AFS Year High School Abroad in Switzerland

Video and Photos

AFS Orientation Camp
The best host family on earth and me
Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland

About

Switzerland is a small, polished gem of a country, with mountains, forests, lakes, and modern cities like Zurich and Geneva. While there are three common languages – German (70%), French (20%), and Italian (10%), you will probably live with a German-speaking host family. Switzerland is said to have one of the world’s best education systems, and most students go to public schools by public transportation.

Family life is important to the Swiss and you'll spend a good amount of time with your host family, taking trips to nearby natural resorts, as well as having healthy meals together. You'll discover a love for the outdoors in Switzerland, since the Swiss greatly enjoy hiking, skiing, and bicycling. No matter where you’re placed, you’ll never be more than 10 miles from one of Switzerland’s 1,500 sparkling lakes.
Discover diversity in a peaceful, collaborative, and idyllic environment when you study abroad in Switzerland!

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.

Highlights
  • Immerse yourself in German, French, or Italian – the best way to become fluent.
  • Experience Switzerland’s stunning natural landscapes, from snow-capped mountains to crystal-clear lakes.
  • Live with a host family to deepen your immersion and connection to Swiss culture. If you’re like most AFSers, you won’t want to leave this second family and home.
  • Make connections and memories you'll never forget with other AFS exchange students from all over the world.
  • Become a global citizen. Gain intercultural communication skills. Build your college and career resume. Help create a more peaceful, understanding world.

Scholarships

AFS-USA Scholarships
AFS-USA Grants & Scholarships

The opportunity to study abroad should be available to everyone, regardless of their financial means. Annually, we award scholarships to about half of our study abroad students.

Value
$1,000 - $5,000

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 https://www.afsusa.org/study-abroad/scholarships/ or contact [email protected] .

Reviews

93%
based on 4 reviews
  • Growth 9
  • Support 6.5
  • Fun 9
  • Housing 8
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 1 - 4 of 4
Default avatar
Anna
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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.
Default avatar
Molly
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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.
Default avatar
Hannah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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.
Default avatar
Larissa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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.

About AFS-USA

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...