Leaving for the Erasmus is the doubt of many students, undecided between the desire for a new experience and the fear of leaving someone alone in their city.
The choice for me certainly was leaving for one of the most stimulating and formative experiences of my life. I do not deny that it was not easy, especially to maintain a long distance relationship for 12 months, but I would definitely do it again.
Erasmus is not always partying and staying out late, as many think. Erasmus is to meet people from different cultures, immerse yourself in a completely new reality, where few or none speak your language. Often we start alone and after the initial moment of loss we begin to manage some bureaucracy, make friends and know the city that you will call ‘home’ for the following months.
Not all challenges are the same for everyone, but everyone will face with new experiences and there will be many first times that will make you grow and give dynamism to your way of thinking, making you love all the news you will encounter.
Of course you will learn to know each other better, because you will be tested to discover your weaknesses and strengths, but I do not want to risk frightening you by doing the moralist, if you are undecided my advice is GO! You will lose a lot by not leaving and you will struggle to find similar experiences in the following years.
But let’s get to the story of my Erasmus.
I left for Geneva with shining eyes, confident, afraid, but with the desire to discover and savour every single moment outside of my comfort zone.
I was not leaving to escape from my everyday life, I was leaving in fact my sweet dog Boogie, my family and especially my boyfriend. I left for discover a new university, a new method, a new reality.
The choice of Geneva was made by impulse, studying physics, CERN is one of those places that I dream since I knew the name and the University is not far behind.
Arrived in my room of the residence Hugo de Senger, I started to unpack my things and try to convert that naked and impersonal environment into mine!
This room was assigned to me ‘au hasard’, I had not chosen it, but I have to say that if I had to undertake a similar experience I would undoubtedly go to a similar location: private room + kitchen and common bathrooms of the floor. The kitchen was in fact a real meeting place and even on the saddest days there was someone with whom to exchange at least a couple of words.
Discovering Geneva has not been difficult at all, even though there are many international organizations, it is however a city of human scale. The transports are super functional and frequent and every neighborhood is different from the other, to discover the afternoon jogging.
If you are looking for pure fun and fiesta all day then it is not the city for you, but if you are looking for a multicultural city where you can meet people from all over the world were it’s not enough to only talk in French, then it’s right place for you.
Moreover, the Lac Léman is one of the great resources of the city. There is nothing better than taking a walk by the lake especially on summer evenings when there will be musical open air, dancing evenings with the play of light in the background of the Jet d’eau.
You can sit at baby plage or on the opposite bank drinking with friends and listening to music in a quiet and convivial atmosphere.
I think it’s one of the safest cities I’ve ever been to, it happened to me to go around alone in the evening more than once and I had no problems.
If you are reading this post because you are looking for suggestions for your Erasmus in Geneva then you have arrived at the right point, here is what I can say of this city that I really adored.
If you are looking for accommodation the best option is to apply for university residences, they are the cheapest solution ever. The second cheaper option where you can easily make friends and share your experiences is the Cité Universitaire. I put it in second place because of its decentralized position, but it offers really numerous services: it is a small campus made up of 4 buildings, gym and cafeteria.
Otherwise you can rent a room at local appartements, sometimes they have competitive prices but it has nothing to do with the sharing that you can have with the first two options.
Finally, the apartments that are rarely considered as too expensive, can be convenient if located at the border. Living in French territory can be convenient at the economic level, even for shopping because the prices are much lower in France, but you have to consider the necessary transport costs and the night lack of connections to Geneva. Most of the guys who made this choice then wanted to change location.
As for the residence where I was: Residence Hugo de Senger, it is quite old but the best placed. The times when I had to take the tram were really few, you can reach any area of the city quietly on foot. In addition, Uni Mail is right in front of you, just across the street, it is very convenient also for those who may not have lessons there but want to study at the library or attend some extra activities. The other universities are located at a maximum of 10 minutes on foot, so really central.
One of the neighborhood that struck me most, for its being charming, quiet, full of small shops and small restaurants and clubs is Carouge. More then a neighborhood it is a real town that has been incorporated by Geneva and maintains its atmosphere retro.
In the evening you will find enough to do but do not expect parties every night. The ESN (Erasmus Student Network) Genèvoise is quite active: one evening a week organizes an event in some pub and for certain weekend trips out of town. I participated in that of Zurich that otherwise I would not be able to visit for prohibitive prices.
Most of the students either meet at the residences or in the street behind Uni Mail where a series of bars are located, one that is nicer than the other. There are obviously some discos there and for those who also love Latin events there are few salsa nights.
An event that you should not miss and that amazed me most is the evening organized at Uni Mail. Once a year you have the opportunity to celebrate at the downstairs of Uni Mail, with a series of DJ sets and bars available. Incredible but true!
Shopping at the supermarket at the beginning will be one of your biggest concerns if you want to stay in the economies, but do not worry, here are some suggestions.
Convenient shopping is done in France but if you live in downtown Geneva and you move only by public transport it becomes difficult to make big purchases and transport them throughout the city, believe me, tested on my skin.
Otherwise, besides paying attention to which product to buy (meat and fish are the most expensive products), you can also go to the cheaper supermarket chains, for example I made the most of my shopping at Lidl, which has numerous Italian products. Also once a month you will find the products of one country at discounted prices, an opportunity to taste flavors from the world.
Finally for the best vegetables I went to the most popular supermarkets like Migros and Coop.
Eating out in Geneva is quite expensive, there were not many times when we went out in the evening to have dinner, rather we had a pizza à l’emporter. The cheapest place to get a pizza is from Leo’s Pizza, right in front of Uni Mail, otherwise there are pubs, or classic burger chains where you can dine without spending excessively. Another place that I have loved is the Sunday market in Plainpalais: a mix of cultures and perfumes where you can taste flavors from all over the world. If you go late in the afternoon, when it is about to close, the prices are halved and you can take home a chicken with chips at a really cheap price for the city of Geneva.
Geneva is really a great place to spend your Erasmus if you want to use it as a starting point to discover other little known places but where it is really worth going.
You can leave for many day trips to the cities of Switzerland and at the nearby France: Annecy and Chamonix can be reached within a few hours. If you are a mountain lover you are really lucky: on one side there is the Salève, on the other the Juras and a little further the Alps. If you want to find out in detail which excursions you can undertake, click here.
Finally you will find yourself in the perfect place during the Christmas period when the city is tinged with white and at few kilometers you will find the most beautiful markets in Europe, have a look here.
So I convinced you to leave? Let me know if you have any doubts, I am available to tell you my experience et vous renseigner au mieux.
Good luck guys!
And if you want to find out how Kevin, my boyfriend,reacted when I left, then look at this video!
And if you want to know more about Geneva surroundings click here.