Living between mountains and lakes – My semester abroadin Switzerland at Haute école de gestion de Genève

9 February 2022, Benjamin Herman

"In my opinion, you do not have to travel to the end of the earth to gain new experiences and broaden your horizons, sometimes a simple trip across the border is enough," says our dual-study student Benjamin Herman after spending a semester abroad at HEG in Geneva.

Grüezi! Bonjour! Buongiorno! and Bun di! - That is how you say “Hello” in the four national languages of Switzerland. They are German, French, Italian and Romansh.

Geneva, located at the south-western tip of Switzerland, is a hub of international diplomacy and financial activity. The official language in Geneva is French, and Switzerland’s second largest city is home to more than 200,000 people. Switzerland is one of Germany’s closest neighbours, sharing not only a common language in some parts of the country but also a very similar culture. Despite the many similarities between these cultures, there are, however, also distinct differences and that is what made spending a semester abroad in Switzerland so appealing to me. In the following report, I will be sharing my personal experiences and the lessons I learned during my semester abroad at HEG Geneva. 

Expectations and my experiences during the first few days:

The first few days in Geneva were all about settling into my new surroundings, which meant moving into my shared flat and shopping for items that I still needed. Looking back, it was perhaps a bit optimistic of me to think that one day would be enough to relocate to a different place. I was left with very little time to do the move and to deal with all the bureaucracy involved with moving. Luckily, HEG Geneva organised an array of events (welcome day, guided tour of the city,...) to help us find our feet, and I was able to get to know and hang out with other international students. As the semester progressed, however, regular contact with local students increased, too. Overall, I experienced a warm and friendly welcome from my host university, which provided excellent networking opportunities. The first few days flew by, as there were so many events and activities going on, and so I decided to use the more relaxed first days of the semester to explore my new environment. This exploration included a tour of the historic old town and a boat trip on Lake Geneva.

The university:

At HEG Geneva, I signed up for various courses, including for example: Supply Chain Management, Manufacturing Operations, International Trade, Advanced Business Law and Digital Management. Despite the ongoing pandemic, none of the courses were online, but we obviously had to adhere to strict hygiene rules and wear face masks. I usually had lectures from morning to early evening and afterwards either met up with other students or studied in my accommodation.

The approach to lectures and exams at HEG Geneva is very different to the one at the Cooperative State University (DHBW) in Karlsruhe. The lectures were split into diverse blocks. Lecture aids included case studies, interactive software and debates. The style of exams also differed greatly from that of the Cooperative State University (DHBW) in Karlsruhe. While DHBW requires its students to sit written exams at the end of each semester, HEG Geneva favours assessing non-written (presentations, oral exams) and written pieces of work. Yet another difference is the so-called mid-term exams, which are written halfway through the semester in certain subjects. Overall, more than 1000 students are enrolled at HEG Geneva.

The main focus at HEG Geneva is on business and management, and the university only offers study programmes related to economics and services. Students can choose to study either one of the three French-taught degree programmes or one taught in English. I chose the English degree programme called International Business Management.

Other highlights of my time at HEG Geneva included the well-organised monthly events, which consisted of excursions to other nearby cities, such as Lausanne, Neuchâtel or Berne, visits to wineries, cheese dairies, museums and famous landmarks, or get-together evenings in restaurants, bars and on Lake Geneva.

Switzerland:

The notion that Switzerland is very expensive is kind of true, especially when it comes to entertainment and leisure activities. Let us use the price of a standard salami pizza as an example. In Germany, this type of pizza usually costs between €8 and €15. For the same pizza in Switzerland, you could easily be paying €20 to €30. There are a few exceptions to this, however; public transport is, for example, much cheaper than in Germany. The streets in Geneva are bike friendly, rather than car friendly. This fact is particularly reflected in the horrendous parking fees. In Geneva, you are more likely to see people on bicycles, electric bikes, scooters and motorcycles than in cars.

The city’s location is also very interesting. Geneva is only about one hour away from Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc. Further, Geneva is almost completely surrounded by two mountain ranges, the Alps and the Jura. Oh, and let us not forget to mention its stunning position directly on the banks of Lake Geneva.

Summary:

In my opinion, you do not have to travel to the end of the earth to gain new experiences and broaden your horizons, sometimes a simple trip across the border is enough.  My semester abroad was a wonderful experience. I discovered so many new things and got to know various cultures. For me personally, it was also a character-building experience, as I constantly had to tackle and overcome new challenges. The semester abroad demanded a high level of involvement and was occasionally quite stressful, especially during the exam period at the end of December 2021 and throughout January 2022. I can highly recommend the experience of a semester abroad to everyone, as the lessons learned and the personal added value are truly gigantic.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rutronik for allowing me to embark on this trip abroad during my degree course and thus gaining these unique and innovative insights.