YEAR ABROAD FOCUS: France and Switzerland


The Croft Magazine // Epigram Travel is looking at students' experiences on their year abroad to help prospective year abroad students get to grips with this unique yet daunting opportunity. In this edition of Epigram's Guide to the Year Abroad we focus on France and Switzerland.

Work in France

Unsplash / Hunters Race

Lily (3rd Year French and Russian) is working for a law firm in Paris.

Perhaps the most significant and unexpected benefit of doing a year abroad is the transformative personal development. Working in a large firm in a big city forces you to grow up fast. The pressure is truly on you to perform to the level expected of you by your employer.

On the other hand, some of the social pressures of university life will also have vanished. There is no longer the expectation to arrange your time according to the rhythms of student life. You are free to organise yourself as you wish, and work out what kind of person you want to be in the future. It is a great way to test the waters of adult life, without the full-blown responsibility of being completely self-supporting. If you are terrified of finding a graduate job, and have little idea of what to do in the future, a year abroad can force you to spend time in industry. Whether or not you end up directly using this experience or not, it will certainly help shape and direct your future.

Almost certainly there will be expectations that are not met. I was convinced that I would be able to talk my way into the front row of Paris fashion week, but sadly this was not to be. But in other ways the year will far exceed them, be that through new meaningful friendships, or even just a better relationship with yourself, as the university lifestyle can leave you with little time to really stop and think. The one takeaway I have for anyone who is about to embark on a year abroad is not to spend every evening looking at photos of Bristol. You will be back there far sooner than you realise, so don’t waste an amazing opportunity.

Study in Switzerland

Unsplash / Aaron Burden

Tania (3rd Year French, Spanish and Portuguese) is studying at the University of Geneva.

The University of Geneva was my top choice when applying for universities in second year, and so far, it has been an amazing experience.  The application process was simple; I was able to choose most of my classes from the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting and could take up to one class from any other faculty – a great way to study something new! The staff were very helpful and quick to give recommendations on where to find accommodation, as it is quite scarce and expensive. Luckily, I was given student accommodation in the beautiful Carouge neighbourhood, a 20-minute tram ride from my faculty’s building, Uni Mail.

However, there is one main downside of studying in Geneva: the cost of living. Accommodation can be very expensive (over £800 a month for a small room), so finding housing as soon as possible is a must.  In a guide that was given to us during our Welcome Session, a student’s estimated monthly budget was calculated to be around £1400, all costs included.  Thankfully, Switzerland is part of the SEMP scholarship, which provides bursaries to all incoming European students (around £1300 per semester).  Additionally, European students can work up to 10 hours a week, with their job hunting being made easier by the university’s career page, which has a section dedicated to all kinds of job listings for its students.

There are lots sports and societies that let you throw yourself into student life abroad.  Personally, I decided to try something new, signed up to boxing, which has proven to be a very fun challenge so far.  It helps that most sports are completely free or heavily subsidised!  There are also plenty of social events organised by the Erasmus Student Network team, such as pub nights, bowling and hikes up the stunning swiss mountains. If you are interested in international organisations, Geneva is the place to be!  For example, I have had the opportunity to attend a UN Day at the Palace of Nations, the former headquarters for the League of Nations – all thanks to one of the societies at the university.

All in all, Geneva is a beautiful multicultural city definitely worth going to on your year abroad.

*Featured Image credit: Unsplash/ Alice Triquet *

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Will Holmes

Digital Travel Editor | Former Editor of SPA award-winning publication La Civetta | Case Law Editor for The Student Lawyer | Digital Content Executive for LittleLaw