Anna-Maria - University of St. Gallen

B Business Management
Semester 2, 2017

Academic Experience

The University of St Gallen is a very prestigious and academically renowned university in Europe. It is because of it's prestigious status that subjects are highly competitive - which can put quite a strain on the chances of getting the courses you wish to take. This is increasingly complicated when taking into account the university's "bidding" system that is used to allocate courses to the subsequent students. Chances are, you may only get very few of the courses you originally wanted to take - which was apparent in my case! The normal course load there is 6-7 subjects, in comparison to UQ's 4 - which can be a bit of a multitasking challenge to get used to! I was very careful in ensuring that I left most of my electives free for my exchange to avoid the stress that most other exchange students experienced when missing out on courses they needed in the "bidding" process. It may also be suggested that you might only want to complete a partial study load (24 ECTS instead of 30 ECTS) to reduce the stress that comes with trying to successfully complete 7 subject simultaneously. Either way, make sure you have plenty of UQ approved courses as back ups for when the bidding process begins. It will sound complicated initially, but it will all work out in the end! Don't stress!

The academic system is definitely quite different to UQ's in terms of assessment (few assignments throughout the semester but almost all 100% final exams in one week!). I certainly learnt a lot at St Gallen academically, but want to stress that this university wasn't one for students that just wanted to "chill out" whilst abroad. The standard of learning is very high and students are expected to study effectively throughout the semester to keep up. Saying that, the assessment is structured to cater for exchange students. We have the option of complete "de-central" exams that occur in the last week of the semester. Although this is highly intense, it will give you the opportunity to be home before Christmas/ the start of your following semester back at UQ.

Personal Experience

The university offers a free intensive german course a week before semester commences. Not only was it a great way to begin understanding the swiss culture, but it was also key in meeting other exchange students. Academically, St Gallen pushed me to greatly reconsider my study techniques and effectively manage my time across the semester. I had to complete 6 final exams in 5 days, of which were mostly 100% weighting. Although this was challenging, it gave me a new perspective on learning.

In terms of travel and friendships, going on exchange will give you memories and connections that will last you a lifetime! Make the most of every free weekend to embrace the closeness and interconnectivity of European countries. Get out and EXPLORE!

Accommodation

The university does offer to help students in finding accommodation, however I found accomodation privately. The town of St Gallen is predominantly a student town, which means that rooms in shared apartments are continuously being advertised (I found mine on a very popular and helpful Facebook group "Sharing is Caring University of St. Gallen (HSG)"). I lived with 3 other local swiss girls and couldn't have had better flatmates! It was a key part of immersing myself in the swiss culture and making friends outside of the exchange group.

Budget 

Ok, if you plan on studying in Switzerland be prepared of the nations costly reputation! I was very lucky with accomodation and found a room for 550 CHF a month (approximately $200 a week), most other students payed around 600 CHF per month. Transport can be extremely expensive so I highly recommend you purchase a "halbtax" card (allows half price travel) and a "gleis7" (allows free travel after 7pm). These are very costly but you will make up the price in no time! I would use the Gleis7 to travel to Konstanz (german border) for free and buy cheaper groceries. It also allowed me to make the most of the efficient swiss transport and gave me a massive cost advantage when it came to weekend travel to bordering countries (Germany, France, Italy, Austria).

If you are looking to apply for an exchange to Switzerland I'm sure you would already be highly aware of its expensive nature - so along as you a careful with your money and avoid those impulsive spending sprees you will be fine! All other students will be in the same boat and will organise wallet-friendly activities and entertainment throughout the semester.

Professional Development & Employability

As the University of St. Gallen is so prestigious (in the semester that I studied there it was ranked 4th best in Forbes magazine!) it will be highly regarded on your academic resume - particularly if you aim to do more than "just pass" your subjects. By going on exchange to a university where other students were highly career focused, my eyes were opened to the academic and professional opportunities available to me on an international level. Everything about going on exchange stresses the concept of "getting out of you comfort zone". This pushed me to embrace all things challenging and help me obtain focus on my potential professional development. What can also not be forgotten is my gain in priceless connections that will be at my fingertips for a lifetime - whether it may be in international friendships or knowledgable lecturers/ mentors that were more than willing to remain in contact.

Highlights 

Being in such a central european location, the world is literally your oyster! I made the most of living in Switzerland by traveling as much as I could - which is made possible throughout the semester due to the fact that you can literally do "day trips" to bordering countries or visit multiple in a mere weekend! And as amazingly colourful and exciting other countries may be, exploring Switzerland was absolutely breathtaking. I made the most of all the seasonal activities available - from hiking and kayaking in the summer, to skiing in the winter. Switzerland has a lot to offer, and I didn't intend to miss a single opportunity!

Top Tips

Firstly, I would just like to mention that if you are double guessing the opportunity to go on exchange, particularly to a non-english country, DON'T! The initial nervousness and fear will be worth the adventure of a lifetime. European universities are so international that everyone speaks english anyway. Don't think, just do it!

TOP TIPS: 

  • Make the most of your free time to travel at the start of the semester. Once the intense final exams creep closer at the end of the semester, travelling will be your last priority!
  • The university has an incredible "Buddy System" program which aims to bring exchange students together with local students. Not only do you meet amazing students that will become almost family for the remainder of the semester, you will have the opportunity to go on pre-organised excursions and be introduced the quirks of Swiss culture! Hellloooo fondue nights!
  • I really couldn't recommend the Halbtax card enough, although the expense may be overwhelming initially it will save you so much in the long run. The Gleis7 wasn't necessary for some students, however I used it to the absolute maximum and would also highly recommend.
  • The "Sharing is Caring" Facebook page is essential in saving a few dollars in terms of textbooks/ home appliances/ accomodation/ furniture (if your room happens to be unfurnished) ect. University events are also occasionally published there so it's a great way to stay in the loop
  • Do the intensive german course! It's free, it's fun and it will give you some basics when you want to order a coffee/ buy groceries without embarrassing yourself.
  • Do the brunt of your shopping in Konstanz, Germany. It's exceptionally cheaper - particularly if you eat a lot of meat (forget buying meat in Switzerland when you are on a budget!). And, hey, isn't it cool that you can just "pop over" to another country to simply do some grocery shopping?