trains from 7pm to 5am - you have to be under 25 to purchase this card. 

I would also recommend buying the Mobilis pass for local Vaudois travel, you may not see ticket inspectors often but the fine is not worth the risk!

Professional development and employability

Haute-Nendaz Ski Weekend
Haute-Nendaz Ski Weekend

Although improving my French wasn't actually one of my primary goals, it's safe to say that it did improve significantly. By no means am I fluent - that will take some time - but living in Switzerland and experiencing the language every day and in the classroom was invaluable to improving my French. Living overseas also gives you an appreciation of new people, new cultures and new perspectives; it teaches you independence, resilience and determination. I certainly did a lot of "growing up" while overseas and I am so grateful for that opportunity - hopefully I can keep this up back in Australia.

Highlight

There is no way I could pick just one highlight! Seeing the green curtains of the Aurora Borealis dance across the skies in Iceland in January was unforgettable. I was also lucky enough to see Real Madrid play Valencia in May, and only two weeks later head to Stockholm to cheer on Dami Im in the Globen Arena for the live performance of the Eurovision Second Semi-Final. And then, of course, there is the experience of simply living in Europe - it's impossible to just pick one!

Top tips

  • If you're considering going - go!
  • Exchange is a truly life-changing experience.
  • It opens so many doors, it challenges you and the memories are priceless.
  • Given the current study load at UNIL vs UQ, you could find yourself with a lot of classes, but you will certainly find a way to get out there, travel and explore the best of Switzerland, Europe or the world.
Emma - University of Lausanne