Five reasons why Geneva is actually the perfect city for students

Geneva might not be the first city that springs to mind when you’re deciding where to take the next step in your educational journey. But for ambitious students pursuing an international career, few places are better.

Five reasons why Geneva is actually the perfect city for students
Photos: Deposit-photos (LL), Pexels (UL), International University in Geneva (R)

Located at the foothills of the white summits of the Jura Mountains, on the banks of Lake Leman, Geneva is a world-famous nexus of diplomacy, humanitarianism, and commerce at the heart of Europe. It’s precisely these reasons which also make it a great student city with rare opportunities for professional growth.

Presenting five reasons why Geneva is perfect for international students.

1. Great educational opportunities

Geneva's multicultural spirit and diverse student population – 25 percent are international students – is reflected in the academic focus of its educational institutions, particularly at the highly-regarded International University in Geneva

Kickstart your international career at the International University in Geneva

Listed in the UNESCO Handbook of Universities along with the likes of Cambridge, Oxford, and the Ivy League schools, International University in Geneva is particularly strong in the fields of International Relations, International Management, International Trade, Business Administration, and Digital Media. On the bachelor's level, the non-profit institution offers five competitive degrees in partnership with the University of Plymouth, along with six MA programmes and two PhD programmes, all taught in English.

Photo: International University in Geneva

Founded in 1997, the International University in Geneva has a close-knit alumni network spanning over 100 countries, and its graduates have gone on to assume top-positions at many of the leading global organisations such as the United Nations, UNICEF, and UNHCR. Students have also been recruited by prestigious enterprises and NGOs including Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the Global Fund.

2. Internships at international organizations

Geneva is home to more than 37 international organizations (with a total of 26,645 employees) including the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Labor Organization (ILO). What’s more, there are over 420 NGOs in the city, such as the Red Cross and UN Watch, and more than 179 foreign states have permanent missions there.

In keeping with the city itself, many of Geneva’s universities, like the International University in Geneva, have a pronounced international profile as well as individual career counselling and longstanding partnerships with many of the city’s global actors. For this reason, Geneva is a hive of exchange where students can embed themselves in the world of global diplomacy and international relations through unparalleled internship opportunities and international conferences.

3. A city of diversity and distinction

Students with an international mindset will be pleased that Geneva is home to far more than watchmakers, Alpskiers, and the Jet d'Eau, the world’s tallest water fountain. In fact, the bilingual city – you can get by with both French and English – has 150 nationalities represented (40 percent of the total population are foreigners), making it one of Europe’s most diverse cities.

Famously the Capital of Peace and Diplomacy (the predecessor to the United Nations was founded here in 1920), the relatively small city, owing to its cosmopolitan and humanitarian tradition, is also a town of scientific edge: here you find the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), a world-leader in subnuclear physics research where the World Wide Web was invented, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Click here to browse programmes at the International University in Geneva

4. Cultural flair and force

Besides being a congress city and a host of trade fairs and exhibitions such as the Geneva Motor Show and the World Economic Forum, Geneva is also a centre for culture and history. In the past, the city – which has a present population of half a million people – has been the birthplace and playground of giants like Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jean Calvin, and Kofi Annan.

Carouge. Photo: Creative Commons

If you are looking to learn outside of the classroom, you’ll find more than thirty theatres and museums, including the League of Nations Museum and the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. International artists also perform regularly at the Grand Théâtre and Geneva Opera House. For those more interested in contemporary art and culture, there is the Bohemian borough of Carouge, an artsy neighbourhood modelled after French Nice where artisan shops and studios sit alongside buzzy jazz clubs.

Universities such as International University in Geneva also facilitate a vibrant and diverse student life through extracurricular activities such as college athletics, Model United Nations (MUN), and high-profile company visits.






A post shared by International Uni Geneva (@internationaluniversitygeneva) on Apr 24, 2019 at 1:13pm PDT

5. Roam and respite in the Alps or afar

Geneva is one of the greenest cities in Europe. With its lush waterfront parks and lakeside promenades, lakeshore gourmet restaurants, high-end shopping quarters, and quaint medieval Old Town, Geneva has something for every kind of student. Those living in the city also have the luxury of being a stone’s throw away from the Alpine peaks, which offer many exotic recreational opportunities for hiking, biking, skiing, glacier trekking, and rock climbing.

Photo: Depositphotos

Situated strategically on the European continent, Geneva borders the eastern fringes of France, and Switzerland’s high-speed railway system, (the trains à grande vitesse) offers easy access to all the surrounding Germanic and Mediterranean countries (there’s a three-hour connection with Paris and Milan) – as well as to the charming mountain cities of Montreux, Chamonix, and Lausanne.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio in partnership with International University in Geneva.

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Is Basel the best Swiss city for foreigners and Geneva the worst?

Switzerland’s cities usually nab top rankings in international quality of living studies. But in a new survey, only one Swiss town made it to the top 10. Here’s why.

Basel is Switzerland’s best city for international workers. Photo by Nadine Marfurt on Unsplash
Basel is Switzerland’s best city for international workers. Photo by Nadine Marfurt on Unsplash

Basel is ranked in the 9th place out of 57 cities surveyed in the new Expat City Ranking 2021.

Carried out by InterNations, the annual survey rates cities around the world in terms of advantages they offer to foreign nationals who move there for professional reasons.

READ MORE: The best commuter towns if you work in Basel

The survey, which polled 12,420 people for its 2021 edition, ranks cities based on criteria such as Quality of Urban Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work Life, Finance & Housing, and Local Cost of Living, along with their sub-categories.

Of the four Swiss cities analysed in the study — Geneva, Zurich, Basel, and Lausanne — only Basel was highly rated, and is one of only three European cities ranked in the top 10 (the others are Prague, in 7th place, and Madrid in 10th).

This is why

A popular destination for international employees because of its pharmaceutical industry, including giants like Roche and Novartis, Basel ranked well across all categories.

For instance, it is in the 1st place for its public transportation network, in a 2nd position in terms of Quality of Urban Living, and in 3rd for Safety & Politics.

All expats in Basel (100 percent) are satisfied with public transportation, versus 69 percent globally. The public transportation system is excellent”, one respondent said.

Nearly all participants (97 percent) feel safe there, against 84 percent globally. The city also performs well in the Urban Work Life Index (6th), particularly for the state of the local economy, which is in the 1st place and the working hours (8th); additionally,  75 percent are happy with their working hours, compared to 66 percent globally.

More than four in five expats (84 percent) find their disposable household income enough or more than enough to cover their expenses (versus 77 percent globally), and 77 percent are satisfied with their financial situation (against 64 globally).

Where Basel is doing less well is in the  Finance & Housing Index (34th place), though it still ranks ahead of other Swiss cities: Zurich (37th), Lausanne (39th), and Geneva (53rd).

But the city ranks 48th in the Local Cost of Living Index: 69 percent of foreigners living there are dissatisfied with the cost of living, more than double the global average (34 percent).

The Getting Settled Index (39th) is another of Basel’s weak points. Internationals struggle with getting used to the local culture: more than one in four respondents (26 percent) state that they find this difficult — this figure is 18 percent 1globally.

It is worth mentioning that in the 2020 InterNations survey, Basel ranked in the 24th place, so it progressed impressively this year.

What about Geneva?

Switzerland’s most “international” city due to the presence of a number of United Nations agencies and multinational companies, places near the bottom of the ranking, in the 47th place.

“It has the worst results among the Swiss cities included in the report and is the only one that does not rank in the global top 10 of the Quality of Urban Living Index”, InterNations said.

Similar to the other Swiss cities, Geneva ranks among the top 10 for political stability (1st) and in the bottom 10 for the affordability of healthcare (56th). However, it lags behind for all other factors, with expats particularly dissatisfied with the local leisure options (23 percent versus 14 percent globally).

“Interestingly, the comparably low quality of life does not make Geneva any easier to afford: on the contrary, it is the worst-ranking city worldwide in the Local Cost of Living Index (57th) and by far the worst-rated Swiss city in the Finance & Housing Index (53rd)”, the report noted.

It added that “while Geneva comes 26th in the Finance Subcategory, it ranks 55th in the Housing Subcategory, only ahead of Dublin (56th) and Munich (57th). Expats find housing in Geneva unaffordable (87 percent  vs. 39 percent globally) and hard to find (63 percent vs. 23 percent globally).”

READ MORE: Why is Geneva’s rent the highest in Switzerland?

Geneva has a fairly average performance in the Urban Work Life Index (28th) but receives worse results in the Getting Settled Index (43rd). It ends up in the bottom 10 of the Feeling Welcome (52nd), Local Friendliness (50th), and Friends & Socializing (48th) subcategories.

“It is certainly not easy to integrate into the local culture and community,” said one respondent. In fact, 35 percent find the locals generally unfriendly, against 16 percent globally).

The difficulty is making friends in Switzerland is a well-known phenomenon among the international community.

READ MORE: ‘Suspicious of the unknown’: Is it difficult to make friends in Switzerland?

Maybe this is also why they find it hard to get used to the local culture (32 percent versus  18 percent globally) and do not feel at home — 33 percent compared to 19 percent  globally).

Zurich and Lausanne

The two other Swiss cities with a high proportion of international residents fall between the “best” and the “worst”, with Lausanne in the 21st place and Zurich in the 34th.

“All of them rank among the bottom 10 worldwide for the local cost living but among the top 10 for the local quality of life— except for Geneva, which lands in 21st place.”, the survey noted.

This InterNations chart shows how the four the cities are doing in each category. Please click here for a larger version of the chart. 

Image: Internations

You can find out more about each of the four cities from these links. 

READ MORE: Ten things Zurich residents take for granted

Zurich versus Geneva: Six big differences between Switzerland’s two biggest cities

Swiss town ranked the ‘world’s best small city’