Life in Switzerland

My family gave me more freedom, my school was very different and teenagers were a lot more mature. Kelley from NV, Year Program
The most difficult for me was school since my school in the US is much bigger and the classes are a lot less demanding for students. Having school in a different language makes it even harder. Valerie from WI, Year Program
They speak Swiss German, so even if you do learn high German quickly, you still have another one to learn before you can participate in dinner table conversation. Annalise from CA, Year Program
Be open with everyone and be adventurous when it comes to trying new things! An example would be the many outdoor activities that the Swiss particularly enjoy doing. Kristina from WI, Year Program
Some say the Swiss are cold and at first this may seem true, but be warm to them and you’ll find them welcoming, friendly and curious about your culture. Ruth from MN, Year Program
Swiss people are more reserved than Americans. They are just as spontaneous and funny as anyone else but they meet new people with distance. It doesn't mean they are unfriendly. They really want to help you out but aren't sure how. Don't wait for them to start conversations because you may be left waiting. Gabrielle from MN, Year Program
School gives back what you put in. Teachers won't expect more from you than you're able to do, but a good way to get close to your classmates is to do the same work as they are doing. You may not be able to do it but you will get brownie points for trying.Gabrielle from MN, Year Program
Extracurricular activities aren't often through schools, but getting involved in something is a good idea and help you can make friends outside of just your class. Gabrielle from MN, Year Program
Don't say no to anything offered! Classes typically do a lot of things together so when your classmates ask you to do something, say yes. If you say no they may think you don't want to be with them at all and they will just leave you alone. Gabrielle from MN, Year Program
Because public transportation is so well-developed in Switzerland, you will be expected to take it and not call to get rides. Cars aren't widely used. My host family didn't even own one. So always know when your last train or bus is because otherwise you may be sleeping overnight in the train station. Gabrielle from MN, Year Program
The legal age for alcohol is sixteen and beer at a party is normal. That doesn't mean you should feel pressured to drink. However, drinking is a large part of the Swiss culture and you will be faced with it at one time or another. Gabrielle from MN, Year Program

Digging Deeper

Language Resources
Cultural Resources
News and Media
Movies and Documentaries
  • Winged Migration (2001)
  • Journey of Hope (1990)
  • Vitus (2006)
  • Neuland (2013) (in German)
  • Die Schweizermacher (1978)
  • Dangerous Moves (1984)
  • Sister (2012)
  • Ready, Steady, Charlie! (2003)
  • Les petites fugues (1979)
Books
  • And Both Were Young (1949)
  • Side Effects may Vary (2014)
  • Banner in the Sky (1954)
  • Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I'd Known (2014)
  • A Concise History of Switzerland (2013)
  • The Swiss and the Nazis (2006)
  • Cooking in Switzerland (1985)
  • Heidi (1881)
  • Der Verdacht (1962)
  • Man in the Holocene (1979)
  • Steppenwolf (1927)
LGBTQ Resources (Diversity)
Heritage and Ethnicity Resources (Diversity)

Language Requirements

Applicants to the Year High School Program in Switzerland are expected to enroll in an online Rosetta Stone language course.  The course is required of students in both German-speaking and French-speaking placements. The mandatory online course will be organized and monitored by AFS Switzerland who will email registration and login instructions to each student approximately 2 months prior to the start of the program.

AFS Switzerland requires that each student complete level 3 (out of 5 levels) prior to their program in Switzerland.  If this requirement is not fulfilled at least two weeks before departure, the student must pay for a private language lesson organized by AFS Switzerland which will cost approximately $1450.  During the program, all students must continue to complete levels 4 and 5 within the first 3 months of arrival in Switzerland. If the requested levels are not reached in time, participants will be charged a fee of $200 USD. 

Note: The links and resources listed in "Digging Deeper" have been provided to AFS by people involved with our organization, including alumni members, volunteers, etc. AFS has not reviewed the resources in their entirety and presents them "as is" for your own information. As such, the sites, publications, films, etc. do not necessarily reflect the approval of nor the views, opinions, and/or values of AFS.