Amelia - University of Lausanne

B. International Studies
Semester 1, 2015

Academic experience

Whilst in Switzerland I was required to take 30ECTs, which is the standard in the European Tertiary system. However, the University of Lausanne (UNIL) had recently changed its credit system and halved the credit for the majority of its language classes so that they could be more easily taken as a supplement to other programs without going over the credit limit per semester. This posed a large challenge for me as I was only taking language classes.

In the end, I had to complete nine classes to make up my 30 ECTs, with seven of them having the same workload as an average class at UQ. This meant I had very little time to travel or socialise, which in turn meant very little time to practice or use my French outside of the classroom. This problem was rectified by many other universities who had students studying abroad at UNIL by reducing their required course loads to 15-20 ECTs. If the University of Queensland were to update their requirements in line with the changes then I would recommend the University of Lausanne as there was an amazing selection of classes available to me. My favourites were Accent sur la prononciation, Autour des textes traduits Anglais, Lire-ecrire aller retour & Le francais dans la rue. However, if you will be required to take 9-10 classes like myself and the other exchange student from UQ then I would recommend looking at other universities as I spent most of my time wishing I had made a different decision that would allow me more time to focus on learning. The course load was doable in the end but it was at the expense of improving my language skills and enjoying the exchange experience.

Personal experience

As I mentioned before, many of the other exchange students had their requirements reduced from 30ECTs to 15-20, this meant that all of the wonderful people I met had a lot more free time than I did. While they only attended classes two days a week, I had classes four days a week. This meant I wasn't able to travel with my friends on long weekends or during the week if I wanted to pass my classes, so if you would like to do some travelling, I would take this into consideration when thinking of choosing UNIL. I did meet some wonderful people though, the buddy program, or godparent program as it translates in English, was particularly great. I was partnered up with a wonderful Croatian lady and we will be friends for life. The exchange community was also fantastic at UNIL and they ran a lot of excellent trips and adventures, but be sure to sign up fast as the spaces are always limited!

Accommodation

View of the Matterhorn from Zermatt
View of the Matterhorn from Zermatt

I lived off campus in university accommodation whilst studying at UNIL. I was very lucky to be placed at Cedres which in my opinion had the best location of all student accommodation. Cedres is right across from the lake and only a quick walk to beautiful Ouchy. Most accommodation was surrounded by public transport though so getting to and from UNIL or central Lausanne is easily done. I shared with two other girls in my apartment and we had our own kitchen and bathroom but there were some single rooms with shared amenities and also some apartments with four or five students sharing a kitchen and two bathrooms. If you are offered student housing I would certainly recommend taking it as the accommodation offered is great and it is difficult to find on your own, especially as a temporary resident.

Budget

Switzerland was as expensive as i expected it to be and then some. In the weeks proceeding my arrival in Switzerland, the Swiss government removed the ceiling on their dollar which also raised its value significantly, on average I was getting 65-70 centimes for every Australian dollar. I was lucky to receive a scholarship from UNIL, which previous UQ students have received, however it used to be 500 francs which covered most of your rent (580 francs) and it is now only 360 francs. Meat was the one food I ended up not buying as it was far too expensive, you could expect to pay around 16 francs a kilo for minced meat which is around 22AUD at the moment.

Most people shopped at Migros and Coop, these are definitely the most convenient as they are everywhere but shopping at Aldi and Lidl will definitely save your precious francs for more fun things. I would recommend buying the half fare transport card if you plan on travelling throughout Switzerland, however if you are just going to be using the transport in Lausanne the half fare card may not be of benefit as it does not reduce the cost of the mobilis monthly Lausanne transport card (51 francs for 25 and under or 72 francs if over 25). There is also the voie 7 but I cannot comment on that as you have to be 25 years and under to be eligible and I was not.

Professional development and employability

My semester abroad has greatly aided me in my academic development and future employability. Whilst studying at UNIL I took an essay writing class in French, not only did I learn how to write a good essay in French but I also learnt new structures and argumentative methods which have helped me greatly in streamlining my essay writing process. I also significantly improved my language skills and would feel confident to now use French in both an academic and professional environment. That is not to say that you will leave exchange feeling fluent, I am starting to think that is a milestone few language learners reach. However, the exchange experience at UNIL does teach you how to function in another language on a day to day basis and I proved to myself that I was more capable than I had previously thought. Having completed a semester abroad I have overcome many challenges, from creating connections, bridging cultural differences and language barriers, meeting deadlines and juggling a much heavier study load than I was used to. All of these experiences have helped me to develop new ways of approaching problems and new ways of coping with stressful situations.

Highlight

I would like to say that the highlight of my semester abroad was the delicious day trip to Gruyere with the UNIL exchange organisation, or that it was my amazing 10 day trip through France during the mid-semester break, or even, that it was improving my French, learning so many new things and meeting so many lovely people. However, my boyfriend proposed to me on top of a beautiful snow covered mountain in the Swiss Alps at the end of the semester, so that highlight takes the cake.

Top tips

  • I would definitely recommend going on exchange, I have lived overseas a few times now and there are always amazing experiences to be had and skills to be learned.
  • You will come home a new person, with new ideas and a new perspective and it will only aid you in developing your studies and job prospects.
  • Do take into consideration what you would like to get out of your semester though, as I said before, the current program requirements between UQ and UNIL are intense and you will spend the majority of your time studying, not partying and exploring.
Amelia - University of Lausanne