Switzerland is a stunning and pristine country of snow-capped Alps, forested hills, castles, cathedrals and lakes. There are many hiking trails to walk on in the summer and mountains for skiing in the winter. The culture is very diverse and has French, German and Italian influences. Students can choose to be placed in either German or French speaking Switzerland. 2 years of previous French study is required to go on exchange to the French part of Switzerland. 2 years of German study is required to go on exchange to the German speaking part of Switzerland. Students who do not speak German may be accepted if they are prepared to attend an intensive German language course on arrival in addition to online (monitored) home study of the language (additional cost).
Since Switzerland has a federal system, each canton organizes its own school system; national requirements ensure a certain level of quality. Schooling is compulsory until the age of 16 (9th school year) and is divided into primary and secondary school. Primary School is from grades 1 to 6 and Secondary School is grades 7 to 9. After secondary school, teenagers either attend a Gymnasium/ Collège (3 to 4 years). YFU exchange students usually attend a Gymnasium/ Collège. Classes are very academic, with 1 lesson usually lasting 45 minutes and a 5 or 10 minute break in between lessons. At lunchtime, teenagers go home or, if they live too far away, stay and eat at the cafeteria or snack on a packed lunch.
It is very difficult to describe the family that you will be staying with, as there is not really a typical Swiss family. However Swiss families are usually small, with between 1 and 3 children. Grandparent’s usually don’t live far, but most Swiss families do not have multiple generations living under 1 roof. The majority of Swiss families live in an apartment, only a minority live in houses that they own. The Swiss families enjoy eating dinner together, as this time is perfect for sharing ideas, plans for the weekend or the holidays and to discuss problems. In Swiss families it is common that the parents and the children share the household chores. The Swiss have a very polite way of speaking to each other – living in harmony with the people around them is very important in their culture. The Swiss are very punctual people (as is their public transportation) and so your host family (and school) will expect you to run on time.
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