Approx. Time Difference
Add 9 hours
- Spring + Summer Internship
This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, finances and much more.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
While UCEAP endeavors to keep the information updated and accurate, all program information should be considered in conjunction with program-specific operational correspondence which may contain the most up to date information. There may be times where UCEAP will need to change this information and it will often be updated online. Student is responsible for reviewing all information shared through the program guides and by UCEAP staff in California and abroad, and partners abroad. UCEAP reserves the right to make changes to its programs, whenever, in our sole judgment local conditions so warrant, in response to local circumstances that could substantially change some parts of the program, or if we deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of our program participants.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Local UCEAP Support
Campus EAP Office
The Campus EAP Office coordinates recruitment, student selection, orientations, and academic advising; and serves as your primary contact during the application process.
UCEAP Systemwide Office
The UCEAP Systemwide Office establishes and operates programs and coordinates UCEAP administration for all UC campuses from its headquarters in Goleta, California. You will work closely with the following Systemwide Office staff:
Program Advisors provide academic and operational program information to you and your campus as well as administrative support for all aspects of your participation.
Program Specialists manage the logistics of the program. They coordinate document requirements, visa application instructions, health and safety precautions, acceptance and placement by host institutions, arrival and onsite orientation, and housing arrangements.
Academic Staff advise on academic policies, review courses taken abroad for UC credit, and document your registration, grades, petitions and academic records.
Student Finance Accountants assist primarily with UCEAP statements, program fee collection, and financial aid disbursements (in conjunction with your campus Financial Aid Office).
Student Finance Accountant
UCEAP Systemwide Office
6950 Hollister Avenue, Suite 200
Goleta, CA 93117-5823
Phone: (805) 893-4762; Fax: (805) 893-2583
Bookmark your Participants
program page. This resource lists requirements and policies you need to know before you go abroad, including your Predeparture Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets, and payment instructions.
Study Center Abroad
The international office staff at the University of Geneva will help you integrate into the culture and provide assistance with course selection, housing, safety, and other matters.
International Relations Office, University of Geneva
40, Boulevard du Pont d'Arve
1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011 41) 22 379 89 7382 95
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code ............ 011 (dial this to call from the U.S.)
Switzerland country code .............. 41
City code: Included in city phone number (drop the initial 0 when dialing from the U.S.)
Approximate Time Difference
Add 9 hours
This program is offered through the Global Studies Institute at the University of Geneva. The Global and International Studies program is a special program at the University that offers courses in English and French. This is an academically challenging program that focuses on global governance, international trade and development, the environment and climate change, human rights, migration, humanitarian law, and global health. On this program you will gain greater understanding of the different strategic issues presented by globalization, by the foreign policy of nation-states, and by new actors on the international and global stages such as international organizations and NGOs.
Students on this program must be independent, proactive, responsible, and self-sufficient for navigating daily life and classes in Geneva.
The structure and format of each course is determined by the individual professor. The online course catalog
will list the dates and times of the class meetings and whether they are in lecture or seminar format. Courses tend to have fewer in-class contact hours per week than you are used to at UC. You will be expected to do a significant amount of reading and self-study outside of class.
Homework and assessment will vary greatly between professors. Each professor will determine the format of the assessment, number of examinations, and take-home assignments. Syllabi are not available prior to the start of the program; however the University of Geneva website does provide full course descriptions in their course catalog.
Libraries are open from 8am to 10pm on week days and from 9am to 6pm on weekends. You can check the Library website
for more details.
You are required to enroll in the following courses:
International Geneva: Issues and Institutions: 6 quarter/4 semester UC units
3 courses of your own selection: 5 quarter/3.3 semester UC units each
French language course*: 5.5 quarter/3.7 semester units (intermediate to advanced levels offered)
*Students with two or more years of university-level French may elect to replace the French language course with a lecture or seminar taught in French.
You will earn a minimum of 24 quarter/16 semester UC units for the term (5 courses).
The Global Studies Institute has a limited selection of courses that are taught in English. If you have 2 years of university-level French you can select from additional courses at the University that are taught in French.
Most courses meet for 2 hours per week. There are some courses that meet for more hours per week and therefore will be higher in unit value.
Some professors at the University of Geneva will elect to teach their courses on a P/NP-only basis. You must verify with all of your instructors (preferably in writing) at the beginning of the semester that you can get a letter grade for your courses. We cannot make special arrangements for you to receive letter grades if the instructor is only issuing grades on the P/NP scale.
Registering for Courses
As part of your online application to the University of Geneva, you will be listing your provisional study plan. It may be possible to make changes at a later date but you should take the time while completing your application to carefully select the courses that you want to take on this program.
You will sign up for your language classes after you arrive in Geneva and take the French placement test. This test is a requirement for UCEAP students and will help to place you in the correct level. The language courses are split into written, oral, and grammar sections. You need to enroll in 2 out of the 3 sections to meet the program requirements.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)
The University of Geneva has recently launched a fairly large catalogue of online courses. You will not receive credit for the MOOC courses because they do not carry any credit at the host institution and they have no form of assessment. These courses do not count towards your program requirements listed above.
You can take up to 1/3 of your units per semester for P/NP.
Grades for the spring semester are typically available by late July.
Early Exams and Retaking Exams
You are not allowed to make special arrangements with your instructors to take early exams. You must sit your exam on the day and time designated by your instructor. All requests to take exams early to attend graduation ceremonies will be denied.
The University of Geneva allows students to re-sit an exam; however this is not an option for you as this is against UCEAP policy. Do not plan on taking any re-sits for your courses. Additionally you cannot submit a petition to drop a course based on the fact that you will not be on-site for the re-sit. The initial exam is your final exam.
For general information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
If you are interested in participating in a summer internship following your spring semester, you will apply to the “Spring + Summer Internship” program. As part of your pre-departure documents, you will submit a statement of purpose, CV/Resume, and Internship Application. When writing your letter of motivation, be sure to look through the list of sponsoring organizations and be specific in what your goals are for this internship and what fields or organizations you are interested in.
Read through the following information carefully:
Internships are not guaranteed. You will need to put in a significant amount of time and effort into securing your internship position.
The Internship Coordinator is available for support but she is not responsible for finding your internship. You can reach out to her for advice, however you will need to take initiative and be proactive in all aspects of your internship search.
You may consider submitting your resume and cover letter to organizations that you are interested in even if they do not have an internship position posted. They may have an opening in the summer. Talk to the Internship Coordinator in Geneva if this is something you want to pursue.
You may need to start working at your internship part-time during the semester (12-15 hours per week). Many organizations are used to having interns for periods much longer than 2 months, so you will need to be flexible with your start date.
Work Permits are not required for you as an exchange student with the University of Geneva. If an internship provider requests a work permit from you, notify the internship coordinator immediately. She can contact your internship provider to clarify work permit issues.
United Nations Agencies have a very limited number of internships available to undergraduate students. Therefore you must be willing to intern at an organization or agency outside of the UN. You might have noticed that there are some exceptional non-UN internship opportunities.
The process of finding your internship is a learning experience in and of itself. Searching for and securing an internship in Geneva is going to be very similar to searching for a job after graduation. Through you search you will gain invaluable insight into the types of job opportunities, careers, and fields available to you post-graduation. Particularly if you are interested in working in international organizations, this process will provide you with valuable experience that is relevant to your future professional career. Try to learn from the challenges that you face during this process.
Organizations in Geneva where internships may be possible.
Please note that this list is not exhaustive, you can find alternative organizations through your own research. It is also not guaranteed that all of these organizations will be taking on interns every semester.
You will receive additional information about the interview and selection process once you are onsite. It is expected that you will conduct yourself in a very professional manner throughout the internship process. You will need to dress professionally for all interviews and arrive early for all appointments. The work culture in Geneva is much more formal than in California so be prepared to adjust to the workstyle of the city.
Internships are approximately two months long and you are expected to work full-time (30-40 hours per week). As mentioned above, you may be asked to start your internship part-time while the spring semester is in session. These internships are serious professional development opportunities and it is understood that the internship will be your priority for the summer. Plans to travel will need to be made around your work schedule; you will not be excused from your required hours due to any scheduled vacations.
You will finalize your internship placement after you are onsite. The end date of your Spring + Summer Internship program will be determined by the final internship placement. Please keep this in mind when purchasing airline tickets.
Once you are in Geneva, the Lyon Study Center Administrator will provide you with a packet of internship paperwork that you must submit to the study center. These forms include an internship agreement to be signed by your supervisor; an internship information form used to add your internship to your study list; an evaluation form to be completed by your supervisor at the end of your internship; and a final report of approximately 2-3 pages summarizing the learning outcomes and skills gained in your internship. All of these forms are required in order for you to receive credit for your internship.
You will receive 9 quarter/6 semester UC units for the internship. Internships are graded on a pass/no pass basis only.
Extending UCEAP Participation
There are no extension options for students participating in the Global and International Studies, University of Geneva Program. If you are interested in participating in a fall program after the spring program, contact your Campus EAP Office to register for the fall program by that program’s application deadline.
Get acquainted with your new host city, country, and culture before you leave the U.S. Travel guides and travel-related websites are excellent resources. Many guides provide background information about the region’s history and culture. The following guides provide a wealth of travel information: Lonely Planet Discover Switzerland, Fodor’s Switzerland, and Michelin Green Guide.
Gain or brush up on your general knowledge of Swiss history and culture and prepare yourself for your academic program by reading books on Switzerland.
Improve your language skills. The more French you know before leaving for Geneva, the easier your time abroad will be. Even though you may know the language, you may have trouble understanding people initially because they may speak fast, have a regional accent, use colloquial terms, etc. To prepare for this, go beyond reading and studying French and look for opportunities to speak and listen to the language.
Keep up with current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals. It is an exciting time to travel to Switzerland, and the more prepared you are, the more rewarding your experience will be.
The Swiss care about punctuality, cleanliness, civicism, and a more formal way of addressing people by their last name. You can avoid misunderstandings by observing closely and conforming to some of these customs.
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
Attendance at all orientation sessions is mandatory (per the UCEAP Student Agreement, Section 10). If you miss any part of the orientation sessions, you may be dismissed from UCEAP.
Your program begins at a predetermined place, time, and date. If you fail to appear on the Official Program Start Date, you are subject to dismissal from the program (Student Agreement, Section 10). The Official Program Start Date is provided in the program calendar, which you can access via your Participants program page. You can find more detailed arrival information on the Arrival Information Sheet in the UCEAP online Pre-Departure Checklist.
Travel to Your Host Country
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip tickets, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. UCEAP discourages purchasing one way tickets, as your Program Budget is based on a changeable round trip student fare, which is generally less expensive. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid office will reserve or pay for your ticket. If you are on financial aid, you will need to purchase a plane ticket before you receive a financial aid disbursement.
Most airline tickets are good for one year only. When buying round-trip tickets, purchase tickets that allow changes to the return date. If you do not make round-trip arrangements, be sure to book a return flight with plenty of lead time once abroad. Flights to the U.S. fill up fast and economy-fare seats are booked early.
The UCEAP program calendar, which is located on your online UCEAP Pre-Departure Checklist (PDC), lists the official arrival date for your program. You will need to arrive in Geneva on time. Detailed arrival information is provided in the Arrival Instructions in your PDC.
Flights are routinely changed or canceled. Confirm your flight schedule about two weeks before departure. Your UCEAP insurance includes coverage for certain travel-related contingencies such as delayed flights and late or lost baggage. Review the UCEAP Insurance Plan
brochure thoroughly for details.
The start date of the program can change due to unforeseen circumstances. You are responsible for making modifications in your travel itinerary to accommodate such changes. UCEAP is not responsible for any unrecoverable transportation charges incurred for independent travel arrangements. In order to be kept informed of any program changes, update MyEAP with any changes in your address, phone number, or e-mail address. Your program requires that you submit a Travel Itinerary Form (see the online Pre-Departure Checklist).
Avoid Travel Hassles
Do not ask others to carry any items abroad for you (laptop, camera, extra bags, etc.) and do not volunteer to do so for others. Airlines may not allow you to take them, or customs abroad may charge you a high duty. This is particularly a concern with electronic goods.
Identify each item of your luggage on the inside and outside with your name, home address, and destination. To avoid theft, never leave your luggage unattended. UCEAP recommends that you pack your prescribed medication in your carry-on luggage.
The UCEAP Insurance Plan
includes a personal property benefit; however, it is your responsibility to review the benefits before departure and determine whether or not the coverage will suit your needs. You may decide to purchase additional coverage.
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is calculated using your specific UCEAP Program Budget. The estimated round-trip airfare amount is based on the cost of a changeable student ticket to your host country. If your independent travel costs are greater than the airfare estimate in the UCEAP Program Budget, notify your financial aid counselors. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid Office can guarantee that the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.
If you are a U.S. citizen staying in Switzerland beyond 90 days, you need a visa to study in Switzerland. In order to obtain a visa, you must first possess a current passport that is valid at least three months beyond the end date of the UCEAP program.
The UCEAP Systemwide Office provides information about obtaining the appropriate visa in the UCEAP Pre-Departure Checklist. It is not possible to apply for a visa after your arrival in Switzerland (i.e., if you enter the country as a tourist, you cannot switch to a student visa after arrival). You must obtain the appropriate visa before leaving the U.S.
Non-U.S. Citizens: If you are not a U.S. citizen, contact the Swiss consulate immediately to determine your specific visa requirements. Requirements may differ depending on your country of citizenship, and the process may take longer than it does for U.S. citizens.
E.U. citizens do not require a visa to enter Switzerland.
All students will need to obtain a residence permit after arrival in Switzerland. You will begin the process by submitting certain documents with your visa application before departure. You will then finalize your residence permit application in person within one week of your arrival in Geneva. You will receive instructions and assistance from the UNIGE staff during the mandatory Welcome Session.
The cost of the residence permit is approximately 250 CHF. Be prepared to pay this fee out of pocket.
The residence permit is an essential document that allows you to remain in Switzerland for the duration of your program. It is required for your stay in Switzerland and also for travel in and out of Switzerland. If you leave Switzerland without your residence permit, you will likely not be allowed to reenter.
Please also note that you will need to return your residence permit along with a special form to the Office Cantonal de la Population before leaving Switzerland. The process will be covered at the Welcome Session, and the international staff will be able to assist you.
Undocumented Students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Students
Consult with an immigration attorney free of charge on your campus to determine if study abroad is right for you.
If you are currently enrolled as a student at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, or UC Santa Cruz, contact the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center at https://law.ucdavis.edu/uc-undocumented/
The UCEAP Program Budget does not include funds to purchase clothing abroad.
When traveling, pack your passport, visa, ticket, prescription medications, money, and other important travel documents in your carry-on luggage. Keep photocopies in a separate location. Scan the informational and visa pages of your passport and e-mail yourself the document; keep the file in your e-mail inbox and not on your computer desktop so that you can more readily retrieve a copy if it is lost or stolen.
Never put valuables or prescription medication in your checked luggage. Leave extra credit cards at home and carry only what is necessary. You will not need to carry your California driver’s license or your Social Security card.
The UCEAP Insurance Plan
does offer some coverage for personal property; however, it is your responsibility to determine if the plan provides enough coverage to suit your needs. You must research this yourself prior to departure to decide whether or not you should purchase additional coverage. To avoid personal property theft, never leave your luggage unattended.
- Photocopies and scans of important documents (informational and visa pages of passport, receipts for travelers checks, etc.)
- One extra change of clothing and toiletry kit (packed in your carry-on)
- Warm clothing (thermal underwear, waterproof winter coat, etc.)
- Items of clothing with multiple uses that can be easily layered
- Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes
- Reference French grammar book
- Prescription medication (packed in carry-on); see the Health chapter for more information
- If relevant, an extra pair of prescription glasses, as they tend to be expensive in Switzerland
- Dressy outfit for evenings, formal events, and outings (museums, theater, etc.)
- Laptop and recovery disks; adapters (see Computers in this chapter for details)
- Lightweight gifts for new friends and hosts (suggestions: Frisbees; T-shirts with city, state, or campus logos; UC pens or pencils; baseball caps; California postcards, posters, or scenic calendars; sealed local food products such as California almonds, honey, mustard, Ghirardelli chocolate)
Travel lightly. You will have to carry all of your luggage through customs. Be sure to check baggage allowances with your airline to determine their restrictions. Most U.S.-based airlines charge a fee for each bag you check. Oversized and overweight luggage (typically defined as over 50 pounds) also requires an additional fee. Ideally, aim to travel with one large suitcase, but make sure it does not go over the weight limit.
You will be responsible for carrying your own bags quite some distance, including to your final residence. Some apartment buildings do not have elevators. In addition, most cities in Europe are not set up with wheelchair ramps. Consequently, luggage may need to be carried up flights of stairs or lifted frequently. Keep your luggage with you at all times while traveling. It is expensive to ship bags home or consign them at an airport or train station, and most students find that they can get by on much less than they brought. In addition, many students find that a large backpack (not an external frame backpack) is more convenient than a suitcase. Backpacks are especially handy when traveling by train.
It will be cold when you arrive in Switzerland. Average temperatures will be between 32F° and 44F° Snow showers are also likely during the winter. Pack the appropriate clothing . Typically, California winter coats are too thin for cold winters in Switzerland. Be sure to take a durable coat or buy one in Switzerland. However, be aware that clothing is often more expensive in Switzerland and the UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for the purchase of clothing.
Europeans tend to dress up more than Americans. Generally, they do not wear sweatpants or jeans with holes or tears. You may feel more comfortable if you dress to fit in. Wearing dressy clothes is obviously not practical for everyday purposes, and you can get by wearing shirts, blouses, or sweaters with pants or nice jeans.
Laundry facilities are expensive in Europe (approximately $7 per load of wash) and are often hard on clothes. Pack easy-to-care-for clothing that can be washed at home and drip-dried.
Between cultural activities, excursions, on-site lectures, and traveling, you will be doing a lot of walking. Comfortable shoes are a necessity; make sure they are well broken-in before departure. Sturdy walking shoes (preferably with thick rubber soles), boots, and tennis shoes are recommended.
Good jeans, skirts, sweaters, and other casual attire are sufficient for everyday wear. You will need a warm dress or skirt and blouse for more formal occasions, such as the theater and the opera. Most Swiss women do not wear shorts, halter tops, or revealing clothing in the city. If you dress this way, you are likely to attract unwanted attention and rude remarks. Such clothing is acceptable and common, however, at the beach and recreational areas.
Jeans and permanent-press shirts are practical. Many Swiss men wear sweaters over their shirts in cooler weather. You will need some formal attire for dressier occasions, such as the theater and the opera.
As in most of Europe, the current is 220 volts at 50 cycles in Switzerland, instead of the 110 volts at 60 cycles found in the U.S. Travel irons, curling irons, hair dryers, and electric razors that can operate on all currents are available both in the U.S. and abroad (a plug adapter will likely be required). Voltage converters and plug adapters are available in the U.S. for European current and outlets (the same items cost more in Switzerland).
Taking a laptop has advantages, especially if you are unaccustomed to writing papers any other way. Disadvantages include the risk of theft and access to printing facilities. Commercial outfits that provide printing are neither numerous nor cheap. There may be lines to use university printers. That said, past students who took laptops were generally pleased they did.
Pack a reference French grammar book with which you feel comfortable. The grammar books for foreigners available in Switzerland do not concentrate on the usual difficulties and particular problems of native speakers of English. If you do not have a grammar book, get a recommendation from your current French instructor. Once in Switzerland, you can purchase a French dictionary.
There are some English-language bookstores in Geneva, but it is typically cheaper to order books through Amazon.fr
or Book Depository
(go to the “livres en anglais
Insurance for Personal Posessions
Consider having additional protection for your property. In spite of your best efforts, it is still possible to experience loss, theft, or accidents that will damage your belongings while traveling. Talk to your parents and analyze their family homeowners’ insurance to determine whether the items brought or bought while abroad are covered by their policy.
UCEAP Travel Insurance policy offers limited personal property coverage. UCEAP strongly recommends that you examine the details of the UCEAP Travel Insurance benefits and purchase additional property insurance coverage, especially to protect high cost items such as laptop computers, Smartphones, tablets, and other valuables. Review the policy carefully before departure and determine if it provides adequate coverage for your possessions before you experience a loss.
If you decide to purchase supplemental personal property coverage, do so before departure and make sure that the coverage extends while traveling because most theft occurs in the airport or while moving into housing. The host university does not protect student belongings—even in university accommodations.
You are responsible for your own personal property. Use logical precautions to safeguard valuables from damage or theft by locking your room and securing currency, jewelry, passport, and other possessions. Avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewelry and going to questionable parts of the city, especially at night or when alone. Minimize your vulnerability by staying in control of your drinking and your behavior. Do not invite casual acquaintances or strangers home.
The end date the Spring + Summer Intership program will be determined by your final internship placement. Please keep this in mind when purchasing airline tickets.
Understanding Your Finances
It is important that you carefully read all of the information available in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and discuss it with the person who will assist you with your finances while you are abroad.
Understanding your finances before, during, and after your program is crucial to having a successful time abroad. The following list outlines just a few of the many things you will need to know before departure.
Detailed information on the following topics can be found in the Money Matters
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
- Contact information for finance questions
- How to estimate the cost of your program
- Budget instructions and information
- Who Can and How to make payments to UCEAP
- UCEAP student account information(what fees do I pay to UCEAP and what fees do I pay out of pocket?)
- Banking before and after arrival
- Fees and penalties
- Loan information
- How financial aid works while abroad (how do I get my financial aid from my home campus and how are my fees paid?)
- Various forms (e.g., direct deposit, etc.)
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
Your MyEAP Student Account is similar to your UC campus financial account. It will be available as soon as you are selected for your program in MyEAP. You can make payments through this account using e-checks or credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover). The fees that you owe UCEAP will be applied to your account after your program pre-departure withdrawal date, which is listed in MyEAP. For the amount due to UCEAP prior to fees being posted on your account, refer to the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule located on the second page of your UCEAP Program Budget
. Program fees are subject to change.
Your UCEAP Program Budget lists the fees you will pay to UCEAP and an estimate of the personal expenses you will need to plan for. It does not include the cost of recreational travel or personal entertainment. Review your UCEAP Program Budget frequently. The Payment Schedule is on the second page of the UCEAP Program Budget.
- Download and print your UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule.
- Note the deadlines on the Payment Schedule.
- Give the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule to the person responsible for paying your UCEAP bills. Sign this person up for Third Party Authorization on MyEAP so they can make payments online.
Refund of Credit balances and Financial Aid Disbursements:
If you are signed up for Direct Deposit on your UC campus, it is not linked to your MyEAP account. You must sign up for eRefund with UCEAP to receive direct deposits from your MyEAP account. For more information, see the UCEAP eRefund Instructions
It is imperative that you review the UCEAP Student Budget and determine your program costs. You can find the budget in the Money Matters tab of your Pre-Departure Checklist. As noted in Section II of the UCEAP Student Budget, you are responsible for your finances while abroad. Before you go, make sure you completely understand your financial needs for study abroad and verify that your personal funds and/or financial aid meet these needs. Plan carefully, as recreational travel expenses and entertainment are not included in the program budget.
The Swiss Franc
The official currency of Switzerland is the franc (CHF). As with all currencies, the value of the Swiss franc relative to the U.S. dollar fluctuates daily. Depending on these fluctuations, your actual living expenses (in terms of U.S. dollars) can rise or fall over the duration of the program.
There are 100 cents in 1 franc. Coins come in denominations of 5, 10, and 20 cents, and 1/2, 1, 2, and 5 francs. Much like the U.S. dollar, franc bills come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 1000 francs.
To find out the current dollar-franc conversion rate, visit websites with currency calculators such as Google Finance
Cash Upon Arrival
It is wise to obtain some francs (about CHF 400) before departure from the U.S. In addition to allowing you to become familiar with the currency, the funds will be useful for the cost of the residence permit, snacks, transportation, and incidentals when you first arrive in Switzerland.
You can purchase foreign currencies from most U.S. banks; the process may take a week or more, so plan ahead. We recommend you request low-denomination notes (e.g. 10s and 20s); many merchants will not break larger bills. It is also possible to exchange dollars for francs at international airports (both in the U.S. and abroad), although exchange rates are less favorable and exchange offices are not always open in the late and early hours of the day. ATMs can be found at the airport, and you will have the opportunity to withdraw francs from your American bank account as soon as you enter the arrival hall.
It is important to be aware of how much money (in francs) will be needed immediately. You will need to have access to around CHF 1000 during the first few days of your program. If you will be staying at the Cite Universitaire residence hall, then you will need to create a CHF 400 deposit account at a local bank shortly after your arrival.
The following forms of handling money are recommended: debit card, credit card, international money orders for AmEx members, wire transfers, and in some cases, travelers checks. How you divide your money into the various forms is entirely your choice; choose the options with which you feel most comfortable. UCEAP recommends that you choose multiple methods of accessing funds so if there is a problem with one, you can use another.
Credit cards generally offer the best international exchange rates. Visa, known as Carte Bleue, is the most widely accepted credit card in Europe. MasterCard is also widely accepted, as is American Express (AmEx), though to a lesser extent. There will be an additional fee added to any purchase you make using your AmEx card since the commission AmEx takes is so high, the retailer/restaurant passes this onto the customer. The Discover card is not commonly accepted.
If you take a credit card, set up an online account so you can track expenses, receive statements, and pay your bills online. You may also arrange to have your statements sent to Switzerland, or for your parents or a responsible person to receive and pay your bills from the U.S.
Be sure to notify your bank that you will be using your credit card abroad so they do not freeze the account when you try to use it overseas.
Past students have found it useful to bring an additional credit card strictly for emergencies.
A good way to obtain cash is through an ATM. In most cities in Switzerland, it is easy to use an ATM. To get an ATM card, you must first have an account at a bank or credit union in the U.S. before departure. Most ATM cards are connected to a checking or share draft account. The bank will issue you an ATM card and a personal identification number (PIN). The PIN must have four digits in order to work in Switzerland. Keep in mind when choosing a PIN that ATMs abroad do not have letters on the keypads. Most cards carry the symbols for the Cirrus and Plus systems on the back, which are common ATM networks throughout Europe. It is helpful if your ATM card has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it. Once abroad, the ATM card and PIN can be used to withdraw money from the U.S. account.
There is no waiting period, and money deposited in your account in the U.S. should be immediately available for withdrawal abroad. There may be limitations on the amount of cash accessible per transaction, and there may be fees depending on your U.S. bank. Ask your bank about sister banks in Switzerland; you may be able to avoid extra fees. Be sure to keep track of your account balance at all times so you do not overdraw funds from your account.
Bank of America is linked with BNP Parisbas and students find their transactions to carry the lowest bank fees.
ATMs are available at most Swiss banks and commercial centers and accept all major ATM and credit cards.
Check with your bank to make sure your ATM card can be used to access funds in Switzerland. Be sure to notify your bank that you will be using your debit card abroad so they do not freeze the account when you try to use it overseas. Increasingly, banks block the use of American ATM cards abroad to prevent fraud.
International Money Orders and Gift Checks
AmEx international money orders and gift checks provide an inexpensive way to receive money from home. However, relying on this system requires planning and knowing some time in advance that you will need funds. Allow at least two weeks for the money order or gift checks to arrive by airmail. You may cash them at an AmEx office.
Travelers checks are rarely used nowadays in Switzerland, so they are not practical for everyday use. Landlords and shops will not accept travelers checks as payment, even if they are in francs.
If you do bring travelers checks, you will need to exchange them into francs at either American Express or any bank marked “Change.” AmEx travelers checks are the most widely accepted. Be sure to make two copies of the check numbers and give one copy to a family member or friend. Keep the other copy for yourself, separate from the actual checks. If you lose your checks, you will need to provide these numbers and the receipts in order to obtain replacements.
U.S. bank checks and cashier’s checks cannot be cashed in Switzerland. Therefore, this is not a recommended option.
Western Union is available to wire money. For procedures on wiring money and to locate an agent for both sender and recipient, go to the Western Union website.
MoneyGram is another option for wiring money. The transfer generally takes about ten minutes and all fees are paid in the U.S. For more information, contact a MoneyGram location.
The use of money transfer services such as TransferWise is usually much cheaper than a direct transfer from your U.S. bank to your German bank account. Go to the TransferWise website for more information.
Never wire money to anyone you do not know personally through companies such as Western Union and MoneyGram. It is nearly impossible to reverse the transfer or trace the money, which makes a common tool for scammers.
Credit Card Advances
You may obtain a cash advance with your Visa or MasterCard from a bank offering Dépannage. Your PIN is not usually required if the transaction is conducted inside the bank, but you must show your passport. Remember that interest begins to accrue the day that you take the cash advance, not at the end of the billing period as is the case with purchases. Also, the interest rate charged on cash advances is usually higher than that charged on regular purchases.
If you plan to use your credit card for cash advances, check with the issuing bank in the U.S. to make sure that the card will be accepted by European banks and ATMs. A credit card with an international PIN comes in handy if you need to obtain a cash advance after hours.
The University of Geneva International Relations Office recommends that you open a bank account after arrival in Geneva. You will receive information at the Welcome Session.
Required documents to open a bank account include your passport, student ID card, residence permit, and address in Geneva.
If you are under 25 years old, the Banque cantonale de Genève or La Poste will open a bank account for you free of charge.
In most cases, computer access in Europe will not be as extensive as it is at UC. If possible, take a laptop. Carefully consider security risks and other precautions. Laptops, cell phones—particularly smart phones—and other electronic devices are among the most frequently stolen items from travelers. Keep all your electronics within reach at all times. Do not place your cell phone on the café table or pull out your phone while on public transportation—it can be quickly swiped. The UCEAP Insurance Plan
offers a personal property benefit, which covers theft; however, it is your responsibility to review the insurance details and determine whether or not it is sufficient to cover your laptop. You may decide to purchase additional coverage depending on your needs. For your laptop, it is advisable to have updated virus protection.
Most laptops are equipped with a voltage converter allowing the use of the 220-volt electricity in Europe. Read your manual to confirm. The converter is usually part of the “box” located halfway down the power cord. You still need an adapter to use the outlets.
If you bring a laptop or smart phone, you will be able to access Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G in Europe where it is available. Wi-Fi networks are generaly available in Geneva.
You will receive a UNIGE email address and will have access to the computer facilities. Your username and access code will be found on the personal letter handed out at the Welcome Session. The access code will allow you to use the Wi-Fi, which is available in all university buildings, as well as certain residence halls.
Expect computer access to be more limited than at your UC campus. You may be allowed to write papers by hand if necessary.
You are advised to have a cell phone while in Switzerland. Aside from being the most convenient way to communicate, it enables the staff to reach you at all times. Cell phones are particularly useful for emergencies.
Public phones work with prepaid cards (known as a telecarte) that can be purchased in post offices, tabacs, bookstores, newsstands, some cafés, and numerous other locations. However, with the increase in cell phones, public phones are becoming scarce. Many students choose to obtain a cell phone shortly after arrival. A wide selection of cell phones is generally available. You may be required to have a bank account in order to buy one, but if you buy a “carte prépayée” (cell phone with prepaid minutes) you can avoid this. If you already have a cell phone, check with the manufacturer to see if it will operate in Switzerland (it will need to be at least a tri-band phone to operate in Europe). More information will be available after your arrival.
Cell phones from the U.S. can be very costly to operate abroad unless they are capable of using a Swiss SIM card. If you already own a smartphone, check with your provider about using it abroad. There may be inexpensive options available. Otherwise, many students opt to use their US phone and to swap out the SIM card for a Swiss SIM card. Students can find inexpensive contract-free plans with Sunrise, Salt and Swisscom.
There are also apps available for smartphones that enable very cheap or even free communication such as Viber, WhatsApp and magicJack. (Read all information and contracts before signing up for any apps.)
However, due to the recent and significant increase in theft (violent and other) of smart phones, students have found it better to avoid using a Blackberry, iPhone, or other costly device in a public place, instead replacing it with a cheap pay-as-you-go cell phone that does not attract thieves when used in public.
One of the most popular means of communication when calling internationally is using the Internet to make phone calls at an inexpensive rate. Students with smart phones often use apps such as Skype, Facetime, and Facebook Messenger to video chat with friends and family back home. In addition, SkypeOut is a Skype service through which you or your parents can charge the account to make calls to regular landlines and cell phones.
Swiss Postal System
Swiss mailboxes are yellow and readily available in public places and on the outer walls of post offices and in the street. Collection times are indicated on each box. In general, mail sent within Switzerland that is posted before the last collection will be delivered the next day, unless it is sent economy rate. Mail sent abroad will take longer, and delivery times depend on the destination—on average it takes between one to five days. Anticipate five days for letters to reach the U.S. Stamps are available in post offices, which have different opening hours depending on the neighborhood. They are generally open Monday through Saturday. Stamps are also available at tabacs, which charge the same rates as the post offices.
Sending parcels home from post offices is generally convenient and reliable. Sturdy shipping boxes with self-fastening systems are available in all sizes.
Have mail sent to your residence address once you are settled. Make sure that your address is fully written, according to the template that you will receive from the Cité Universitaire de Genève (CUG). Mail will be distributed to student mailboxes on weekdays.
Do not ship computers, cameras, or valuable items to Switzerland unless the shipping agent and Swiss customs confirm that you can receive your shipment without import duty taxes. It is common to pay a high fee for something as simple as a coat or camera. Furthermore, even inexpensive items that are correctly marked “For Personal Use Only/No Commercial Value” sometimes incur customs charges. Keep all your receipts for electronic equipment and register the items with U.S. customs to make it easier to bring equipment back to the U.S.
If things have to be shipped, all packages will go First Class and the rates are fairly expensive.
When shipping important documents, it is often worthwhile to use such shipping services as FedEx and DHL. These companies, along with the U.S. Postal Service, have special additional services that help to ensure that the documents reach their proper destination. All of these options usually require a physical address (no P.O. boxes) along with a phone number.
Remind your parents, friends, and others who might send you a package to declare “For Personal Use Only/No Commercial Value” on the customs slip.
You are responsible for all room and board costs during your program. You must make your own housing payments (even if you are on financial aid).
UCEAP participants will apply for a room in the Cité Universitaire de Genève
(CUG) private halls of residence. The CUG offers 570 spaces between individual rooms, studios for two people, and apartments for two, three, or four people. UCEAP participants are generally placed in indvidual rooms in buildings A and B.
The University of Geneva will send you information on the housing application process directly. We recommend that you submit your housing request early, as space is limited and a room offer is not guaranteed!
A reception desk is open daily. This is where you can pay rent or purchase telephone cards and public transportation passes.
Rooms are generally equipped with a bed, desk, chair, closet, shelves, and an occasional folding table. Rooms in bulidings A and B also include a washbasin with mirror. Studios include a kitchenette with fridge, oven, and hot plate, a bathroom with shower, storage space, closet, table with chairs, and a desk. Tableware and kitchen utensils are available for rent at the reception desk.
Residents have access to common kitchens and should bring their own equipment and food. Kitchens in building C do not have a microwave. Refridgerators are located in the kitchen in building C and in separate rooms in buidings A and B. The doors to the fridge rooms must be locked, and you will receive a key after paying a fee at the reception desk.
Individual rooms will cost between 480 and 580 francs per month with charges. Studios are 840 to 865 francs per month with charges for 2 people. Rent is due by the 10th of each month.
You can change your sheets and towels every two weeks, according to the schedules that are on display on your floor, by going to the laundry rooms located on the lower-ground floor of buildings A and C.
Students also have access to a laundry room with paid washers and dryers. The laundry room is open daily from 6:30am to 11pm.
Basic Internet Access is offered free of charge, while high speed access is available for purchase, with daily, weekly, or monthly rates. A separate, paid Wi-Fi area is available in the lobby.
There are public phone booths in all buildings that can also be used to dial emergency and 0800 numbers.
You can prepare your own meals using the kitchen facilities at the CUG, as outlined above. This will likely be the cheapest option.
The CUG also has a restaurant, Cafeteria Cité Jardin, which is open Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 10pm. Starting at 11:30am they also serve two daily specials at the self-service station and from a selection of meals on the menu. Your CUG residence card gives you a 10% discount on meals and drinks.
The UNIGE cafeterias offer subsidized meals for students starting at CHF 8.90. Meals in restaurants around Geneva cost between 25 and 35 CHF.
If you eat primarily at student restaurants, you can keep within the estimated budget noted online in the UCEAP Student Budget. The UCEAP Student Budget is based on estimated costs of eating at the student cafeterias and cooking at home.
Eating out in Switzerland is generally a lot more expensive than it is in the U.S.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
The public transportation of the Canton of Geneva (Transports publics genevois, TPG) will allow you to get around Geneva. Monthly passes are available for those under 25 for CHF 45. You can find more information here: www.tpg.ch
Bike riding is another transportation option. It is possible to rent bikes while in Geneva, and also to borrow bicycles for free. Details can be found at www.geneveroule.ch
When traveling between cities and countries, most students use the train. The Chemins de fers fédéraux (CFF) is often used for longer distances. Half price passes are available for CHF 185, and those under 25 can also purchase a Voie 7 for an additional CHF 130, which allows free travel between 7pm and 5am. To find routes, fares, and schedules, visit the www.cff.ch
You can also purchase supersaver tickets
. If you purchase a half price pass, you can enjoy a double discount.
Participating in extracurricular cultural and social activities while on UCEAP is an excellent way to meet people, improve your language skills, and integrate more fully into the community.
Join sports, musical, theater, or arts groups; volunteer at local organizations; attend lectures and receptions held in academic and community circles; and get the most out of your time abroad.
Students with Disabilities
Individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation different from the US. Most cantons have already implemented some provisions for persons with disabilities, but there is no country-wide standard.
Leaving your host city for more than 24 hours?
You are required to complete the online sign out through your MyEAP account.
Click on Travel Signout and complete all required fields. During an emergency (abroad or in the U.S.), it is important for UCEAP officials to know how to reach you so we can help you.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Non-European citizens can work up to 15 hours per week only after residing in Switzerland for six months. Working while participating in this program is not feasible for students that are not European citizens.
There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events in Switzerland.
Know Before You Go
While abroad you are automatically covered by the UCEAP Travel Insurance Policy
. Coverage begins 14 days before the official start date of your UCEAP program term. Coverage ends 31 days after the official end of the UCEAP program term.
The UCEAP Travel Insurance policy is not the same as your campus or private insurance. Inform yourself before seeking care. Your UCEAP Travel Insurance does not include coverage for preventative care, checkups, and vaccinations.
Read details in Benefits at a Glance
. Familiarize yourself with the coverage, exclusions, and eligibility criteria. You will be financially responsible for any charges for medical services that are not included benefits in the policy and for any charges over an above the “maximum allowable amount”. Your travel insurance policy number is ADD N04834823. It is underwritten by Chubb Insurance Company.
The travel insurance works on a reimbursement basis. There is no deductible or co-insurance.
You can submit a claim for a refund consideration of covered expenses. For more information about the medical claim process
or about non-medical claims
Do not assume that if you seek medical care abroad for a covered illness or injury that the local hospital will bill your insurance. Generally, hospitals around the world, including the US, do not bill insurance companies (unless there is a special arrangement with a local hospital in your UCEAP country). It is the patient's responsibility to inquire with the hospital, at the time of service, and make arrangements to pay any outstanding bills. Payment for medical services abroad is ultimately your responsibility.
For more information refer to your Pre-Departure Checklist, Insurance tab, or the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Insurance chapter
For Questions about Coverage, Benefits, and Claims Status
Contact ACI at email@example.com.
You are required to obtain Swiss health and accident insurance upon arrival in Geneva for around 80 CHF a month. The cost of the insurance is part of your personal estimated expenses and will need to be paid out of pocket. You will receive information on the process at the Welcome Session, and can reference the UNIGE website
This is in addition to the mandatory UCEAP Travel Insurance, in which students are enrolled automatically.
Excellent medical care is widely available.
Visit the University of Geneva Antenne Sante
for information on physical and mental health services.
Know Before You Go
Inform yourself before you travel. Just as language and currency vary around the world, so does medical care. Know what to do if you get sick.
Read the Health chapter
of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
and your Program Guide for important information to plan for a healthy stay abroad.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Traveler's Health
web page has important information about health risks present in the country where you will be studying.
- While on UCEAP you are covered by the UCEAP travel insurance. Inform yourself, UCEAP travel insurance terms of coverage.
- If you need a refill while abroad, you must see a local doctor. US prescriptions are not valid in other countries. You must travel with a letter from your prescribing physician explaining your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name.
Note: If the visit to the local doctor is considered preventive care, it will not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance; your campus or private insurance plan may cover it.
- If you need to find out if an appointment would be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance, contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the UCEAP travel insurance, refer to your UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, or your pre-departure checklist, Insurance tab.
- Two classes of medicines – narcotics and psychotropics – are under the control of international law. This covers any medicine that can have an effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the potential to be abused. The narcotic class mostly relates to analgesic opioids and their derivatives (e.g. morphine and codeine) which tend to be highly regulated. Psychotropics are all those medications likely to be used to treat mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychotic conditions.
- If you plan to purchase medication using the UCEAP Travel Insurance coverage, you must fill and pay for medication when coverage is effective (14 days before the official start of the program). Do not assume that your local pharmacy knows about the UCEAP travel insurance policy. It is not the same as your campus health insurance coverage. You will need to pay for the medication and submit a claim to the UCEAP insurance.
- Find out whether your medication is legal in your UCEAP country.
- If traveling with a prescription containing controlled substances, check the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) website. The INCB is responsible for international drug control. If traveling with controlled substances, you must have a letter from your doctor. Generally, amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse) are illegal or unlicensed in other countries. Talk with your doctor to switch you to another medication.
- Talk to your doctor to see whether he/she can prescribe an adequate supply of your prescription medication to last through the end of the program. Ask your doctor how to adjust your dosage depending on time zone changes.
- Get a letter from the prescribing physician, on letterhead, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name as brand names vary considerably around the world.
TRAVELING WITH PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS
- Keep the medication in its original packaging clearly labelled with your name, doctor’s name, generic and brand name, and exact dosage. Carry it in your carry-on luggage, provided it is in pill or solid form. For more information, particularly if your medication is a liquid, consult the US Transportation Security Administration, Traveling with Medications.
- Carry copies of all original US prescriptions.
- Carry the letter on letterhead from the prescribing physician for all prescribed medications, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic names. This is extremely important in case you need treatment or a medication refill abroad.
Why is a letter from your treating physician necessary?
If your particular medication cannot be taken into the country, talk to your doctor. If you need to switch prescriptions, your doctor may need to make changes to your medication at least 3-6 months before departure to monitor side effects and dosage. The letter from your doctor indicating condition, treatment and medication regimen, can help a local physician to assess you and to consider reissuing your prescription provided it is licensed in your UCEAP country. Note that the local doctor's appointment for medication refill may not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance.
Consult with ACI about the UCEAP travel insurance coverage for prescriptions, email@example.com. Read more in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Health section.
The Health Antenna and Psychological Counselling Centre
at University of Geneva
offers support and advice on all medical issues by way of free and confidential consultations. The Psychological Counselling Centre offers individual appointments and workshops to respond to psychological difficulties.
At the University Office of Social Information (BUIS), a team is available by appointment from Monday to Friday to help students facing personal problems (family, couple, dependencies, etc.), social problems (social integration, courses etc.), administrative problems (necessary steps, health insurance etc.) and financial problems (budget preparation and management, managing medical costs, debts etc.). The secretary’s office is open daily from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
If you are currently in treatment in the US, discuss all program details with your doctor so you can work on a plan in case you need to reach out for care. Carry a letter from your doctor (on letterhead) indicating condition, treatment history, and medication regimen, so a local physician can assess your needs.
Consider the country where you will be living and studying. Many countries do not have adequate resources. How will you manage your mental health while studying abroad – whether or not you have a pre-existing condition?
If you are taking a prescription medication, talk with your prescribing physician before departure about getting the supply you need for the length of your stay. Traveling through customs with medications for personal use can be problematic in countries where those medications are prohibited. Stimulants frequently used for attention deficit disorders, such as amphetamine or methylphenidate, may be problematic, along with narcotics. What substances are prohibited in any given country varies. For information about traveling with medications, refer to the Prescription Medications section in this guide.
Cultural adjustment and homesickness are normal. They are usually transitory—lasting a couple of weeks—and do not imply mental illness or an inability to cope. Most students who experience culture adjustment function reasonably well under the stress and are able to keep up with the responsibilities of school and everyday life.
- Do not try to manage alone. Reach out to local staff.
- The UCEAP Travel Insurance Policy covers outpatient visits as any other illness up to $500,000; there is no co-pay or deductible, and you can make an appointment with any doctor. Budget for this expense as you must pay up front and submit a claim to the insurance company for a refund consideration. Doctors, hospitals, and clinics will require you to pay bills at the time of treatment. You must then submit a completed claim form and paid receipts to the UCEAP insurance company. For information about the claims process, access Insurance Claims Process. If you have questions about your UCEAP travel insurance benefits contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students with severe food allergies should take precautions, as the cuisine may include ingredients that can cause anaphylaxis in those affected. A language barrier increases the risks associated with severe food allergies.
For more information, read the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Health chapter
, Allergies section.
Safety is our concern but it is your responsibility. Be proactive in protecting your personal health, safety, and well-being. Have an action plan.
With the right information - and by thinking ahead - everyone can play a part in minimizing or preventing personal risks. Observe and assess the risks, plan ahead to reduce them, and think how you would lessen the consequences if things go wrong. Start by outlining activities you plan to engage in through your program and/or during independent travel; label the risk and rate it based on the likelihood of harm and the severity of consequences. Consider measures you can take to reduce the severity and chance. Plan your itinerary carefully, let your friends and relatives know where you will be, and research the safest way to travel.
Be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate and unpredictable terrorist attacks, which make it impossible to protect yourself from. Remain vigilant in all public areas in your UCEAP city and country and wherever you travel. Many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their own country or region, are not looking for student or higher education targets.
Terrorist attacks using vehicles are very hard to prevent and appear to be on the rise. If you are in a crowded public place, know how you can exit quickly, identify barriers or safe places where you can shelter-in-place, and watch out for any vehicles that appear to be going at very high speed.
Report anything suspicious to local authorities. Read all security-related correspondence and advice from local staff. Schedule direct flights, if possible. Avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas. Minimize time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area. Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals. Have a plan for what you will do in the case of an emergency. If you are ever caught in a situation where somebody starts shooting, follow the active shooter guidelines: drop to the floor, get down as low as possible, and hide if possible. Cover yourself behind a solid object. Silence your phone. Do not move until the danger has passed.
Steps to manage or minimize risk and enhance your personal safety
- Familiarize yourself with all UCEAP resources and emergency support services while on UCEAP.
- Research potential risks you can encounter before you travel.
- Assess your surroundings. Observe and learn to recognize danger.
- Be attentive to what is unusual or threatening. Assess reasonable and safe options. Trust your feelings; if you feel threatened, act if safe to do so and leave the area immediately. Find somewhere more secure.
- Remain aware at all times. Do not walk around talking on the phone or listening to music on your headphones.
- When entering larger venues, always decide on a meeting place with those you are with in case you get separated. Always identify possible exits.
- Increase your safety and reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime by staying on top of your drinking. Know your limits. In many countries beer, wine and liquor in some countries contains a higher alcohol content than similar products in the US. Know what you are drinking and how much alcohol it contains.
- Practice the buddy system, which promotes safety. This system helps ensure that you, and a partner, will look out for each other. Choose your buddy wisely. If you are having a problem, your buddy can help to alert others and get you to safety.
- Have a communication plan. Who will you call locally if you are in an emergency? Do your friends and relatives know how to reach you when you are traveling?
Registration with the local US Embassy or Consulate
Register online with the US embassy through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
(STEP), a free service for US citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
Registration with the UCEAP Security Provider
You will be automatically registered with iJET International, the University of California security provider. You will receive important security and informational messages about local conditions for your program country.
The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) has established policies and procedures and has contracted with emergency assistance and security providers, to help you minimize your risk exposure and enhance your safety. Refer to the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, for more information. Access the US Department of State Students Abroad website for updated travel information.
Switzerland has a low rate of violent crime. However, crimes of all types do occur. Pick-pocketing and purse snatching are the most common and frequently occur in the vicinity of train and bus stations, airports, and some public parks, especially during peak tourist periods (such as summer and Christmas) and when conferences, shows, or exhibits are scheduled in major cities. Be especially vigilant in the airports and railway stations in both Zurich and Geneva, as these locations experience multiple incidents of petty theft almost every day.
Be alert while on trains and always keep an eye on your baggage. Overhead baggage frequently gets stolen when it is unattended even for a few seconds, especially on overcrowded trains regardless of the length of the train ride. You should be particularly careful on overnight trains to and from neighboring countries. Thieves steal from passengers while they sleep, and can enter locked sleeping compartments. Thieves have been known to work in pairs to target train passengers. One member of the pair tries to distract you at a train window or on a platform while the other steals items you have left briefly unattended.
Police officials within the Cantons of Geneva and Vaud are highly professional, but their response to requests for assistance may be delayed due to the non-availability of bilingual police officers or lack of severity of injuries.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
Public transportation in Switzerland is excellent and punctual. The Swiss tourist office and train station are the best places to obtain information about special fares for tourists.
UNIRESO, Geneva's mass transportation system, includes trains, buses, boats, and trams. See the UNIRESO website for more information.
We strongly urge you to buy mountain search and rescue insurance if you are going to participate in mountain activities (summer and winter). Alpine hazards, such as avalanches, snow drifts, landslides, flooding, glacial crevasses, falling rocks, sun exposure, and sudden weather changes exist throughout the year. You should stay on designated paths, follow the advice given by local authorities and guides, and take note of weather forecasts and conditions.
If possible, be in a team of two, and inform someone of your plans. Swiss post offices offer inexpensive search and rescue insurance for purchase.
While in Switzerland, you are subject to its laws, which can be vastly different from our own. You are expected to carry an ID and/or a passport while you are in Switzerland. Persons violating Swiss laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. In Switzerland you may be taken in for questioning if you do not have your passport with you, or if you take pictures of certain buildings.
Illegal Drug Penalties
Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Switzerland are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. These can vary depending on the amount and type of narcotics carried. Any attempt to cross an international border carrying drugs (for instance transiting Switzerland via Zurich airport) automatically constitutes trafficking charges. These charges can also carry heavy penalties. If you break local laws in Switzerland, your US passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution.
Sexual Violence & Sexual Harassment
University of California Policy
Every member of the UCEAP community should be aware that the University prohibits sexual violence and sexual harassment, retaliation, and other prohibited behavior (“Prohibited Conduct”) that violates law and/or University policy. The University will respond promptly and effectively to reports of Prohibited Conduct and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and when necessary, to discipline behavior that violates this Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. Report to the local partners and/or UCEAP staff if you suspect one of these behaviors has occurred.
Most college-related fires in the US are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. Educate yourself about fire safety standards in your UCEAP country. Fire safety standards differ drastically around the world.
- Know where emergency exists are located and check whether exits are passable.
- Know how to call the local fire department.
Do not stay in housing above the sixth floor so you are within range of most fire department rescue ladders.
- Print and take with you the UCEAP brochure, Fire Safety 101 for Students.
- Purchase and use a smoke detector. Before departure contact the Fire Safety Foundation. Choose from a variety of battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, including models with sealed, 10-year batteries. Once purchased, the alarms and a multilingual installation manual – written in English and the host country’s native language - will be shipped to the address where you are residing.
- Have an escape plan and practice it.
- Treat every smoke alarm activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.
- Check for fire hazards. Make sure exit routes are not blocked.
- If you have a disability, alert others of the type of assistance you need to leave the building.
- Refer to the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Fire Safety section for life-saving information.
UCEAP Contingency Planning
If a local situation requires increased caution or a program suspension and evacuation of participants, UCEAP will activate contingency plans. For security reasons, contingency plans are not public and cannot be shared with anyone except UCEAP officials.
Program Suspension Policy
If the US Department of State or CDC issues a Travel Advisory after the start date of the program term, UCEAP may suspend the program. If time and local security conditions permit, UCEAP will consult with the UC Study Center Director, UC security providers, US Embassy, US Department of State regional and security analysts, other organizations that offer programs in the same country, and area experts to determine the appropriate timeframe for suspending the program and/or for the evacuation of the students from the host country.
The UCEAP required security evacuation will override any host institution, or local US Embassy evacuation on US government-arranged flights, that require US citizens to sign a promissory note with the government. The safe evacuation of UCEAP students, managed by UCEAP and its experienced security providers, is covered by UCEAP insurance. UC students are required to follow UC safety directives in the event of an evacuation.
Switzerland is internationally recognized as being prepared in the area of response to natural and man-made disasters. In the event of a natural disaster, normally the commune or the canton would take charge and manage the assistance that is provided by the firemen, police, sanitary services, and civil protection authorities.
In case of extreme weather or serious earthquakes, the national alarm center is responsible for sending the alerts of the Swiss Meteorological Office or the Swiss Seismological Service to the affected cantons, the military, the Federal Police, and all concerned parties. However, resources are limited and if multiple locations succumb to a disaster, assistance would be requested of other cantons. Historically, earthquakes and floods have occurred in the Valais and Fribourg regions.
What Is an Emergency?
An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. The following are considered emergencies:
- Any life/death situation
- A traumatic event requiring immediate assistance
- An arrest
- Civil unrest or natural disaster in the host country
In an Emergency
Contact local emergency services first and then contact the following:
If you are in the US
- During office hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Time): Contact your Program Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office at (805) 893-4762.
- After office hours: Call the 24-hour emergency phone numbers at (805) 893-4762 or (805) 882-2086.
If you are abroad
Carry the local emergency contact information at all times:
If you need immediate emergency assistance, call 112 for Police, Ambulance, or Fire Department:
Fire Department ...........118
If necessary, call the emergency number of the US Embassy in Bern:
US Embassy in Switzerland
American Citizen Services
3007 Bern, Switzerland
Tel: +41 31-357-70-11
Fax: +41 31-357-72-80
The University of California, in accordance with applicable
Federal and State law and University policy, does not
discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion,
sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical
condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also
prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy
covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs
and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s
student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to
the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action
* Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical
conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.