One of the top destinations in Europe for tourists, historians, and backpackers, Switzerland is the home of some of the best outdoor recreation in the world as well as dramatic natural scenery and bustling, high-tech cities.

Known for the Swiss Alps, Switzerland has access to some of the best skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and camping in Europe. With world-renowned athletic facilities and mountain resorts, this area is an adventurer’s dream. In addition to high-impact sports, Switzerland has many medieval towns surrounded by lakes and valleys where students can enjoy the outdoors in a more relaxing setting.

Being very centrally-located, students can also get to almost anywhere from Switzerland using the InterRail or one of the country’s several airports. Rest assured, even though Switzerland is one of the smaller European countries, there will never be a dull moment for students taking a gap year here.

Switzerland is a very diverse country with many opportunities for gap year students. From learning in a traditional classroom setting to scaling the Alps, students will have no problem finding a program that fits their needs.

Language Study

The most popular type of gap year program in Switzerland is language study, probably because of the four languages Switzerland uses. Students can enroll in German, French, Italian, or Romansch classes while studying in Switzerland, and chances are students will return to the US having learned more than one language. Language study programs are an easy way to become very immersed in the Swiss culture, as students will be interacting with local students on a daily basis and many of these programs offer homestay options for even more immersion.

Conservation

Switzerland’s natural beauty is one of the things that makes the country so famous and so popular to visit. Its mountains, lakes, and valleys are some of the most breathtaking in the world, but they don’t stay clean by themselves. Students looking for a bit of adventure during their gap year should consider doing a conservation or wildlife volunteer program, which not only helps the environment, but will also make students feel a very personal connection to their host country. A popular program for outdoor volunteering is the Bergwald Projekt.

Volunteer

If working outdoors isn’t totally your thing, there are plenty of other ways to volunteer in Switzerland. Teaching English is one of the most popular ways to volunteer, as the Swiss put a lot of emphasis on wanting their children to speak fluent English. Another route is to do a volunteer service project, such as Volunteers for Peace. The Swiss are very proud of their peaceful history and working with locals to continue this is a great way to become immersed.

Cost of Living in Switzerland

Switzerland is known notoriously as one of the most expensive countries in the world. The biggest expenses for students living in Switzerland will most likely be public transportation and food. However, there are many ways to keep the cost of living down.

Research travel passes to avoid paying each time you use a bus or train. Shop at the local grocery store or street markets to save money on food and only eat out on special occasions. Also, use a student card for reduced admission fees to local attractions and events.

Culture and Etiquette in Switzerland

The biggest struggle for foreign students is pinning down what exemplifies the average Swiss. Because there are four different cultures and languages in Switzerland, adapting to the local culture can be very difficult.

However, there are some things that fit the profile of most locals. The Swiss value cleanliness, hard work, honesty, and punctuality above most other things. Being late is considered very rude, even for casual social outings.

They are also very proud of their long tradition of freedom, environmental-consciousness, and promotion of world peace. They also have very specific culinary etiquette, such as keeping their hands on the table at all times, using utensils for everything (including fruit), and if salt and pepper are not on the table, don’t ask for them.

There is generally no problem with food and water as restaurants and grocery stores are controlled by very strict health codes, and water is drinkable from every water tap (even public ones) unless marked otherwise. There are also plenty of organic grocery stores/restaurants, as well as vegetarian/vegan restaurants, and it is illegal to sell any genetically-modified food in Switzerland.

Health and Safety in Switzerland

Switzerland is typically a very safe country. Because of the amount of businesspeople and tourists, there is a mild amount of petty theft. So students should always keep an eye on their belongings.

The biggest safety issue that foreigners should be aware of is that many Swiss establishments print entire credit card numbers on receipts, which makes identity theft an issue when shopping or eating out. Students should always check their receipts and rip them up before discarding. Also, Swiss police take traffic violations very seriously, and jaywalkers will be fined on the spot.

No special immunizations are required to study in Switzerland and it is a very healthy country. Switzerland offers state-of-the-art healthcare and students will be completely taken care of if they should need to seek medical attention while abroad.

Contributed by Rebecca Murphy

Gap Year Programs in Switzerland

Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 programs
Up with People
Up with People On Tour Gap Year Experience
Multiple Countries
9.85 •75 reviews

Are you ready to turn your dream of travel into a reality? Travel with...

Viamonde
Work Exchange for Ski and Snowboard Instructors at International Ski Camp
Switzerland
10 •2 reviews

Responsibility for the daily supervision and instruction of a small...

Viamonde
Work Exchange as Healthcare Counselor at International Ski Camp
Switzerland
10 •1 review

Responsibility for the health and well-being of a group of children...

EA Ski & Snowboard
Ultimate Gap Year Ski Instructor Training Program
Multiple Countries
9.8 •5 reviews

Do you want to spend a winter gap year in the world's top ski...

Putney Student Travel
Adventure & Culture Program in Europe | Putney Student Travel
Multiple Countries
9 •1 review

Travel to Switzerland, Italy, France, and Holland this summer. From...

United Planet
Gap Year: Year Long Service Learning Opportunities in Switzerland with United Planet
Switzerland
10 •1 review

Join United Planet on a gap year volunteer Quest in Switzerland...

Viamonde
Work Exchange for Multi-Activity Instructor at International Activity Camp
Switzerland

Responsibility for the daily supervision of a small group of children...

Peak Leaders
Gap Year Ski Instructor Courses SWITZERLAND/FRANCE
Multiple Countries

How does spending a season becoming a ski instructor in one of the...

GreatAuPair
Switzerland Au Pair Jobs
Switzerland

GreatAupair helps people just like you find great Au Pairs. We give...

WE ARE SNO
Ski Instructor Course and Paid Job
Multiple Countries

WE ARE SNO are seeking experienced and passionate skiers to join an...

OnTheMountain Pro by Neige Aventure
Train & Work In The Swiss Alps With BASI
Switzerland

OnTheMountain Pro is proud to introduce two brand new ski/snowboard...

7Generations
Navigation Year - 7Generations
Switzerland

The Navigation Year is a powerful training year for young people from...

Pink Pangea
Travel Writing & Hiking Retreat in the Swiss Alps
Switzerland

Join us in the Swiss Alps for the experience of a lifetime. Pink...

Altitude Verbier
Altitude Futures Ski Instructor Gap Course
Switzerland

Altitude Futures in Verbier is offering you the chance to become a...

AuPair World
Au Pair in Switzerland with Au Pair World
Switzerland

You'd like to become an au pair in Switzerland? Here you can find all...

Tours & Trips in Switzerland

Looking for something to do during your time in Switzerland? Check out some of these tours and trips!
  • Smart Trip Europe
    3 Day Interlaken Tour in Winter
    Switzerland
    10 •5 reviews

    Are you ready for a weekend filled with adrenaline pumping adventures...

  • EA Ski & Snowboard
    Ultimate Winter Travel Experience: Improve Your Skiing & Gain a Qualification
    Multiple Countries
    10 •2 reviews

    Do you want to spend a winter gap year in the world's top ski...

  • Pilgrim Tours
    Christian Fellowship Tours & Cruises: Berlin, Dresden, Prague
    Multiple Countries

    Want to learn about the beginnings of the Protestant Church where the...

  • Expat Explore Travel
    Europe Multi-Country Coach Tours
    Multiple Countries

    Expat Explore's multi-country European tour packages take you to see...

  • Contiki
    European Discovery
    Multiple Countries

    Enjoy 13 days uncovering Europe's finest destinations and the Italian...

  • Outdoor Leadership Camps Switzerland
    Climbing and Mountaineering in the Swiss Alps
    Switzerland

    An OLCS course is a lifetime opportunity to develop leadership skills...

  • ProActive Travel
    Hockey Tours Across Europe
    Multiple Countries

    ProActive hockey tours are designed to create a once in a lifetime...

  • Ski Hostel
    Summer Hiking Package in Switzerland
    Switzerland

    The aim of our ski hostel is to offer a Swiss skiing experience to...

What People Are Saying

I traveled with Up with People 5 years ago. I was a backpacker before but it was so hard for me to get US and Schengen visa to travel when i was a students back then. I heard Up with People from a...

Volunteer work in Cumberland, RI

This program is NOT for the unmotivated or slackers, however anybody else will both thrive and grow in a multitude of ways. The combination of Cultural education, service work, and personal and...

Group photo of our hometeam (smaller group in the cast to find deeper community)

I can easily say Up with People changed my life, in so many ways. (I traveled for 5 semesters...one as a participant and 4 as staff.) I have learned so much about the world, about cultures, about...

Arriving in Florida!

Related Gap Year Articles