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S. J.

SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Political Science | Arts + Social Sciences › French
Study Abroad › Exchange

Experience Faculty
While Lausanne provided the ideal comprehensive learning environment, the surrounding swiss cities allowed me to appreciate the natural beauty of this small but scenic country.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation

For me, I felt that the research I did beforehand helped me to feel more prepared and confident when entering this new and unfamiliar environment. I would recommend to prepare and be organized as much as you can prior to your departure.

Location Research

Lausanne is located in the French-speaking region of Switzerland, only 45 minutes from Geneva by train. The relatively small size of Switzerland allows for travel between the French, German and Italian regions. The centrality of Switzerland in Europe also makes it an ideal place to be able to travel and explore surrounding countries from. 

Financial Preparation

While Switzerland is extremely beautiful and in my opinion provides many benefits to students wanting to study here, the financial aspect should definitely be considered. Switzerland is an expensive country and the cost of living is quite high, compared to other European countries. That being said, by doing some research in advance and looking for ways to make your stay more affordable, it is possible to enjoy this beautiful place while still sticking to your budget.  


Deciding what to pack depends on whether you will participate in the Fall/Winter semester or the Spring/Summer semester. I arrived in February, when it was still quite cold and I needed a winter jacket for the first few months. I also made sure to pack gloves, scarves and a toque. I tried to pack some clothes for each season, as well as clothing items that could be layered. February and March were the coldest months, after which it gradually became warmer, transitioning from spring to summer. I would say the temperatures in Lausanne were comparable to Vancouver. I took two checked in suitcases, a carry on suitcase and a backpack, which I felt was a good amount for me. Don't worry if you cannot pack everything, as you will be able to find most essentials in Switzerland.

Travel and Transportation

Public transportation in and around Lausanne and Switzerland is generally very punctual, efficient and a convenient way to commute. In addition to trains that travel country-wide and even across borders to other countries, the metro and buses are the primary modes of transportation in Lausanne. While they are often frequent and speedy, the cost on transportation in Switzerland is costly, and should be taken into account when planning expenses.   

Preparation Tips for Future Students

It is important to have travel documentation such as passports updated and valid for at least 6 months after your anticipated return date. Passport renewal processing times vary, so I recommend sorting that out as soon as possible. Furthermore, if you require a visa for your place of study, I suggest you ensure enough time for the visa to be processed and issued to you.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

The orientation/Welcome Day at the University of Lausanne was very informative and I highly recommend attending if possible. There, they provide information about sports and extra-curricular opportunities in and around the university. Furthermore, representatives from all faculties are present and help you and answer questions you may have.

Accommodation and Living

The University of Lausanne does not offer on-campus student housing. However, it does provide the option of off-campus dormitory like residences through a company called la Fondation Maisons pour Etudiants Lausanne (FMEL). They are a private company with affiliations to the university, that have several student housing buildings in the greater Lausanne area. I would definitely recommend looking into and applying for student housing through the FMEL, as it can be a lot more affordable than finding a place on your own. That being said, given the high student population and limited housing options, the process for securing a student housing accommodation can be competitive. I recommend you look out for and note down the information you receive with regards to securing your accommodation. 

Learning and Adaptation

As you may know, it takes time to learn and adapt to any new environment. However, the friendliness of the people I encountered in Lausanne made this adjustment much easier to navigate. Having previously studied in French prepared me well for the the experience of studying mostly in French in Lausanne.

Accomplishments and Challenges

I faced both personal and academic challenged during my study abroad semester, but thanks to friends and faculty members, I was able to overcome and surpass these obstacles. While you may be challenged at various moments of your time studying abroad, I believe that these challenges are a normal part of the experience, and overall, they will help you grow as an individual and assist you in becoming more independent, confident and responsible. 

Cultural and Environmental Observations

Lausanne is a very culturally rich and diverse city. Located in Switzerland, bordering France, Germany and Italy, the city attracts students from bordering countries, as well as countries in the Middle East and North African regions. I believe that the diversity of the city will allow you to meet and engage with people from all over the world, and learn a lot about different languages, cultures and traditions. 

Social and Extracurricular Activities

The social and extracurricular activities are abundant, and the University of Lausanne definitely offers something that will appeal to everyone. I recommend attending welcome day, where they do a great job of advertising the different social and extracurricular activities.

Wrap Up

Overall, I highly recommend the University of Lausanne for both an academic and holistic educational experience. I particularly recommend this city if you have at least a basic level of French, as it is the most common language spoken in Lausanne. However, it is very much possible to live and study here without knowing French.

Reflection & Tips
Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

For me, the most valuable aspects of this experience were the opportunity to practice and improve my French language skills each day. As an intermediate French speaker living in a majority anglophone region, I am usually only able to speak and engage in French conversations in an academic context. Living in Lausanne allowed me to interact with friends, peers and the general population of Lausanne in French. This opportunity helped me learn and improve my spoken and conversational skills in French.

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

Situated 45 minutes by train from Geneva and the United Nations, studying at the University of Lausanne provides insights on potential jobs and careers in international non-governmental or governmental institutions. In fact, part of my studies there allowed me to visit the UN and observe a session of debates in the Human Rights Council.

Advice for Future Students

My advice for future students is to do your research beforehand to learn about the institutions that you would like to attend and apply for. It is equally important to research the cities that interest you in order to learn a bit about the social and cultural dynamics before experiencing them first hand. 


S. J.

SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Political Science | Arts + Social Sciences › French
Study Abroad › Exchange
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Aug 28, 2023