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Old 11.04.2012, 10:28
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Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

Hi all!

I have completed 1.5 years of a Social Science BA (double major in Anthropology and Archaeology) in South Africa and the USA, but put that on hold since moving to CH. I initially thought it would be impossible for me to get the C1 requirements I need to continue studying (either at a university OR fachhochschule - both are great options!) but I had a meeting with one of the helpful people at BIZ Oerlikon, and he looked through my transcripts and said I should pursue the C1 and apply to University or a Fachhochschule...and that it wouldn't be easy but not super difficult either.

While his advice his much appreciated, I thought I would seek out people on EF who may have studied at undergraduate level here in Switzerland, specifically as non-Native speakers of German, and find out what your personal experience was. Was it so difficult studying in German that you don't recommend it? Any advice (and language school recommendations! anywhere between Frauenfeld and Zurich that isn't too costly OR too cheap either) for getting to C1 successfully over the next year?

I was at Flying Teachers for a while and was told it would take 10 years to be "fluent enough to study here" ... I am hoping that's a really bad, discouraging joke or something

If all fails and it does indeed take that long, I would attempt finishing my degree online/distance Ed. Any reputable uni recommendations apart from Open University would be appreciated too.

Thanks for your answers and any other info you have to share Cheers!
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Old 11.04.2012, 10:45
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

where can i study computer studies in zurich in english ?

http://www.studium.at/studienrichtungen/detailsuche

Austria, either studying there or Fernstudium, some First Cycle degrees in English ( Bologna recognition )
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Old 11.04.2012, 10:53
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

jrspet - thanks. If I ever decide to go into the field of computer studies, or move to Austria for that matter, I'll be sure to come back to this info
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Old 11.04.2012, 14:08
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

Only slightly related, but I find it interesting after trolling their websites that (amongst the schools in the German part obvs) the University of Zurich requires a C1 in German whereas the University of Lausanne only requires a B1 in French for admission.
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Old 11.04.2012, 16:39
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

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Only slightly related, but I find it interesting after trolling their websites that (amongst the schools in the German part obvs) the University of Zurich requires a C1 in German whereas the University of Lausanne only requires a B1 in French for admission.
At least for their Arts and Social Sciences departments, according to the website, the language of instruction is French - and I'm guessing trying to read through, for example, philosophy or political history papers with only B1 level would be pretty difficult?
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Old 11.04.2012, 17:09
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

From my own experience (a Swiss-German who studied in Lausanne [entirely in french]) I can tell you that it is hard but definitely doable -especially if you are attending "basic" courses. Even the native speakers have to learn the specific lingo.

I say give it a try.
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Old 11.04.2012, 17:25
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

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From my own experience (a Swiss-German who studied in Lausanne [entirely in french]) I can tell you that it is hard but definitely doable -especially if you are attending "basic" courses. Even the native speakers have to learn the specific lingo.

I say give it a try.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us - it's really encouraging to hear from someone who has already gone through this. You also just made me realize I would certainly have to re-take the more basic 100-level (or the equivalent here) courses at first, to learn the lingo as you put it
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Old 11.04.2012, 18:02
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

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I was at Flying Teachers for a while
That was your first mistake. They're cheap, but for a reason. Buy the books, find yourself some native German speaking friends and a student or the like to tutor you. It will go considerably quicker.

The language requirement is far from impossible, but as you don't have a completed degree, make sure your secondary school certificates are exactly compatible with what the university wants to see. Unfortunately, partial university transcripts are not considered for admissions and you'll be left with getting an "adult matura" as the only suggested option.

Edit: here's the requirement for S.Africa - this is applicable for all universities across the country. Fachhochschulen will be a different story though.
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Old 11.04.2012, 18:10
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

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Hi all!

I have completed 1.5 years of a Social Science BA (double major in Anthropology and Archaeology) in South Africa and the USA, but put that on hold since moving to CH. I initially thought it would be impossible for me to get the C1 requirements I need to continue studying (either at a university OR fachhochschule - both are great options!) but I had a meeting with one of the helpful people at BIZ Oerlikon, and he looked through my transcripts and said I should pursue the C1 and apply to University or a Fachhochschule...and that it wouldn't be easy but not super difficult either.

While his advice his much appreciated, I thought I would seek out people on EF who may have studied at undergraduate level here in Switzerland, specifically as non-Native speakers of German, and find out what your personal experience was. Was it so difficult studying in German that you don't recommend it? Any advice (and language school recommendations! anywhere between Frauenfeld and Zurich that isn't too costly OR too cheap either) for getting to C1 successfully over the next year?

I was at Flying Teachers for a while and was told it would take 10 years to be "fluent enough to study here" ... I am hoping that's a really bad, discouraging joke or something

If all fails and it does indeed take that long, I would attempt finishing my degree online/distance Ed. Any reputable uni recommendations apart from Open University would be appreciated too.

Thanks for your answers and any other info you have to share Cheers!
I studied El. Engineering at ETH. Things have got easier since then but at the time all courses were in German. I never had any problem though and picked it up as I went along. Most profs agreed to let me do write-ups and reports in English. I also wrote my thesis in English. Everybody was very supportive all along.
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Old 11.04.2012, 19:18
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

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At least for their Arts and Social Sciences departments, according to the website, the language of instruction is French - and I'm guessing trying to read through, for example, philosophy or political history papers with only B1 level would be pretty difficult?
Definitely. I was C1 and plodding through a history course...which is why I found the B1 part odd
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Old 12.04.2012, 00:43
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

I studied computer science at EPFL and all courses at master level were in english. Many bachelor courses were as well. I think it depends a lot on departments if u look at ETH. Some really want to be international and have foreign Profs. Therefore it is easy to go on with english. I had a friend who spoke very little french and still studied bachelor at EPFL. Because math/physics and so are not that difficult even if u visit the course in another language, it worked for her. C^You can check out their management of technology departments.

As far as I heard Fachhochschule are all in german. There are private schools/universities which are all in english and u get some sort of bachelor in 1.5-2 years. My flatmate was visiting one in Lausanne but I think they are very expensive.

To your question for german: after EPFL, I wanted to work in Zurich so moved here. I learn since 2 years the language and have completed C1 level. I work daily in german and have to write german reports. If you really want it, it will work.. don't worry.

Studying here will also force you to learn german which will so much ease the process of finding a job here.

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Old 12.04.2012, 07:18
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

One thing I should have said a few posts up is that my main struggle when I studied in France versus the US was the different teaching methods, not the language, which may be food for thought in the OP's case, whatever s/he decides.

For example, my French university classes, what was taught in class was not what was on the exam, it was a base for how you needed to move forward in your homework, which meant you had to waitlist for books in the library or beg notes off of friends. We had fewer tests and most of my classes rode on one exam which had absolutely nothing to do with class content but what we were able to come up with on our own. And try talking to the professors! *bitter laugh* The little things like that I learned to cope with but it was frustruating after years of the US system with weekly or monthly tests, feedback from professors, etc.

I'm just saying that even with the language skills, I didn't have the culturally-specific "learning skills" that kids who had grown up in the French system had learned as children and I had to learn those skills in the space of a semester. I don't know anything about the Swiss system, admittedly, but I went into the French system thinking that because the language was there, I had it, which was not the case.

After a couple of years in France I actually went back to the US, got equivalences and finished my BA there and enjoyed the heck out of my university years without stressing double over "do I know what I am doing" and "am I learning enough". It was easier for me to go back to something familiar, but OP might think it is worth it to have an extra challenge.

I didn't want to hijack the thread, but I just wanted to throw out there that language was only part of the challenge for me. I think even in an English-language course the "unwritten" expectations could wind up being different.
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Old 12.04.2012, 11:14
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

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That was your first mistake. They're cheap, but for a reason. Buy the books, find yourself some native German speaking friends and a student or the like to tutor you. It will go considerably quicker.

The language requirement is far from impossible, but as you don't have a completed degree, make sure your secondary school certificates are exactly compatible with what the university wants to see. Unfortunately, partial university transcripts are not considered for admissions and you'll be left with getting an "adult matura" as the only suggested option.

Edit: here's the requirement for S.Africa - this is applicable for all universities across the country. Fachhochschulen will be a different story though.
Haha, yes I stopped going to Flying Teachers after my A2 course. Realized I'd better to find myself a decent language course, hopefully one with more experienced teachers this time...! And thanks for the tips for other ways to get stuck in with learning German quicker, too

One thing I find odd though, is the advisor at BIZ didn't mention the additional university requirements and said I only need to get the German C1 requirement...however, I only have 1.5 years of Uni done and not the 2 years I see mentioned on websites/EF... OR the Natural Sciences requirement (I had an arts-focused high school Ed.). He talked with me an hour more than I paid for, and this didn't come up. I was interested in Fachhochschule more at the time though, so maybe this is why. Thanks for the link, I'll get in touch with Uni's directly regarding admissions requirements. Any idea why the requirements are so different here than the US/UK/SA/most places to enter university?

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I studied El. Engineering at ETH. Things have got easier since then but at the time all courses were in German. I never had any problem though and picked it up as I went along. Most profs agreed to let me do write-ups and reports in English. I also wrote my thesis in English. Everybody was very supportive all along.
Awesome! My husband said he's sure the prof's and faculty at Uni's here would be willing to let me hand in work in English, but I thought he was talking BS So good to know there may be a chance in some departments - just hope I find myself in as supportive a faculty as you were in!

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I studied computer science at EPFL and all courses at master level were in english. Many bachelor courses were as well. I think it depends a lot on departments if u look at ETH. Some really want to be international and have foreign Profs. Therefore it is easy to go on with english. I had a friend who spoke very little french and still studied bachelor at EPFL. Because math/physics and so are not that difficult even if u visit the course in another language, it worked for her. C^You can check out their management of technology departments.

As far as I heard Fachhochschule are all in german. There are private schools/universities which are all in english and u get some sort of bachelor in 1.5-2 years. My flatmate was visiting one in Lausanne but I think they are very expensive.

To your question for german: after EPFL, I wanted to work in Zurich so moved here. I learn since 2 years the language and have completed C1 level. I work daily in german and have to write german reports. If you really want it, it will work.. don't worry.

Studying here will also force you to learn german which will so much ease the process of finding a job here.
It looks like the Sciences/Engineering/etc faculties here are generally more international and offer more English-based work. Even most of the MA programmes available in English that I've seen on crus.ch are not in the Arts/Social Sciences/Humanities. For example my Anthropology major, and Archaeology major are both in German with only basic requirements for English...which makes me think I'll have to move for my MA anyway?! I chose the wrong subjects methinks And yes, the English private uni's I've seen here are just outrageously priced! Like you say, studying here and working here daily is probably the best (only?) way to get to grips with the language and land that ol' dream job!
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Old 12.04.2012, 11:28
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

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One thing I should have said a few posts up is that my main struggle when I studied in France versus the US was the different teaching methods, not the language, which may be food for thought in the OP's case, whatever s/he decides.

...
I'm just saying that even with the language skills, I didn't have the culturally-specific "learning skills" that kids who had grown up in the French system had learned as children and I had to learn those skills in the space of a semester. I don't know anything about the Swiss system, admittedly, but I went into the French system thinking that because the language was there, I had it, which was not the case.

After a couple of years in France I actually went back to the US, got equivalences and finished my BA there and enjoyed the heck out of my university years without stressing double over "do I know what I am doing" and "am I learning enough". It was easier for me to go back to something familiar, but OP might think it is worth it to have an extra challenge.
...
Ah, wow I didn't think of that aspect! That's quite an experience you had - but what's great is you went through it, and then you figured out the next best move, which was to go back to the US. And it worked for you - that's what counts When I transfered my studies to the US, I just about felt like I was in heaven - the education system is brilliant in terms of the insane amount of support, feedback, advice, etc that I got from my tutors, prof's, and even other students. Everything was just smooth-sailing even though the work was a heck of a lot harder than my previous university, but the pressure was eased by that constant feedback and communication. Bliss for a student, especially an international student! In all honesty, my dream is just to get back to the US and work on my degree, but with my current situation I'm not sure how I could do that AND get my husband to leave CH (to go anywhere!) Thank you for the heads up on the aspect of cultural capital - would never have thought of that in planning my next move, and it's really an important factor to consider!
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Old 12.04.2012, 12:16
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Haha, yes I stopped going to Flying Teachers after my A2 course. Realized I'd better to find myself a decent language course, hopefully one with more experienced teachers this time...! And thanks for the tips for other ways to get stuck in with learning German quicker, too

One thing I find odd though, is the advisor at BIZ didn't mention the additional university requirements and said I only need to get the German C1 requirement...however, I only have 1.5 years of Uni done and not the 2 years I see mentioned on websites/EF... OR the Natural Sciences requirement (I had an arts-focused high school Ed.). He talked with me an hour more than I paid for, and this didn't come up. I was interested in Fachhochschule more at the time though, so maybe this is why. Thanks for the link, I'll get in touch with Uni's directly regarding admissions requirements. Any idea why the requirements are so different here than the US/UK/SA/most places to enter university?
I don't know why they didn't cover that!

Try the fachhochschulen, they may give you a chance, but I'm sorry, there's just no chance that the universities will. Except of course the eth, but they only do science. Unfortunately, even if you did have the 2 years of university, the secondary transcript must still be compliant.

Oh, and "während" in this case means for all of the final three years. I know that's sometimes ambiguous.


The admissions requirements are federally mandated, and their process is essentially checking off the boxes on the list. As for them being different, well, the swiss system only recently adopted balogna, and the matura isn't the same as high school.
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Old 12.04.2012, 19:19
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

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In all honesty, my dream is just to get back to the US and work on my degree, but with my current situation I'm not sure how I could do that AND get my husband to leave CH (to go anywhere!) Thank you for the heads up on the aspect of cultural capital - would never have thought of that in planning my next move, and it's really an important factor to consider!
I was married and husband was here when I went back to the US. And it sucked living away from him for several months at a time. Definitely a tough decision with no right answer
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Old 13.04.2012, 21:44
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Re: Non-native speakers: Did anyone study here (undergraduate)? Need advice :)

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I was married and husband was here when I went back to the US. And it sucked living away from him for several months at a time. Definitely a tough decision with no right answer
Wow - much respect to you for making that decision for yourself! I have definitely thought about doing the same, since in the end it will help us both if I complete my degree...but exactly like you said, tough decision, and no right/perfect answer. Thanks again for sharing your experience. It's so encouraging reading how others achieved their goals in these circumstances.
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