All the Highs and the Lows

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Full Academic Year

Tom is currently studying abroad at the University of Geneva with his French and Economics degree at Reading. We catch up with him half way through his year abroad in Switzerland! 

So much has happened in the past 5 months that I don’t think it’s possible to capture it all in writing. It’s been a semester that’s had some serious highs and equally some serious lows, but ultimately my time here so far has been an experience that I wouldn’t change for anything.

It would be best to start off with the university; I have found the learning dynamic to be far different from Reading. Sure enough the classes and lectures follow a similar format to that of back home, but the feeling of a unified student community is lacking. This can mostly be attributed to the fact that the University of Geneva is not situated on a campus – the buildings are instead spread out across the city. This means that as you head to a lecture it feels as if you are going to a job, this is amplified by the general hard-working attitude of Swiss students who are reluctant to socialise before and after class. Lastly there are very few societies that students can join making it difficult to branch out past the Erasmus group. In general the courses are quite demanding but also very engaging. Learning in French has proven difficult, as although I’m able to understand the material the problem is being able to retain information in French.

The bulk of the “lows” that I have faced are thanks to my accommodation. When I arrived I was renting a room in a house that was simply too far from the centre/university, a 30-minute uphill cycle ride home each day put me in great physical shape but left me feeling disconnected from everyone. After a month and a half I moved to a room that was perfectly situated but then I shortly realized that living there was not an option – an old and smelly single mattress tucked up in the corner of a room in an apartment owned by a heavy pot-smoker who had the TV on full volume until 2am most nights made me feel very uneasy and it took a serious toll on my studies. I was then able to sub-let a room in the student residence whilst I awaited the move into my official room there as of the next semester – this came as a relief as I was surrounded by students in a comfortable and secure atmosphere.

My favourite part of this YA so far has been the sheer amount of travelling that myself and friends have been doing. So far I have visited Zurich, Lyon, Budapest, Rome, and Barcelona as well as day trips to other neighbouring towns in France/Switzerland. This has been wonderful as you are with a group of people who share the same enthusiasm to get out there and discover things. To fund all these activities I have secured a job as a babysitter for a Swiss family; the children are exhausting, but they often (indirectly) help by correcting my French which is something that adults refrain from out of politeness. At the start of January I volunteered in an independent film festival called “Blackmovie”, it was really fun to take part in something that I usually wouldn’t consider doing in the UK and I was able to make a connection with a few of the locals.

With the coldest days of winter behind me and a new semester on the horizon I am thrilled to see what the next few months will bring.

Tom 

Missed Tom’s last blog post? Catch up here: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/reading-abroad/category/switzerland-study-abroad/

 

 

My Advice – Sign up to the Buddy Scheme!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Full Academic Year

Tom is currently studying abroad at the University of Geneva with his French and Economics degree at Reading. Read on to find out how he’s settling in to his new life in Switzerland for the next academic year. 

The end of summer came about rapidly, and before I knew it I was boarding my one-way flight to Switzerland. Having only secured accommodation a couple days prior to my departure (despite the months of frantic searching coupled with an unsuccessful trip to find somewhere) it was safe to say that I was relieved in the comfort of knowing that I had a bed to sleep in. I felt a perfect balance of anxiety and excitement – the thrill of diving into the unknown paralleled with the insecurity of a completely different lifestyle made me feel like I was truly about to embark on a journey that would define who I am as an individual.

I attended the welcome session – an event that was supposed to be an introduction to the university, but it felt more like a social day whereby the exchange students could unite. On this day I was fortunate enough to meet a wide range of people from all across Europe. I was soon reassured that I would not find myself lonely over the course of the upcoming year. A committee known as “ESN Genève” (Erasmus Social Network) invited us to sign up to their group so that we may participate in their events, and I couldn’t be more satisfied. Along with regular day trips, every Wednesday we meet for a pub night which is a great opportunity to socialise and catch-up with those not on our course, as well as to show off the true British spirit of getting absolutely hammered.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Full Academic Year

Getting myself established within the University was somewhat of a bureaucratic nightmare and I was soon convinced that administration staff are very reluctant help. With an array of documents that needed signing by different individuals, along with complex office hours that each member of staff pertained it took a little over 2 weeks of pestering before I could get everything organised. My advice to future students in my position would be to sign up to the ‘buddy’ programme offered by ESN and to ask your buddy (a non-exchange student) for advice.

Outside of lectures my life consists of similar activities that I would do back in the UK, before temperatures drop too low we’ve been profiting in spending afternoons outdoors walking around the lake, grabbing coffee in Geneva’s niche cafés, and finding bargains at the numerous flea markets that appear across the city. With the cost of living being so expensive I often cycle to France in order to do my grocery shopping as it’s far cheaper, however this often leads me to overspend as the attractive prices cause me to disregard my budget.

Adjusting to life here has been relatively easy as most people are friendly and outgoing, seeming to have a similar ‘can-do’ attitude to the cliché American one. The city streets are clean and I generally feel very safe. This is not to say that I don’t miss British culture and at the moment I am still finding myself with thoughts along the lines of: “that’s not what we do in the UK”. But in conclusion, I am having a great time and I’m certain that in the upcoming months my love for this city will grow even more!

Tom

 

Study Abroad Adventure in Geneva

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Full Academic Year

Jaime is currently studying abroad at the University of Geneva in Switzerland as part of his French and International Relations degree at Reading. Read his blog entry about settling into his new home in Geneva for the next academic year.

I would like to start off this entry by stating that I never thought I would end up in Geneva. Yes, I did choose Geneva as my study placement option for my year abroad. But I ended up changing my mind and I tried hard to find a work placement. But I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to find a placement.

In the end, I found myself desperately looking for accommodation in Geneva as my work placement option failed… However, I feel so lucky about not getting a placement. Now that I am in Geneva I can’t imagine myself any happier in a placement. This place is great!

My experience upon arriving was more stressful than pleasant as I just threw myself into the adventure and came here without having any secured place to stay. I got a hotel for 3 nights. 3 nights and 3 days was the amount of time I gave myself to find accommodation. I think it is understandable that I did not enjoy at all my first days in Geneva. After being rejected by a big number of estate agents and private hosts as well as student accommodations tension began to build up inside of me, but in the end things started to turn as it was on my return to the hotel with my aunt that we saw an aparthotel in France, 5 minutes away from the Swiss border. We decided to try luck there. I am currently writing this first blog entry from my apartment here, therefore I guess I don’t have to say that this place was and is still is perfect.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Full Academic Year

Enjoying Geneva with my very lovely aunt.

My family thought it would be a problem for me to live in France and study in Geneva, and if there are any problems I really can’t see them. Gaillard, which is the village where I currently am living is very well communicated with my university, the only thing I must do is walk 5 minutes to the border and pop into a tram, which will leave me in front of university in little more than 25 minutes. However, when the weather allows me to do so I ride my bicycle to university. Geneva is great for biking, therefore as a bicycle lover I am very comfortable here.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Switzerland for a Full Academic Year

Very nice views from my apartment

So far everything was perfect, I had my own apartment and I was very well communicated with central Geneva. I would also like to mention that having my own apartment in a hotel is by far much cheaper than renting a room in Geneva as I was offered a very decent student discount. So, as I was saying, everything was perfect, but university still worried me a little due to the language and because I didn’t know what to expect. Honestly, this university is great, without taking into account how slow the administration is.

The best thing is that I got to choose what I want to do throughout the year, therefore it is impossible to do something which doesn’t pleases me, on top of that I was given a few weeks to try the lessons in order to be able to choose the best ones for me. Now I find myself having university only 2 days a week, which is quite comfortable, and taking modules in which I am very interested. Have I mentioned how nice my building is? An image is worth more than 1000 words!

 

Having only 2 days a week of university seems amazing as you get plenty of time for yourself, but that time for yourself is not a good thing if you don’t make the most out of it. I wanted to invest the time I had in something I love; sports. My first option was to retake boxing, but I also wanted to start something new. Out of all of the different sports I’ve been offered, I decided to give capoeira a chance. It was a great choice, I love this new sport, the other students are very friendly and the master is amazing. In sports I was also given the option to try some lessons in order to find the one which most suits me, and that was how I realised that boxing did not suit me at all due to the timings of the lessons. So I decided to try another sport, and I found out that the university offered me to take judo lessons. Having done Judo for a long time I thought it would be a great option for me, so I decided to retake Judo.

There is not much else to say about my experience so far. Only that so it is being perfect and I can’t wait to see what awaits for me in the future while being in Geneva!

Jaime