Geneva attracts the best and brightest individuals; students drawn to excellent study abroad programs and the myriad of international organizations headquartered there. With the United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Health Organization, European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and the World Trade Organization, to name a few, there are also exceptional opportunities to combine your study with internships. While students in Geneva know how to study, they also know how to have a good time. Geneva is a dynamic city with world-class amenities. It combines old world charm with modern restaurants and bars. There is plenty to do and see, and Geneva is well-placed within Europe so travel is easy. Studying abroad in Geneva is sure to be unforgettable and an experience of a lifetime.
Photo credits: archer10 (Dennis).
Geneva is really two towns, Rive Gauche and Rive Droite, separated by the Rhone River and united by Lake Geneva. Old Town is a charming collection of cobblestone streets, ancient churches, and beautiful buildings. Across the Rhone on the Rive Droite are the headquarters for the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other important international non-governmental organizations. Don’t miss the magnificent Jet d’Eau, a fountain of water shooting 140m into the air from the middle of Lake Geneva.
Other highlights include the historically important St. Pierre Cathedral and other monuments to the Protestant Reformation. Students will love the charm of Old Town, the wide selection of bars and over 1200 restaurants that dot the city. The city is very welcoming to the many students who make Geneva home and there are often discounts at theatres and book stores, as well cultural events.
During the summer, for example, the Verdure Theatre in Parc de la Grange offers free concerts and there is a three day Fete de la Musique with live music. Find more information through organizations such as the Erasmus Student Network.
There’s no beating around the bush, Geneva is expensive. It’s one of the most expensive cities in the world and it doesn’t help American students that the Swiss Franc is strong against the dollar. Despite the expense, there are ways for students to enjoy their experience and take advantage of all that this beautiful city has to offer. For example, it’s a very walkable city, so save a few francs and skip the bus or taxi. You will probably find that groceries are cheaper just across the border in France and all of the fountains in Geneva run with clean, fresh, pure mountain water, which saves you from buying bottled water. Geneva continues to be a top destination for students so the costs aren’t prohibitive.
To further help with costs, your study abroad office should be able to provide information on scholarships and fundraising. Do some research to find opportunities with individual programs that have scholarships and financial aid.
Culture and Immersion
Geneva is a friendly, welcoming city where 40% of those who call it home are international. This creates a melting pot of cultures and a sense of camaraderie and hospitality. One of the biggest challenges is the cost of living, which can be a shock, but otherwise, it should be a relatively low-stress transition. While French is the official language, many people speak at least some English, so you should never feel lost. Geneva is clean and manageable, and good size for walking and knowing one’s way around. Of course, there is always a period of culture shock when living in a new place, so be sure to take advantage of the resources at your study abroad program. They will have someone to talk to, to offer advice, and to help with the transition. Geneva is home to many American expatriates and you can research meetups and events on websites such as AngloInfo.
- Le Calamar has the best American-type burgers – be sure to order it “saignante” or rare so it’s extra juicy.
- You won’t want to miss Café Jules Verne – with stone walls and wide-planked wooden floors – it has atmosphere and character as well as good food and drinks.
- Café des Arts has live jazz music.
- Librairie Point Rouge will buy back books in good condition (or you can donate them and be sure they are going to a good cause).