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Off-Campus Study

ISEP at Universität Bern in Switzerland - Regular University Courses in German


Wilkommen and Bonjour in Switzerland!

Snow-covered Alpine peaks, geopolitical neutrality, high-tech watches, gourmet chocolate, yodeling mountaineers, and sophisticated banking are the Switzerland you know. However, ISEP’s Swiss institutions offer exciting academic and extracurricular opportunities to immerse yourself in the dynamic, youthful, and high-tech Switzerland that you have yet to discover. 

Study economics, politics, and the humanities in the exciting Swiss capital of Bern, where many international businesses and companies have made their home! This fourth most populous city in Switzerland offers both modern advances and opportunities for growth, surrounded by the natural beauty that Switzerland is known for. In 1983 the historic old town in the center of Bern became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Bern is ranked among the world’s top ten cities for the best quality of life. Come find out why!

This program is best for a student that is independent.  A student must be comfortable with advocating for themselves on campus and comfortable with the local language to thrive in this location. Student services and especially class registration may not be at all similar to what is done at the College and may be difficult for some students to adjust.

Learn more about the University of Bern here! Read the ISEP Country Handbook to learn more about visa requirements, educational system, and culture.

Program Type



Bern, Switzerland

Languages of Instruction

German - A minumum of 5 semesters of university-level German or the equivalent

Program Dates

Fall 2018: September to December or January

Spring 2019: mid-February to Late May

All dates are tentative and may change.  ISEP will alert all accepted students of final dates.


Early departure for fall term may be possible. Please contact the ISEP coordinator of the host country for more information.


To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have junior status or higher before participation. 
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date. 
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods
  • Minimum GPA of 2.75.  
  • Language Requirement: A minimum of 5 semesters of university-level German or the equivalent must be completed prior to enrolling in full-immersion courses in German. 
  • Students must submit ISEP language proficiency report in application, even if native speaker 


Students applying to ISEP must apply for an Exchange option (in any country) as a first choice but may apply to a Direct option as a back-up.  Direct options may have an additional cost.

ISEP Exchange chance of placement for US students is generally Fair.


The city of Bern, founded in 1191, is one of the most splendid examples of medieval town architecture in Europe. UNESCO has placed Bern on its list of World Cultural Heritage sites. The city is safe and attracts young people with its many bars, restaurants, and theaters. Einstein developed his theory of relativity while living in Bern, and the largest collection of Paul Klee works is housed in town. The city is green and offers a variety of outdoor activities, including skiing in winter, and swimming in the Aare River and various city swimming pools. Bern is the capital of Switzerland and is situated in the center of the country and Europe. Zurich, Basel, Lausanne, and the Bernese Swiss Alps are within an hour by train; Paris and Milan within 3 to 4 hours’ journey.


The University of Bern offers top quality across the board: it enjoys special recognition in leading-edge disciplines, is reputed for the excellent quality of its teaching and offers a delightful setting. The campus environment is intimately linked to the social, economic and political life of the city - the capital of Switzerland.

The university’s comprehensive offering includes 8 faculties and some 160 institutes. The university has been founded in 1834. However, some of the institutes date back to the XVIth century. With more than 14,000 students, it is of mid-range size among Swiss universities. Unlike the bigger institutions, it retains a human dimension and a warm and friendly atmosphere.

The university of Bern hosts two Centers of Competence in “Climate Science”. The Bern-based National Center of Competence “North South” works on Governance and Conflict, Health and Sustainability. Research is also strong in Computer Science and Space Research. Theatre Studies are based in Bern uniquely. In the Humanities three new focal points in research and teaching have been founded in 2008: Center for Cultural Studies, Center for Global Studies and Center for the Study of Language and Society.

Students of these fields meet first class researchers as their teachers. 

Some courses of the University of Bern are offered together with other Swiss universities. This arrangement is called BeNeFri (Bern, Neuchatel, and Fribourg) Only some courses in Bern are offered in Neuchâtel or Fribourg and it varies from semester to semester. Students taking courses at neighboring units are responsible for any transportation costs (minimal). 


The Universität Bern offers the undergraduate program in 69 study fields.

  Program Website

Course Description

Researching courses in English on a Swiss university homepage can be difficult and confusing. Please refer to this ISEP Guide to Course Selection to navigating a university website, finding courses in both English and German, and some translations of common words and major fields of study. Courses at the University of Bern can be found through their search engine

Website for Course Availability

Fields of Study

  • Biology
  • Business
  • Communication
  • Computer and Information Sciences
  • Education
  • English Language and Literature
  • History:

    Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies and Archaeology,  Asian History

  • Mathematics
  • Philosophy and Religious Studies
  • Agriculture
  • Area Studies

    German Studies

  • Visual and Performing Arts:

    Art History,  Musicology, and Ethnomusicology

  • Social Sciences

    Political Science and Government



Complete listing of the Bachelor programs: http://www.unibe.ch/eng/studies/bachelor_programmes Complete listing of the Master programs: http://www.unibe.ch/eng/studies/master_programmes.html




Bern does not offer German language courses for absolute beginners. Therefore, any student wishing to enroll in German as Foreign language courses on site should have an intermediate knowledge prior to enrollment. 

During the semester, students can attend one or two German language courses at intermediate to advanced levels. 

A 2-week pre-session before SM1 and a 1-week pre-session before SM2 of German integration course are offered before each semester for students at the intermediate or advanced levels. 


At least 2/3 of the courses and ECTS credits must be taken in students faculty of enrollment.


Researching courses in English on a Swiss university homepage can be difficult and confusing. Here find a quick guide to navigating a university website, finding courses in both English and German, and some translations of common words and major fields of study. 
Download the ISEP Guide to Course Selection


Studying at a Swiss University

Significant differences exist between European universities and their U.S. counterparts; In European universities, the structures of programs and majors vary considerably. Foreign students are placed differently than natives; thus, although ISEP students are able to take courses with regular Swiss students, their programs of study may be slightly different than those of their Swiss friends.

To complement lectures, professors sometimes prepare a bibliography of suggested readings on the lecture topics; it is a good idea to talk with the professors early to find out whether they might have these reading lists. Specific assigned readings or homework, as U.S. students know them, are uncommon; keeping up with general reading is your responsibility. It is advisable to tell your professors that you are a U.S. ISEP student and are not totally familiar with the Swiss educational system; most professors will be willing to advise and guide you in the first few weeks of adjustment.

Please review country handbook for more information on the education system, grades, class hours, and classroom etiquette.


Courses are usually in the form of lectures and seminars. Swiss students usually take a majority of courses in their field of study with some flexibility within the field. They do not have the same general education requirements found in other higher education systems such as in the United States.

Students will also find that universities have modules. A module is a unit that is confined in respect of content and time and can consist of multiple courses, e.g. lecture and tutorial. Modules are structural components of study programs and generate a defined workload. For the calculation of a student’s workload, the ECTS-credit points are to be multiplied by the factor 30 (1 ECTS-credit point = 30 hours). The workload that is to be brought up in order to pass the module comprises all learning activities of the student, i.e. contact hours (actual taught course hours) and self-study hours. During the self-study hours the reading of relevant literature (reading assignments), the writing of term papers, and the preparation of oral presentations and/or exams are to be accomplished.  Students must take 30 ECTS to earn 4 Lake Forest credits.

Registration and Course Selection

Registration will generally take place during the first few weeks of courses. Students are allowed to register in multiple facultés or departments in order to meet with their home institutions requirements. Each department will have different registration requirements and processes, so students will need to speak with individual departments to ensure they are registered for courses properly. Students may be able to register online for certain courses while other courses will require the student to speak with a department faculty member.

Exams and Grading

Evaluation is based on written or oral exams, presentations, and works. In a typical exam, the average result will be somewhat above 4 with a variance between 0.5 and 1. This, of course, varies depending on the kind of exam, the tested class, the school level, the region, the teacher and other factors. Exams take place at the end of each semester. Students may have to register for examinations, so be sure to contact the departments about exam registration procedures.


Course Approvals

Check to see if your department has pre-approved courses here. If not, don’t worry. You can work with your advisor.

Student Life


All instructions for travel to the host site will be given to students prior to arrival.

Students are always advised to arrive during set business hours. During the orientation, students will get an introduction to the University, opportunities to meet with other Exchange students and a campus tour including various institutes, library, sports facilities, and the student union as well as an Official Reception. A city tour for the special needs of students is also offered. 

Excursions at the end of the Orientation days and further excursions during the terms are also offered for a nominal fee.


An event and excursion program for exchange students is available for a low cost. The Student Union, the University Big Band, the choir, religious groups, sports teams and many other organizations are open to all students. Sports facilities are excellent and most are free of charge including supervised training in different sports: climbing, skiing, fencing, fitness, swimming, games, dance, and martial arts.

The University of Bern has modern sports facilities, tennis courts, a swimming pool, interior courts for volleyball, basketball, and other team sports. Students may sign up for a variety of lessons in ballet, dancing, martial arts, fitness, and much more. 
The sports association schedules trip for hiking, mountain climbing, paragliding, skiing, etc. 

Interest Groups and Clubs

The International Students Club. The University Big Band and Choir are open to ISEP students. You may join a number of student interest groups and clubs: Cultural groups, religious, political, and much more.

Housing and Meals

Students are housed in residence halls or in private rented rooms and receive a stipend to cover room and board.

Financial Information

For all approved programs for guaranteed financial aid transferability, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee. The program fee for a semester with the ISEP Exchange program includes orientation, on-site director, college fees, housing and a stipend to cover the equivalent of 19/meals per week.

Here is an estimated budget for the Fall 2018/Spring 2019 semester:

Budget Item


Lake Forest College Tuition


Program fee (estimated) Note: Spring may have added cost


College Deposit (credit)


Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College


ISEP Fee due on Stage 2 Application


College Deposit due on Acceptance (non-refundable, but shows as credit on bill for off-campus term)


ISEP-required health and repatriation insurance ($90/mo estimated)

Note: Some countries require national insurance. Check ISEP


Additional Meals


Estimated Airfare


Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, textbooks, supplies, personal expenses, additional national insurance, if required, travel insurance, additional travel etc.)


Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses




Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of February 2018. We will notify applicants, and update this page if the program fee or other estimates change.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate and will depend on your course registration choices.  

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  

Do check your student account on My.Lakeforest for your aid awards, as much of this will go with you. If you want to compare your program to the cost of being on campus, those numbers can be found here: https://www.lakeforest.edu/admissions/tuition/fees.php

You can discuss with Financial Aid your specific aid package and your expected family contribution.