Switzerland Study Abroad Country Profile

Switzerland Overview

Switzerland study abroad programs offer students many options for personal and academic growth. Like many other countries, Switzerland exhibits a strong sense of regionalism that makes it hard to truly define a singular Swiss experience. Switzerland has been influenced in many ways by the German, Italian, and French cultures, but it retains aspects that are uniquely Swiss. Switzerland is incredibly picturesque, and the country is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that encompass sweeping natural landscapes and quaint, historic mountain towns. Switzerland is unique in many ways – the country is isolated, politically neutral, and retains a large amount of financial power. It is also a popular location for international conferences and conventions; most notably, the city of Geneva is home to the United Nations.

Cultural Highlights

Because Swiss life has been so heavily influenced by some of its European counterparts, it can be difficult to identify the aspects of Swiss culture that are truly Swiss. Stereotypically Swiss things like yodeling, the accordion and the alphorn (the long, wooden horn found in Ricola commercials) have come to epitomize Swiss music, though all of these things are most commonly found in sometimes remote mountainous areas. Despite its small size, Switzerland has made notable contributions in the areas of literature and science, including two Noble Prize winners for literature. Folk art, particularly with regard to dance and dress, is very iconic.

Switzerland is also a very sports-conscious country – skiing and mountaineering are widely popular, but other traditional Swiss sporting activities include shooting and hornussen, a unique type of alpine baseball. Enthusiasts of more "traditional" sports are also catered to in Switzerland. Everything form tennis, golf, and soccer to paragliding and sailing enjoy popularity in Switzerland.

Popular Fields of Study

Despite its small size, Switzerland is a great destination for students with a variety of academic and personal interests because of its unique roll in international political, economic, and humanitarian affairs. Programs in international studies, social justice, and multilateral diplomacy are popular. There are also programs in other international topics like global health and development policy, as well as general development studies. Programs with a focus on business and economics are also popular. Language programs are available as well, primarily for the study of French, German, and Italian (Rumantsch is also spoken in Switzerland, but by a very small percentage of the population). Programs in Switzerland are not limited to the liberal sciences – Switzerland study abroad program providers for students interested in technology research and engineering can help those students get matched with the right Swiss institution. Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity for a homestay with a local family during your studies.

Why Study Abroad in Switzerland?

Switzerland has many unique advantages as a study abroad destination. Here are ten reasons why you should consider studying abroad in Switzerland.

1. Stay Active

Switzerland is a great choice for students that love being active outdoors, whether through hiking or playing sports. There are plenty of athletic diversions, including some you may not have ever tried before.

2. Language

Switzerland has not one, not two, not three, but four official languages – German, French, Rumantsch and Italian. Practice your language skills or begin learning a new language while immersed in European culture.

3. Chocolate

It’s a good thing that the Swiss are so active, because Swiss chocolate is not to be missed.

4. Gateway to Europe

Switzerland is so centrally located, you’ll be hard pressed to visit without traveling to at least one or two other countries. Traveling between countries in Europe can be very economical.

5. Natural Landscapes

Switzerland is incredibly scenic, with massive mountains and alpine lakes. Photo opportunities and weekend mountain getaways abound.

6. Human Rights

There are few places around the world more central to global human rights initiatives than Switzerland. The country is home to many international government organizations and non-governmental organizations alike.

7. The Penguin Parades

Should you find yourself in Switzerland in the winter, take the opportunity to view this unique spectacle at the Zurich Zoo. When temperatures are cold enough, zoo staff takes the zoo’s resident King Penguins for a walk around the grounds!

8. Cuisine

Because of the influence of various European cultures on Switzerland, you can experience a variety of international dishes depending on your location in the country.

9. Museums

Despite its small size, Switzerland has a surprising number of museums. Some are more traditional while others, like the International Red Cross Museum, are representative of Switzerland as a center for humanitarianism.

10. Rhine Falls

These waterfalls are not only the largest in Switzerland, but the largest in all of Europe.

Switzerland Study Abroad Statistics

Switzerland Country Ranking: 24

(based on estimated total outbound U.S. students)
  • % of U.S. students: 0.7%
  • Total US Students 2006/07: 1,771
  • Total US Students 2007/08: 1,942
  • Yearly 2007/08 Trend: +9.7%
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