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Just do it! (Switzerland Version)

Participating in the UTS global exchange program was the best decision I have ever made. Yes, as cliché as it may sound, I had the time of my life and I can’t even express how valuable and beneficial the program is to you as a person, as a student and as a global citizen. If you are interested in going on exchange- just do it! As I was told by a friend when I was contemplating whether or not to go on exchange, she told me to go for it and that I would have the most incredible experience. She was right and I am so happy and grateful that I decided to do it.

You will learn so much about yourself, other people and the world- even if it is just for one semester. I have been on exchange in Zürich, Switzerland for the past five months studying Communication and Political Science at the University of Zürich. The time has flown by to quickly, exams are now over and sadly it is time for me return home! It has been so amazing, that I don’t want to come back!

I experienced a bit of culture shock when I first arrived, which is normal, however this was a positive thing as I wanted to experience something foreign, interesting and unique while I was on exchange. It took a bit of time to adjust to a new and foreign environment, but I enjoyed every minute. Although I didn’t know any German when I arrived, it was still easy to get around and communicate. I look German classes throughout the semester, which helped too. Let’s just say that I didn’t attempt to learn Swiss German- which is completely different to German, as it is very difficult and is a dialect that is learnt by living there for a long time. Although it may seem challenging and difficult in some respects, I couldn’t recommend the exchange experience more, because it is unique and valuable. You learn so much about yourself and your capabilities and qualities, and also about other people. My perspective on all aspects of life changed (positively), especially after living in an international environment where you are constantly exposed to new ideas, experiences and people.

Living in Zürich for the past 5 months has been incredible (note: the chocolate included. Swiss Chocolate. Enough said. I won’t comment on the kilogram situation). Personally, it was a huge step for me as it was my first time living away from home. I decided to live in a student house. It’s quite big, with about 150 of us students from all corners of the globe. This created such an interesting and exciting environment to be surrounded by on a daily basis which I will never forget. I was so happy that I made the decision to live there as I feel that if I had rented an apartment I would have been quite lonely and bored. I had the best time in the student house, and made some friends for life from all over the world. We all shared a large industrial size kitchen. Although it was messy at times, I loved it because it was so interesting to see what other students cook from so many different cultures, and it was even more fun to cook together and much around. I like to call it the 24hr kitchen, as there was always someone in there cooking at any bizarre hour of the day. There was also a huge common room were we all ate and studied, which also had a TV and fussball table- and of course, where the numerous parties were held. This was great, as at all hours of the day, there was bound to be someone there to talk to, hang out with or even study with at crazy hours in the morning (ah, student life). All of the students became really close so it was like a huge family and there was always someone to talk to, or something happening in the house which was great (the second night I arrived, I cut my finger badly in the kitchen and I hadn’t made any friends yet but everybody helped me straight away which was very comforting, coming from the other side of the globe and not knowing anyone!).

Getting to know other people from so many countries was great. It really changed my perspective on how I see the world and myself. Yes, another cliché, but I found it really inspiring learning from others and discovering things that I had never even thought about before- both personally and academically. Being in this international environment definitely, changed my perspective on life  and future aspirations and made me appreciate what I have and where I come from even more so, which is why I value this experience so much. Apart from that, the whole experience was FUN!!! Traveling often and seeing the world, meeting new people and having freedom was awesome.

When I first arrived in February it was winter- freezing and snowy. Although this was a huge shock for me as it was my first European winter, I absolutely loved it. Seeing the snow everyday was so special for me because I hadn’t seen it before and I found it incredibly beautiful and magical. I could even see the Alps from my bedroom window! Also, the first day when I noticed a snow flake on my arm while walking to class with friends I stopped in the middle of the street and yelled ‘look! A snowflake! They’re real!’ and proceeded to take a photo of the sleeve of my coat where it had fallen. All of my friends laughed hysterically as this was normal for them, and so did I, after I realised that snowflakes were in fact real. Yes, I admit it; I thought that snowflakes were only drawn in that beautiful shape in cartoons and illustrations, and that they were not in fact real. That was one of the first learning curves for me, haha. I also went skiing a few times in the Alps which was amazing. The best thing about Switzerland is that you can easily hop on a train and within as little as an hour you can be in the mountains and ready to ski!! The train system is amazingly efficient in Switzerland and you can be anywhere in Switzerland or in Europe within hours and it is oh so easy. I was able to travel to so many other cities in Europe thanks to Switzerland’s central location and amazing trains. The first day I arrived in Zurich at the main train station I was baffled as I saw people in their ski suits and with their skis on the train returning from what looked like a day skiing around the alps and then casually walking around the train station, buying food at the super market and then going home. This was crazy for me, as in Australia, as we all know, a ski trip is something that requires planning and preparation, and is not skiing within Australia, a long flight to another continent!! But in Switzerland, as I learnt, this is normal.

My student house was located near the industrial-type part of the city which was great. It was full of cool shops, bars and clubs where my housemates and I were frequent visitors. Zurich has a huge ‘undergound’ club culture which was awesome and catered for numerous nights out clubbing, only to return back home in time for breakfast which was lots of fun and so different to Sydney!! The university (Unibersity of Zurich that I attended) itself was fantastic both academically and aesthetically. The university is so beautiful and has a view of the city from the balcony as it is on a hill. It had amazing facilities like 3 gyms, an incredible library and even a ‘relax room’ where you can go to take a nap or have a leg massage while napping and someone comes to wake you up at your desired time! It also had amazing ‘mensas’ which are like caffeterias which had delicious and fresh food everyday. Academically it was quite similar to UTS. But I had more seminars which were different for me as I don’t have any at UTS, but this was easy to adjust to. I had to do 8 subjects to have enough credit points which I found to be quite challenging, as at UTS I usually have 3, but I eventually adjusted to this. However, I’m happy I challenged myself as it was worth it and I learnt so much.

Zurich and Switzerland in general is known to be orderly, clean, financially ‘well-off’ and efficient in all aspects. I found this to be true. Some say that Zurich is sterile and boring- full of rich people, cheese, trams, banks, milk, bankers, chocolate, money, cows, watches, alps, clocks, efficiency, snow, trains, and of course, chocolate.

Although it can be argued that this is to some extent true, I have found Zurich to be a very dynamic and interesting city that I have grown to love and am so sad to be leaving! (It’s true though- chocolate, cheese, watches, trains, trams, banks, bankers, money, cows; everywhere)

Nina Milinkovich (Zürich, Switzerland)

The University Main Building


The Grossmünster Church in Zürich


Sprüngli Chocolate Cafe! (+ Tram) This chocolate wonderland was often visited during the cold winter days…


The Polybahn that takes you up the hill from the city center to the university campus


The popular balcony or ‘polyterasse’ at uni where there is a view of the whole city and surrounding alps which was a magical sight during winter and summer


The incredible university library- designed by architect Santiago Calatrava


Walking through the park to lectures was magical


Central part of the uni


The Iconic Matterhorn in Zermatt, where I went skiing for Easter


Skiing in Zermatt for Easter was unreal


Trip to Interlaken where we visited Jungfraujoch- glacier (highest point in Europe where a train can go a.k.a ‘Top of Europe”)


Skiing at Grindelwald



Weekend Trip to Milan


Day trip to the stunning Lugano in the Italian Southern part of Switzerland


Weekend trip to Budapest




Zürich Old Town


View of uni on the hill and old town infront from across the river


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