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The Federal Palace of Switzerland (Bundeshaus) is placed in Bern, the country's de facto capital.

From the Alps to the Alps

Well, the headline is a lie or at least a bit inaccurate. But more about that a bit later.

Hey, I'm Philipp, an exchange student from Austria. Yeah, that Austria, which is famous for its culture, music, food, and - of course - the Alps. But first things first: Now, I have been here in the beautiful Alpine city of Chur for over three months. And wow, what an impressive journey so far: Since I arrived in a very snow-free Chur in the mid of February, I have already seen a lot of different places in Switzerland, eaten a full load of cheese and chocolate (not at the same time), and met lovely people.

But why Switzerland?

I don't know why, but I always wanted to live in the mountains. You might be thinking - hey, Austrian guy, you already live in the mountains! Well, that's not entirely true. Of course, Austria is well-known for its mountains and ski resorts, but I’m from the eastern part (30 minutes from Vienna), and there it is almost as flat as in the Netherlands. So back to Chur: It's a lovely little town with beautiful medieval buildings (Chur is the oldest town in Switzerland) and an amazingly active event scene - but not necessarily at night. There is also an ESN unit here, and these folks are very dedicated and motivated to give us exchange students the best experience possible here in Switzerland (including many events and regular tables - the latter is also called "Stammtisch" in German). So be prepared to have a full event calendar!

A lovely evening with one of the best pizzas in Chur. Regular tables (it’s called “Stammtisch” in German) are organized by the local ESN unit – a perfect opportunity to catch up with other internationals and locals.

The town of Chur with a beautiful mid-February sunset.

Chur is also an excellent place for sports activities - like skiing in winter at Lenzerheide or in summer for mountain biking and hiking (for example, up to Calanda Mountain). But you should also see the rest of Switzerland! Zurich is just one hour away by train. Speaking of trains, the public transport is well-developed here, and you can get almost everywhere with it. I have been to Geneva (probably the most international city here with a nice boardwalk), St. Gallen, Ticino (the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland with beautiful lakes, and it feels every time like a vacation), Lucerne, and Bern (my favorite city so far). Until now. Many more to come!

It's only 2.5 hours for a bit of vacation - Ascona with its colorful houses in Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. Parla italiano?

Lago di Lugano from Monte San Salvatore, Lugano’s local mountain.

Lago di Lugano with the Monte San Salvatore in the background.

The old town of Bern with the Aare River. It’s my favorite city here in Switzerland..

Lucerne with the famous Kapellbrücke (the oldest wooden bridge in Europe) and its water tower.

The most international city in Switzerland, Geneva is more than four hours away by train, but definitely worth a visit. And you can also practice your French skills there.

Swiss cities are packed with beautiful old buildings – like St. Gallen.

View from Zurich’s Lindenhof to the Limmat River and the Predigerkirche in the background.

But are there even downsides?

Well, I would be lying if I told you guys there were no drawbacks. It depends on where you are from, but the university system might differ from yours at home (not really from Austrian universities). The courses can also start very early – like at 8:15 am. Also, please don't assume that you understand people here right away, even if German is your mother tongue. Swiss German is different (some say it is about the same as Austrian German, but that's another story). But that's not a problem: I settled in relatively quickly and it was easy to communicate with people in high German. English is also not an issue either, especially not among young people.

In conclusion, Chur is a beautiful place to spend your exchange semester, especially if you like being in nature and doing sports (skiing, downhill mountain biking, or hiking) or just want to discover the picturesque Swiss scenery. And for meeting many lovely people from all over the world and of course also for studying. 😉

Philipp Michtner is an exchange student from FH Burgenland. He is currently studying in the Master's programme User Experience Design / New Business at the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons.

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