What’s it like to study abroad in St. Gallen, Switzerland?

Switzerland is one of the world’s top study destinations, attracting tens of thousands of international students annually. But what’s it like to study there?

In short

Studying abroad in Switzerland: the basics

Why is Switzerland one of the most popular study abroad destinations in the world? 

It might be down to the country’s world-leading universities. Or perhaps it’s the quality of life, which is consistently rated among the best in the world. How about the stunning natural landscapes and picturesque green spaces?

Whatever their secret, we know one thing for sure: Switzerland is an enduringly popular choice for international students. Here are the basics of studying abroad in Switzerland.

The top universities in Switzerland

Despite a population of just under 9 million, Switzerland commands a global reputation for higher education. 

It has six universities in the top 150 of the QS World University Ranking: ETH Zurich, EPFL, the University of Zurich, the University of Bern, the University of Geneva, and the University of Basel. 

Meanwhile, five Swiss schools feature in the Financial Times European Business School Ranking: the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), HEC Lausanne, the University of Zurich, ZHAW School of Management and Law, and the University of St.Gallen.

The cost of studying in Switzerland

Although Switzerland is one of the most expensive places to live, studying for a master’s degree here is affordable compared to many European countries.

Domestic and international students pay the same tuition fees in Switzerland. At public universities, you can expect to pay an average of around EUR€3,000 per year, though this figure can be as high as EUR€40,000 at private universities.

In terms of living costs, you should budget around EUR€2,000 per month in Switzerland’s major cities.

Quality of life in Switzerland

The quality of life in Switzerland is ranked among the best in the world by the World Population Review and the OECD Better Life Index. It ranks exceptionally high in salary, health, and overall life satisfaction categories.

The Swiss cities of Zurich, Geneva, and Basel all feature in the top 10 of the Mercer Quality of Living City Ranking.

Why these international students chose to study abroad in Switzerland

Those are the basics – but what do international students in Switzerland think about studying here? We caught up with students at the University of St.Gallen’s Student Exchange Kick-Off Day to get their impressions. Here are a few things that stood out to them.

“Everything worked!” is how Argentinian student Carmen Reynal summarizes Switzerland. She came to the University of St.Gallen on an exchange semester from Torcuato di Tella University in Argentina and was immediately impressed by both Switzerland and St.Gallen. 

“Everything was on time; everything was organized and strong-structured from the beginning. It was very well planned,” Carmen explains. (01:40)

Dutch student Luuk Pessers, another international student at St.Gallen, was attracted by Switzerland’s global reputation for higher education. 

“I had a couple of different universities in my mind. One of my best friends actually went to Zürich last year for his exchange, and he was super enthusiastic about Switzerland,” he says.

“That, combined with the great reputation of St.Gallen – ranking number one in the Financial Times with the SIM program – helped me decide to come here.” (00:16)

Both of these students were spending an exchange semester at the University of St.Gallen. Let’s find out what it’s like to study at one of Switzerland’s top universities.

What life is like at one of Switzerland’s top universities

Considering Switzerland’s lofty reputation for higher education, it’s little surprise that the country attracts so many international students. They make up 18% of the country’s total student population, a ratio only bettered by a handful of countries worldwide. Yet the diversity of St.Gallen students still came as a surprise to Nigerian student Blessing Eze.

“What surprised me most about the University of St.Gallen is how many international exchange students that they have in a single program,” she says.” And I’m very, very privileged to be one of them.” (00:05)

But the attraction of Switzerland doesn’t just lie in its quality of life and quality of education. It’s also a picturesque country, home to some of the most stunning landscapes in Europe. 

According to Norwegian student Julie Hageli, she didn’t expect the small Swiss town of St. Gallen to be this beautiful. “The school are on top of [a] mountain and there are lakes, and we can go hiking,” she says. (00:36)

The University of St.Gallen hosts approximately 400 international exchange students per semester. That’s why St.Gallen organizes the Student Exchange Kick-Off Day, a chance for international exchange students to get to know the university, the city – and each other. It’s typical of the welcoming environment you’ll encounter in Switzerland.

“I just feel like there’s no better chance to integrate and experience a university in a day such like this,” explains Yumeng Zhang, an exchange student from China.

“We had meals together with other students from all over the world, and we walked around the campus for the campus rally. We also have some games, and we even make a creative poem about Switzerland. Everything integrated together; it just feels amazing.” (02:02)

With a high quality of life, affordable tuition, and a large community of international students, it’s easy to see why Switzerland is such a popular study destination.

If you’d like to learn more about what it’s like to study abroad in Switzerland, feel free to reach out to one of our St.Gallen ambassadors.

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ESMT Berlin