Year — Fall 2019
Application deadline: December 5, 2018
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, you’ll be totally immersed in regular 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.
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.
Your journey to Switzerland will begin in New York, where you’ll meet your fellow AFSers from the U.S. Together you’ll attend an overnight orientation, complete with a crash course on Swiss culture and history. Then you’ll travel as a group to Zurich where you’ll be met by AFS Staff or Volunteers.
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.
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.See where past AFSers have lived
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.
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!
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 imvolved in the community.
"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 feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. That transformation isn’t visible only to you, though - others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers, ranging from language fluency to intercultural competence and critical reasoning. "Life-changing" means it’s only the beginning.
Please Note: Travel date ranges are meant to help with general scheduling and are subject to change; please don’t book any travel based on these dates until you’ve received confirmation from AFS. All programs, prices, and travel dates are subject to change without notice.