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With four official languages (German, French, Italian, and Romansch), Switzerland is an ideal place for international education. The country’s motto is, “Unity, yes; uniformity, no,” giving you the opportunity to discover diversity in a peaceful, collaborative environment. By living with a host family and studying at a local high school in Switzerland, you’ll be totally immersed in regular Swiss teenage life. This is your chance to join a global community and make Switzerland’s breathtaking landscapes and delicious food a part of your everyday routine.

Things to know

Switzerland is famous for its natural beauty, which the Swiss work very hard to protect. In most communities, you won’t be far from snow-capped mountains or crytal-clear lakes. If the environment is important to you, you’ll appreciate all the effort the country puts into recycling and conservation. The Swiss also value punctuality and efficiency; a common saying claims that if you’re late, it’s probably because you weren’t wearing a Swiss watch or riding a Swiss train.

What's included in your experience

  • 70 Years Experience

Eligibility

Graduates Eligible? No, participants cannot have graduated prior to the start of the program
Minimum GPA 2.5
Age Range 15 yrs, 5 months to
18 yrs, 0 months at start of program
Language Skills German, French, or Italian language skills required
COVID-19 Vaccine Recommended, not required*
*AFS cannot predict and is not responsible for changes to host school or government health requirements which may change from the time of application and could impact program eligibility

Your Journey to Switzerland

In the months before your departure, AFSers have the opportunity to participate in various preparatory activities, including an online Student Learning Journey, which is an interactive course that brings AFSers from around the world together to learn how to develop essential global skills, intercultural communication techniques, and practice social impact, maximizing the outcomes of the AFS learning experience.

AFS-USA will coordinate and share your international travel with you. You will need to coordinate your own travel to the point of international departure. From there, your journey in Switzerland will begin when you land, where you’ll be met by staff, and volunteers, and meet your fellow AFSers from around the world. Shortly after arrival, you will attend an arrival orientation and get a crash course on Swiss culture, living with a host family, safety, and support structures.

Before long, you’ll head to your new community. Along the way you might pass the towering Alps or grassy hills spotted with grazing cows. As you travel closer to your new home, you’re bound to be overcome by the country’s spectacular landscape. And no matter where you are, you’ll never be more than 10 miles (or 16 kilometers) from one of Switzerland’s 1,500 sparkling lakes.

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Meeting Your Swiss Host Family

AFSers have lived with families all throughout Switzerland, but you’ll most likely be in a German-speaking region. Most host families live in suburban towns, but some are in rural or urban areas.

Like anywhere in the world, all Swiss families are different. Most are hard-working and thrifty, with one or two children and a cat or a dog. It’s important for most Swiss families to spend time with their closest family members and do activities together. On weekends, people often take trips to visit extended family or friends.

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Settling into daily life in Switzerland

Teenage Life in Switzerland

The Swiss may have fewer friends than what you’re used to, but their friendships tend to be very close and long-lasting. Teenagers are usually very active and participate in sports and clubs organized by the school or community. Since the Alps cover more than half of the country, you can definitely plan on lots of opportunities to go skiing and mountain climbing. Other popular sports include ice hockey, biking, and soccer. Your Swiss friends will probably also like to get together in cafés or hang out during after-school activities.

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Foods You’ll Encounter

Since Switzerland is a multilingual country, you might hear “en Guete,” “bon appétit,” or “buon appetito” before each meal. The Swiss diet is mostly a mix of French and German cuisines, with a variety of sausages and rich cheeses, as well as several fish and pork dishes. The German influence can be seen in plates of spaetzli (homemade pasta covered in butter and oil), while French-speaking areas are known to enjoy fondue and raclette (melted cheese eaten mostly during the winter months). Potatoes are common too, and you can enjoy them boiled, fried, or in dishes such as röstis (grated and pan-fried) and gratin (sliced and baked with cream and garlic). Best of all, the Swiss are famous for their creamy, high-quality chocolate—so get ready to enjoy some tasty desserts!

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Your High School in Switzerland

Switzerland has one of the top education systems in the world, and you can expect your classmates to be highly motivated and engaged students. You’ll most likely attend a baccalaureat school, an academically competitive high school that prepares students for university studies. A typical day might start around 8 am and end around 6 pm. Most schools have classes until noon on Wednesday, leaving the rest of the day free for skiing, hiking, or spending time with your host family and friends.

If you’re in the German-speaking region, you’ll be given an online Rosetta Stone course, and you’ll be able to take an intensive language course during the first five weeks of your stay. If you’re in the French-speaking region, you should come with some existing knowledge of French, and will get some French lessons at a local level. No matter where you’re staying, previous experience with the language is beneficial, as it will help you make friends and get involved in the community.

Available Scholarships

AFS-USA scholarships are made possible by the generosity of numerous donors who all have a deep connection with AFS and value intercultural exchanges as necessary for the promotion of peace and justice in the world. Upon submission, applications will be reviewed and matched with the most applicable scholarship, if available. All scholarships are partial, and scholarship award amounts will be determined based on program length. For additional funding resources, check out our Fundraising page. You can view all available national and local scholarships on our Scholarships page.

What's Included

  • 70+ years of experience delivering high-quality programs through a worldwide network of 50,000 dedicated volunteers
  • Accommodations with a vetted host family
  • Round-trip international airfare for the designated program dates
  • School enrollment fees
  • Worldwide, 24-hour emergency assistance
  • Access to an in-country support team and network, as well as our Participant Support Department based here in the U.S.
  • Orientations and intercultural education before and during your program
  • International secondary medical travel coverage
  • Visa support and guidance
  • Inclusion in a worldwide returnee and alumni network of over 1,000,000 people

Visa Info

Do I need a visa/residence permit for Switzerland ? YES. Visa + Residence Permit
How do I apply for the visa? (By mail, In-person, In host country) In-person + In host country
Visa/Residence Permit Process Difficulty Level (Easy, Average, Complex) Average
Estimated Visa/Residence Permit Expenses
($ – $$$)
$
Frequently Asked Visa Questions Visit our general visa FAQ page for more information.
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Returning Home

“Life-changing” is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad. “Transformed” is another one.
When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and developed the confidence and resilience to accomplish anything you set out to do.
That transformation isn’t only visible to you, though – others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers. Second language fluency, intercultural competence, creativity, and critical reasoning will help you succeed, whatever path you take. “Life-changing” means it’s only the beginning.
It’s not just an adventure abroad; it’s a whole new reality. The perspectives and personal connections you gained will stay with you and likely draw you back to the second home you found while attending high school in Switzerland.

In fact, our alumni reviews have made AFS one of the top-rated organizations in the study abroad industry.