Swiss francs in cash, yes, winter jacket, no. Devendra provides some tips on how students coming to Switzerland should prepare.
It is a common saying that “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed at war”. Because I got my admission confirmation by May, I had more than eight months to prepare my move. Learning German was my top priority. It is true that a university student can survive without German in Zurich, nevertheless a little knowledge of German can significantly improve the quality of life.
Although I acquired only an intermediate level of German before arriving, I never faced any difficulty regarding the language. Even with broken High-German (which is considerably different from Swiss-German), my enquiries were well received and sometimes people were nice enough to switch to English. My German, albeit grammatically incorrect, was often more easily understood than my English with an Indian accent.
My visa application was the second thing I had to take care of. I just followed the instructions provided by the Swiss embassyexternal link. It was straightforward in my case.
Packing is the next big thing. This was going to be my first international trip. I had no idea what things are available in Switzerland, and more importantly how much they cost. My friends and relatives, who were already abroad, helped me out.
First rule of thumb is, everything costs almost twice as it would in India. So, the first part of preparation is financial. I carried CHF500 in cash and CHF1,000 on a forex card. This was very important, as it took me a couple of weeks to set up a Swiss bank account.
Carrying CHF500 (approx. INR35000) in cash was a unique experience, as I had never carried such a big chunk of cash in my life before.
Regarding clothes, I would recommend bringing most of your everyday apparel. Assuming it would be mostly cold, I didn’t bring my shorts. But the Zurich summer proved me wrong. For more formal occasions, like a job interview, a set of formal attire proved useful.
For the cold weather, I carried a set of thermals, but I wouldn’t advise bringing winter jackets from India, as they might not be designed for the European weather. It rains throughout the year, so carrying an umbrella or a raincoat might not be a bad idea. For washing, we have communal washing machines in the Swiss-German part of the country. It's a good idea to carry a washing bar of soap and a brush, as the usage of the machines is not free.
I would strongly recommend carrying a pressure cooker, which is both induction and hot plate compatible. Depending on your cooking ambitions, you can decide on other utensils like a Chapati board, Tava and a rolling pin. I brought cooked food to last the first couple of days. It was enough till I figured out how grocery shopping works here. Although I carried spices, all of them were available in Southeast Asian shops for a reasonable price.
Next for electronics, I carried a couple of Swiss – Indian adapters and an extension board. Carrying a calculator (for written exams) and a few notebooks might save you some money. I also made a list of the small things that are useful, but rarely needed, like a stapler, extra shoe laces, sewing needle etc. Although there's been no use for them yet, I am glad I have them. I have yet to find a shop in Zurich selling such items.
I did spend a lot of time preparing. But it was not in vain as I ended up saving a ton of money!
For more blog posts and information on studying in Switzerland visit our dedicated page Education Swiss Madeexternal link.