AFS Year High School Abroad in Switzerland

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Year & Gap: Spend an academic year in Switzerland after high school absorbing Swiss culture and lifestyle by living with a host family and attending a local high school. With bragging rights to one of the world's best education systems, Switzerland's schools will keep you engaged and inspired. And if that's not enough, there is no better place to go for inspiration than the towering Alps and Switzerland's crystal clear lakes.

In Swiss culture, the nuclear family is the most important social unit, and weekends are generally spent together. As lovers of the outdoors, most Swiss spent a great deal of time taking advantage of the mountains, lakes and forests nearby.

Dinner is the main meal of the day and is an opportunity for the family to eat together, exchange views, and make plans. Swiss families tend to care about healthy foods, and Swiss cuisine is mainly a union of French and German alpine cuisine. One famous dish is fondue, in which Emmenthaler and Gruyère cheese is melted with white wine and eaten with bread cubes.

Questions & Answers

Hi Anna! In this program, our participants are mostly placed in German-speaking families and schools, but there are also opportunities for French-speaking placements. Please give us a call at 1-800-AFS-INFO to speak with one of our specialists and learn more about the options we offer.
Yes! For more information regarding scholarships, please visit or contact [email protected] .


based on 4 reviews
  • Growth 9
  • Support 6.5
  • Fun 9
  • Housing 8
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 1 - 4 of 4
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AFS Switzerland 2014-2015

I was in Switzerland for eleven months, ending in July 2015. I would absolutely recommend the AFS program, the Switzerland chapter is wonderful. My host family truly is a family to me (we're skyping Sunday). I met so many other exchange students, and because Switzerland is a small country, it wasn't difficult to travel inside and outside of the country. Some of my favorite memories include the exchange student parties in the parks, using my days off to explore a new canton or city, and hiking with my Swiss parents or watching movies with my Swiss sister. One experience unique to AFS is the volunteer camps: I and about 30 other exchange students spent a week in the mountains helping Swiss farmers. It was hard work, but after we'd finish, we'd return to the house we stayed in, cook dinner, dance (a lot), tell stories, and play games. I loved being with so many people who understood my experience and immersing myself in the environment, and it brought me closer to a lot of my friends, many of whom I'm still in regular contact with. I wish I could go back to my Swiss family or be on exchange again, I absolutely love traveling and I'm looking to do more of it at every opportunity. If you're thinking about exchange: do it. It won't always be easy, but it's absolutely worth it in the end and you'll experience so much personal growth.

How can this program be improved?
Communication between chapters. The West metro here in Minnesota isn't as developed as I'd like, and communication between different segments of AFS would have made things smoother.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Fondue and Foreigners

My time in Switzerland was a very formative time in my life. I had already graduated high school and was taking a gap year before I started college. AFS was a perfect way for me to stay engaged academically while still have the freedom to explore a whole new culture and place. I was very lucky in that my host family was everything that I needed. They were caring and invited me into their community and family wholeheartedly while still gave me the freedom to travel and learn and make my own decisions. I lived right outside of Zurich, Switzerland, and as a county girl from rural New England, I never felt more like I was in the center of the western world. I went to gymnasium in the center of the city and due to the great public transport system I was able to go anywhere incredibly easily. The most meaningful social connections I made were with other exchange students and other foreign students. I formed most of these connections in AFS program get togethers and orientations as well as in my German course for non-German speakers. My school offered a very good programs for students new to the language and academically this is where I thrived and was most motivated. I believe learning a language is such an important step in understanding the culture, and my AFS year in Switzerland gave me that very valuable opportunity.

How can this program be improved?
I think AFS overall (not just in Switzerland) needs better protocol for handling students in tough situations. Whether it be because someone made a mistake, is having a hard time mentally or emotionally, or is unhappy with their host situation, I have heard and know too many people who experienced unfair management from the AFS administration.
Yes, I recommend this program
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host families

One of the things no one tells you when you go abroad is that you and the host family assigned to you might not be a good fit. While its crucial that you try to overcome social and cultural differences, sometimes you just don't fit with a family. The important thing to remember is that it's not in your head. You know what's right or wrong for you. Don't be afraid to let someone from your organization know that you're unhappy.

My first host family was not a good fit for me. We didn't get along. Our personalities conflicted, they weren't open to who I was as a person and I felt unwelcome in their home. AFS volunteers led me to believe that this was all temporary. I was convinced that I was in the wrong and that if I tried harder everything would work itself out. It didn't. I finally got AFS to host a meeting between my host parents, me and a few volunteers after speaking with another returnee about my experience. With that hour long meeting, AFS came to realize that I was not the problem, my host parents were. I finally got a new host family and loved them dearly. I felt safe and happy and accepted with them.

I think it's very important that you have a good experience. You're paying to have a good time. If the organization you're with does not push for you to enjoy your stay in your host country, something is wrong but it is most definitely not you.

How can this program be improved?
I would have more recent returnees be in charge. Even adult returnees can't relate to current students at the same level as recent returnees.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Why Switzerland is the Greatest Place on Earth

Besides the obvious reason of Switzerland's superior chocolate, living in that beautiful country close to the Alps is a unique experience. My host family truly valued the importance of mealtime, and we always ate together, even when I had to bike home from school to do so. I absolutely loved my host family because they were so generous and welcomed me with open arms. The biggest challenge for me was having to learn both High German and the local dialect of Swiss German, which are basically two different languages. There are so many little special quirks about the country like how the Swiss turn off their car engines at a red light or how notebook paper is actually graphing paper. Altogether, I fell in love with this country very quickly. My recommendation to anyone thinking about Switzerland, is to go for it. Challenge yourself, do some outdoorsy stuff, and learn about this little-known country in the middle of Europe. This isn't a kind of experience that you will ever regret.

How can this program be improved?
Although my overall experience was more than could be asked for, I did have trouble communicating with AFS about extending my stay for a week at the end, and that led to a bit of stress. An improvement would be to have a set hierarchy of people to contact when an exchange student needs something relatively big to be done.
Yes, I recommend this program


AFS-USA (formerly the American Field Service), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is a leader in intercultural learning and offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world through independent, nonprofit AFS...