8 Things to Know Before You Study Abroad in Geneva

by Alexandra Bates Aug 17, 2009

All photos courtesy of the author.

While Geneva is a great place to study abroad, there are definitely some things that are helpful to know before going. Here are some tips and information for future Geneva travelers.

1. Geneva is a city with much to offer but at a steep price.

Everything from a night out to groceries is expensive, but there are ways to avoid the Geneva money-trap.

Denner is a cheap and decent place to buy groceries. While it may not carry every item you need, it has the basics and then some, including all the alcohol and chocolate a person could want.

Going out to bars and clubs on the weekends can be fun, but for those on a budget it’s probably best to limit nights out to special occasions.

Drinks at clubs can cost a fortune; I once paid 30 CHF, about the equivalent of $27, for one drink. As an alternative to going out every weekend, sit by the lake and enjoy a bottle of wine with friends.

2. It’s best to travel from Geneva by train.

Although Switzerland is at the center of Europe, it’s not so easy to find flights out of Geneva to where you want to go.

Traveling by train makes getting around easier and cheaper, especially with a half-fare card. This card costs 150 CHF for a year and saves you 50 percent off any tickets for travel within Switzerland.

3. Some bathrooms cost money to use.

Oftentimes train stations charge about 2 CHF to use restrooms. Those restrooms are better kept and cleaner, but they’re not the only ones available. In Geneva’s main train station there are free public restrooms in the bottom level.

4. The winters are cold.

Think of Geneva as the Chicago of Europe — the windy city. During the winter, the winds are especially brutal, so be sure to pack a heavy coat, scarves, gloves and hats.

5. Geneva is a French-speaking city.

Unlike most of Switzerland, the main language of Geneva is not German.

With the city located so close to the border with France, most people speak French and many even commute from France to work in Geneva.

6. The Swiss are very punctual.

Unless there’s an accident, trains always run on time in Switzerland, so don’t be late!

7. The last train out of Geneva leaves around midnight.

If you will be living just outside of Geneva, this is good to know. However, if you miss the train or are planning a late night, you can catch a night bus.

You may have the feeling of being kidnapped in these small vans, but they offer a cheaper alternative to cabs. They run about once every hour and a half in the very early morning hours and stop only at select spots.

8. Geneva is a great place to try skiing and paragliding.

The Alps make skiing convenient almost year-round, and there are many ski resorts in the area.

Paragliding off the top of Le Saleve, a mountain just across the border in France, allows you to see all of Geneva — the lake, fountain and mountains.

Geneva Study Abroad Programs

There are many study abroad programs in Geneva, so it helps to know which stand above the others.

My personal experience was with Webster University, which has its own campus in Geneva. Webster offers 8-week, semester, year and summer-long programs. Another perk, the school also covers round-trip airfare for undergraduates in good standing.

Kent State also has a solid study abroad program in Geneva, which allows students the chance to intern with a non-governmental organization during their stay. Students can live in dorms or with locals. Semester and summer programs are available.

Smith College, in Massachusetts, offers a yearlong study abroad internship program in Geneva in which students live in dorms with other international students. Students must have at least four years of college and have taken two years of French to be eligible.

For a comprehensive list of study abroad programs in Geneva, check out the Geneva page at studyabroad.com.

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