The second most populous city in Switzerland, Geneva is arguably perfectly located surrounded by mountains and next to a lake (Lake Geneva). As well as being home to the second-largest sites of the United Nations, it is also home to the Université de Genève (University of Geneva). Spread across three buildings throughout the city, the University of Geneva was founded in 1559 by John Calvin. It hosts over 16,500 students of over 150 different nationalities, which perhaps echoes Geneva itself; walking down the street, it is possible to hear several languages being spoken at once. Geneva is a modern University with extensive facilities.
I, personally, was fortunate enough to spend a semester studying at the University of Geneva’s prestigious Faculty of Translation and Interpreting as part of my year abroad. It is very safe to say that I certainly left a piece of my heart in Geneva, and I have fond memories of my time there. Here, I have some advice and tips for those who may be studying in Geneva as an International Student in the future.
Honestly, finding accommodation in Geneva is a real pain. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to begin searching for accommodation as soon as you’ve had your place confirmed. It is unlikely that you will be placed in University owned accommodation; however they are generally helpful in that they will send you a list of foyers and other accommodation possibilities. It was by some stroke of luck that I ended up in La Cité Universitaire de Genève – which is a large halls of residence style place and I would recommend this for its price and because it has a community feel to it. Also, the view I had from my room of France’s Mont Salève was pretty spectacular. It’s situated a fair distance away from the University buildings, but Geneva has excellent transport links and the public transport system offers deals for students, where you can buy a monthly travel pass for around 40CHF.
Despite being in Geneva to study, as a compulsory part of my degree, what also made my time in at the University of Geneva special and memorable was their wide range of extra-curricular activities. Admittedly, they can be costly to join (side note, Switzerland is an expensive country); there are lots to choose from. There are many sports clubs – from skiing and snowboarding, to horse riding, Karate and curling. There are also lots of cultural activities to choose from – art, theatre, music etc., there is something for everyone. Including myself – alongside my studies at the University of Geneva, I also took a course in Creative Writing. The course was taught by a Bulgarian lady and I had the chance to explore different writing styles. I would recommend doing something in addition to your studies as it helps you to make friends, avoid homesickness and also try something new.
Another excellent facility at the University of Geneva is their Tandem programme. This matches students as language partners and you meet up and spend a certain amount of time speaking one language and a certain amount of time speaking another language. This is a fantastic and a highly recommended way to improve your language skills as well as to meet new people whilst studying abroad.
The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) – separate to the University also run cultural activities and even host a welcome tour of the city for international students.
GENEVA – A BUCKET LIST
In my opinion, there are a few certain things that you absolutely MUST do if you are spending time in Geneva. These are also some of the favourite things that I got up to while I was there.
- Do a tour of the United Nations building – they run tours for the public where you are able to see some important rooms at the UN building. For students, this costs around 10CHF but it is worth it.
- Go to the Salon du Livre event – I stumbled across this annual event by accident and I am so glad that I did. The Salon du Livre is held each year in Geneva at the Palexpo building which is about ten minutes away from Geneva Airport. It is a HUGE book fair and for me, it was like walking into heaven. There are also talks from authors and writers at this event. Furthermore, entry is free for those under the age of 26.
- Walk by the lake – walking by beautiful Lake Geneva is a must – the Jet D’Eau always looks splendid, whatever the weather.
- Take a day trip to either France or another Swiss city – despite Switzerland being expensive to travel around, it is possible. Geneva is also perfectly located as it is easy to “hop over the border” and visit France too. Personally, I took a day trip to Chamonix in France on a coach, and also travelled to Zurich for a concert.
- Go up Mont Salève – this French mountain is easily reachable on one of Geneva’s bus routes and is also cheap to get up in the cable car – the views from the top are beautiful, especially on a clear day.
- Eat fondue in an expensive restaurant – this just HAS to be done in Geneva.
Overall, Geneva is a gorgeous city to live in – generally, everyone is friendly. The University is also a very nice place in which to study, make friends and learn. The entire study abroad experience is overwhelming at times, but I found that, in Geneva, I was significantly less homesick because I was busy a lot. Certainly the absolute highlight of my time in Geneva was indeed finding the Salon du Livre 2016 event on its last day, walking in to millions of books, giving myself a 50CHF budget and then leaving hours later, with bags full of 150CHF of books…