Kevin - University of St Gallen

Bachelor of Business Management
Semester 2, 2017 and Semester 1, 2018
I received a high level of education while living in the most beautiful country in the world.

Academic experience

The University of St. Gallen (HSG) is one of the most highly reputable Universities in all of Europe. Focusing on Business, Financial, Economics, Law and International Relations, it has a reputation of producing excellent professional opportunities for those who attend.

I studied a wide range of business related courses from ‘International Business’ to ‘Knowledge Management’ to ‘Being and Entrepreneur’. There are plenty of interesting courses on offer and as an exchange student you can enrol in master courses as well. These courses are more challenging and focused on one specific topic like “Clean energy Marketing” for example. However, I found them the most interesting courses to take.

I enjoyed also the class sizes that they have at the University. Most classes I attended contained up to 30-40 people. This allowed for more focused learning and engagement with the professors. Also, there are plenty of courses in English to take, so if you cannot speak German, it is not a problem.
On exchange you are required to complete 30ECTS. This means you will be taking 6-8 classes in the semester. The study load is similar to UQ, however balancing so many classes at once will require you to develop good multitasking skills.

The most prominent challenge that I encountered is the Enrolment system that they have at the University. They use a bidding system to enrol in classes. This entails that you allocated a certain number of provided points to attend a class. Furthermore, as an exchange student, spots in a class are very limited as you only compete with other exchange students. I found I could not attend a lot of classes that I would like to, as there were no spaces left after the first couple rounds of bidding. Make sure you have been approved for a lot of classes before you start the semester to increase your chances of not missing out.

Furthermore, be aware that some of the classes are block seminars. These class run for only a few days (normally during the break) and are an intense style of learning. It is good if you can do one or two but I recommend not to do more than one at the same time.

Personal experience

Switzerland is the most beautiful country in the world (in my opinion). I was fortunate enough to travel all over the country, from Geneva, Lugano, St. Gallen and everything in between. The country is so diverse in its culture and landscape that there is plenty to see and do in both winter and summer. Also learning about the country’s culture and traditions was always interesting and enjoyable. 

There are many exchange students that attend the University and it is a fantastic opportunity to make some great friends from all over the world. The University has a student run organisation that puts on events and trips for exchange student. It was a great way to integrated with fellow international and local students.

I was able to take German courses as part of my Studies, which was very useful throughout my exchange. However, before the beginning of the semester, there is a one-week intensive German course that the university puts on for free. They cover all levels from A1 to C2, so the skills of each student can be met. 
I also developed a better work ethic. Taking 7 courses a semester forced me to change and manage my study techniques and required me to be more focused. After completing two semesters of this, I feel that I can apply more effort and be more efficient in my University career.

Accommodation

Due to personal choice I lived in a different city than St. Gallen. However, after talking with local and exchange students, there are two ways to gain accommodation. Through the University housing office or finding your own place to live. 

Through the housing office the university will provide rooms that are in good locations and that are within walking distance to the University and the town, however they can be more expensive. The other option is to find your own room. As St. Gallen is a University town, there are plenty of rooms available, though competition for the rooms can be tough. There is a Facebook group called “Sharing is Caring University of St. Gallen (HSG)” that can assist this process.

Costs

It is no lie, Switzerland is an expensive country. So just be aware of this if you decide to study here. You’re looking at about 500-600 CHF ($650-$800) a month for rent. Food is pricey as well, however there is neat little trick you can do. The German town of Konstanz is 30 minutes by train away. The food there is much cheaper, and it is very common for students to go and do the weeks shopping in Konstanz and then come back. 

To save on travel, I highly recommend getting both a “Halbtax” (half price on all train travel) and the “gleis7” (free train travel from 7PM-7AM). They cost a fair bit, but I would highly recommend them. Switzerland is such a beautiful and fantastic country, that you will be missing out if you don’t explore it. And with the gleis7, you can travel to Konstanz after 7PM and do your shopping for free.
The key is to try to prioritize what you want to do and do not be impulsive with you purchases. Follow this and you will have a fantastic time and get the most out of your exchange.

Professional Development

One thing I noticed while talking to both local and exchange students is that the main reason most of them attend HSG is because of its academic reputation. This is a major benefit of attending this university. Since you are surrounded by students that a very career focused, it changed my perspective of what is required to be successful in transferring from university life to a professional setting. 

The Academic development and teaching I received was highly valuable. Furthermore, attending an overseas University and interacting with other cultures really made me be more adaptable to different situations.

Highlight

Firstly, the country itself. I loved travelling around and getting to know Switzerland. Hiking up mountains and valleys, swimming in the lakes, eating the food and just experiencing the culture in general. Also, the friends I made and experiences I shared with others during the duration of my exchange will stay with me forever.

Secondly, the educational knowledge and personal skills that I received changed the way I conducted myself regarding my studies and work. I believed this will help me greatly in my future professional career.

Top tips

•    Make sure you have more than enough classes approved by UQ before you 
leave. Better chance at getting the classes you want.
•    If you speak German, I recommend taking some classes taught in German, better chance of getting into the class and getting a unique experience compared to other exchange students
•    I’d recommend going on exchange in the Spring Semester. As the examination period starts, the country gets warmer which is way better than the other way around. Also, then you can stay in Europe and travel around in the summer after your exchange.
•    Join the Buddy System program. The best way to make friends and experience HSG life.
•    Make a budget. It is an expensive country, so you want to be in control of your spending
•    Don’t be scared of studying in a non-English speaking country. Embrace the challenge and get out of your comfort zone! There are plenty of courses in English, tons of international students and every student pretty much speaks English anyway, so you will be fine regarding your studies.