Switzerland has always been well known as the peacekeeper amongst surrounding nations. Because of its neutrality, this country has been able to embody multiple cultures and make its own. It has four (FOUR!) official languages: French, German, Italian, and Romansh. You might be eager to perfect your German while you’re there, but you could end up also becoming proficient in French… what a great two-for-one!
As well as being so culturally diverse, it is also physically beautiful. Not only are its cities historical and clean, but its natural landscapes include beautiful lakes, mountains, and valleys. All in all, it makes for an incredibly safe, clean, yet cultured high school abroad experience.
Switzerland is best for students who: are interested in international affairs, languages, and love the outdoors just as much as city life.
Study abroad in Switzerland is a great option if you want to challenge yourself. This type of program includes either exchange programs or short term programs, which will vary from a couple months over the summer to either a semester or a full academic year. Students who want to really dive deep into their academics in another country are perfect for this option.
The Swiss high school system is competitive so you will be sure to get a high-quality education. In addition to learning in a great academic environment, you will also be in the heart of Europe with plenty of real-life immersion opportunities available.
Cultural and/or language immersion programs are the best options for students who want to immerse themselves fully but may not have the ability to do so over the school year. Like we already said, Switzerland has four official languages, so you won’t be at a shortage of options! The UN headquarters are also located in Switzerland, which is a perfect place to learn about other cultures.
Due to the country’s glorious natural backdrops, teen travel has always been a great option for the adventurous student. This way, you can hike or ski the Alps, visit the famous jet d’eau, and try some world-renowned chocolate all in one trip!
Planning Your Trip
As the largest city in Switzerland, German-speaking Zurich attracts many students of all ages all year long. It is situated right on Lake Zurich, and is an international hub for many financial companies. Fun fact, it was also named the city with the best quality of life!
French-speaking Geneva is the second largest city and also on its lake namesake (Lake Geneva). It is known for being home to distinguished organizations such as the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and the World Trade Organization.
Bern is the capital of Switzerland and is also top ten for cities with the best quality of life (are you sensing a trend?) It is very laid-back and quaint, but is also a UNESCO world heritage site. You’ll be constantly learning at every turn you take down its cobble stoned streets!
If you're interested in learning Italian, Lugano, a small, cobblestoned city nestled between Lake Lugano and the foothills of the Alps is another city to consider.
Student visa requirements
Students coming from the EU will not need a student visa. Students coming from most other Western nations will be able to receive a tourist visa on arrival and use that for any trip less than 90 days.
For courses longer than three months, you will need a long-term national D visa. Make sure to double check with the Swiss consulate or embassy in your home country.
Homestays and dormitories are the two most popular options. These are the best options for full immersion into Swiss culture and lifestyle. However, if you are doing a teen travel program, expect to stay in hotels or hostels.
Switzerland is a fairly expensive country to travel and study in. Though you could easily spend over $100 per day traveling there, most program providers will cover your essential items in the program fees: housing, food, excursions, and transportation.
If you are going for a full year, make sure to pack for all four seasons (as well as some ski and/or snowboard gear!). Some essentials not to forget include: a rain jacket, hiking boots (if you are doing some outdoorsy activities), good walking shoes, and a journal to keep track of all of your adventures!
Health & Safety
There are no vaccinations necessary to travel to Switzerland, just make sure you have your routine vaccinations in order before leaving.
Another precaution for this mountainous country is altitude sickness. While it may not occur to everyone, it can happen from time to time. If you feel it coming on, don’t ignore it and make sure to tell someone so that you can get some rest, and recover to enjoy the rest of your stay.
Switzerland's reputation is true: it's an incredibly safe country. However, just like any other country, make sure to stay aware and vigilant and be aware of pickpockets in crowded areas... and no cow-tipping, y'all.