I’d been set on doing a year abroad ever since my gap year back in 2019/20 when my plans had been put on hold due to the pandemic and as soon as I noticed UoS offered English with a Year Abroad I jumped at the chance. I’ve heard that undertaking a year abroad is often the best part of a students uni experience and I’ve always felt that living abroad is one of the most valuable life experiences someone can have. Though it might sound like a clichĂ©, I can confirm that both of these are absolutely true in my case and I’m sure they will be for you as well if you choose to do a study abroad. Lausanne was not on my original options list and when I got offered the place I was a little worried as I couldn’t find any other student blogs or reports about Lausanne. I’d never even heard of Lausanne myself and after some initial research I found out it was in the French-speaking region of Switzerland and both the city and university’s campus was located right on Lac LĂ©man (Lake Geneva). The language barrier worried me a little as I found French so difficult back in secondary school but I was very much open to giving it another go. Since I study English literature, I knew that the study portion of the year would be in English so this took the pressure off a little. It seemed very unusual to many people that I went abroad to a French-speaking city studying English lit but I always responded that for me this year was more an opportunity to live abroad and I saw the language barrier as a chance to pick up a new language since I was completely immersed in it on the day to day.

So, like I said before, I was going into this experience completely blind as I couldn’t find any past students from UoS that had gone to Lausanne who might have had some advice and I would be lying if I said it was smooth sailing right from the start. Even before arriving I had completely fallen in love with how beautiful the city and its surroundings were. The city itself is a pretty perfect size for a student and its location right on the lake facing the alps is absolutely stunning. While this is a massive pro, since I am speaking from experience I would love to pass on some little tips and tricks so that if you do choose to go abroad to Lausanne (something I would highly recommend), it goes as smoothly as possible.

  • I knew before arriving how expensive Switzerland can be as I’d visited the country before. Actually living there is different though and the cost of a food shop is noticeably higher than in the UK while added expenses such as a monthly metro subscription do dent the bank account. There are definitely ways around this however such as shopping in cheaper supermarkets such as Lidl (much like we do at home), and receiving the SEMP grant alongside student finance is a massively appreciated help. While Swiss prices are definitely something to consider, do not let it deter you as there are always ways to save money here and there while still having a great time.
  • As should be generally expected when studying at universities outside of the UK, L’UniversitĂ© de Lausanne works slightly differently to UoS when it comes to class registration. Students here choose from all the classes offered for the semester and spend the first 4 weeks trialling and registering for the classes they want to take (as long as they’ve passed 60 credits by the end of the year). The difficulty I encountered however was that for English lit certain classes had a limit on how many students they could take and would quickly fill up. Since this wasn’t explained to me when I started the semester, I spoke to the teachers of those classes and they kindly let me take the class even if the limit was reached. I found that as an exchange student in a foreign university, certain differences were initially quite daunting so it was a great comfort when members of the university took the time to explain things or make exemptions for me – I just needed to ask!
  • Another thing I encountered within my first month in Lausanne was the amount of admin that accompanied my arrival. By this I mean the residence permit that I had to apply for, medical insurance and opening a bank account. These were definitely the most stressful mainly due to the language barrier but each taught me so much about both the city and myself. The permit application involved me heading down to the post office to send off all my forms with the much needed help of google translate. Exchange students in Lausanne also receive exemption from paying for Swiss medical insurance so I explored much of the city when heading down to show my GHIC card to the health office. Though I initially planned to use my Monzo account throughout the year, the accommodation I was with required a Swiss bank account to pay rent so I opened one with BCV who had an office on campus – probably the easiest of the three to organise. Sorting this admin is definitely not for the faint-hearted so be prepared but in the end it was so rewarding to have been able to figure this all out myself and such great life experience in my view!
  • My final piece of advice is to get as involved as possible with the events and activities organised by the ESN (Erasmus Student Network). The ESN work super closely with the university to organise events where you meet other exchange students from all over the world while giving you the opportunity to explore the city, its surroundings and the country. It was through these events that I met the friends I made throughout the year and without them my year abroad would not have been the same. I did both the welcome week, including a wine tasting and campus tour, and events dotted through the year, my favourite being a boat party on the lake!

Practicalities aside though, my year in Lausanne is something I’ll never forget as I got to experience so many things I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, and all in a beautiful city I feel so privileged to have lived in. Though it really does sound like a clichĂ©, I have made friends for life, discovered completely new parts of myself and feel so so lucky to be able to return to my final year at UoS with these experiences and memories.

Finally, here is a little list compiled of my favourite memories alongside some pictures and I’ll leave you with a final note: if you are considering a year abroad, whether it is in Europe, or any other continent, I would so strongly urge you do it. Whether you want to simply prolong your uni experience, learn a new language, take a bit of a break from the UK, discover what it is to live abroad, or any other reason, please please do it! I’m so grateful for the experience and I’m sure you will be too!

  • Located in the centre of Europe, Switzerland is such an ideal country to travel from so one weekend me and a couple friends took the train to Milan for a day! I’d never been and it was such a good opportunity to visit since I was so close and we ended up having such a nice day exploring the city and trying some incredible food. A couple other places I’d managed to visit throughout the year were Zurich, Geneva and Montreux, all easily accessible by train from Lausanne central station. Montreux for example was only a 20 minute scenic train journey away and such a beautiful town that I ended up taking both my family and any visiting friends from home to.
  • Another perk of Switzerland is definitely the alps and proximity to ski resorts. I hadn’t skied for a few years and so this was the perfect opportunity to get back into it! One of the friends I’d made was an exchange student only in Lausanne for a semester so a little group of us decided to spend a weekend in Verbier before we all departed home for the Christmas holidays. Though this was definitely not one of the cheapest weekends, it was so much fun to ski again and spend our last weekend altogether in such an incredibly beautiful resort. This was one of my most cherished weekends of the entire year.
  • As I mentioned before, both the ESN and university hold many organised events throughout the year and my favourite’s are definitely worth a mention: wine tastings, the BalĂ©lec festival, and the annual Titanic LĂ©manique boat party. Lausanne is right next to a huge wine region that spans a fairly large portion of the lake. The vineyards are stunning and spending the day walking through them while trying the locally produced wines is so much fun. The BalĂ©lec festival is the largest student-led festival in Europe and held at the EPFL campus just next door to my UNIL campus. With 3 stages, food and drinks stalls and some incredible artists, it was such a fun night out which was so different to what I’d usually experience back home. Finally the boat party was probably my favourite night out of the whole year – the boat was huge (700 people both students and staff), and took a 4-hour journey around the lake. The dress code was evening wear so it was so much fun to get all dressed up and have one of the last nights out with all our friends before we all dispersed back home at the end of the year. All of these events gave me both new experiences in places I most likely wouldn’t have visited otherwise and plenty of memories with all the friends I’d made!
  • Finally however, my most precious memories are simply spending time by the lake with all my friends. Around May and June the weather really warmed up and we all spent hours sat by the lake together, swimming in the water, having little picnics and discovering a lovely outdoor pool resort on the lake’s shore. It was such a perfect way to end off the year and writing this now about a month and a half of being back home I really wish I could go back in time and do it all again.
My Year Abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland

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