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Off-Campus Study

ISEP at Universität Zürich - 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. 

Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, sitting directly on Lake Zurich, and with busy and efficient public transportation systems to get you wherever you need to go. Along with Bern, Zurich is a leading global city and among the worlds largest financial centers, with a very high quality of life. Stroll down the famous Bahnhofstrasse, visit the Zurich Museum of Art, the Chinese Garden, or any number of Zurichs festivals and parades year-round. Study in one of the worlds most prestigious institutions in fields such as economics, humanities, law and the sciences. Picture yourself in Zurich!

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. Please be aware that there may not be the same access to internet or amenities to which you may be accustomed.  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 Universität Zurich here! Read the ISEP Country Handbook to learn more about visa requirements, educational system, and culture.

Program Type



Zurich, Switzerland

Languages of Instruction

German - If taking classes in German: A minimum of 4-5+ semesters of university-level German or the equivalent

Program Dates

Fall 2018: mid-September to End of December 

Spring 2019: mid-February to End of 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 3.0
  • Language Requirement: Students do not need any previous knowledge of German provided they can find enough courses to meet their credit requirements.
    A minimum of 4-5+ semesters of university-level German or the equivalent must be completed if the student wants to attend courses taught in German. Students should especially have a good command of reading, listening, note-taking, and writing. Students who take courses taught in German are expected to have proficiency in German at level C1 according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). 
  • 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 Limited.


The city of Zurich lies in the German speaking part of Switzerland. With its almost 367,000 inhabitants Zurich combines the advantage of a comfortably sized town with the diversity of a cosmopolitan city. Thanks to its attractive location on the banks of the Lake of Zurich and the Limmat River and its proximity to recreation areas like the Uetliberg and the Swiss Alps, Zurich offers a very high quality of life. Zurich is not only the economic but also cultural center of Switzerland. The diversity of the city comes from the tolerant, cosmopolitan, and multicultural population and from its renowned cultural facilities and various alternative and smaller-scale cultural events. Zurich also stands out with its excellent public transportation system both locally and within the national system, and it is easily reached internationally by train or plane.


The University of Zurich was founded in 1833, though its origins stretch back as far as 1525 and the days of Protestant reformer Ulrich Zwingli. Today the University of Zurich is the largest university in Switzerland and plays a leading role in Swiss higher education. To its 25,000 students, it offers a great diversity of studies, with more than 100 different degree programs and over 3,000 combinations of disciplines in seven faculties. Two thousand lecturers in 140 institutes provide the broadest range of subjects and courses available at any Swiss institution of higher education.

Nine museums and collections, covering subjects from anthropology to zoology, constitute yet another valuable academic resource.

Undergraduate students may take bachelor courses. Advanced undergraduate students enrolled at the following fields may take up to two master courses: Law, Business Administration and all the fields offered by the Faculty of Science.

According to the Humboldtian ideal of a university, which states that independent research represents both the precondition for teaching and its basis, good teaching is linked to research. As a research institution, the University of Zurich places fundamental research at the center of its activities. It sets itself the highest international standards in this respect. The scientific focal points are defined by the faculties as listed HERE
Important to know is that the University of Zurich is the home institution of five National Centres of Competence in Research.



Full year or semester enrollment in regular university courses: 
Art: Chinese, Eastern European, Islamic, and Japanese studies, Indology, linguistics and literature (English, Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, Scandinavian, Slavic, Spanish), comparative linguistics (Indo-Germanic, Romance, German), general linguistics, computational linguistics and language technology, educational sciences, persist. archaeology and human ecology, prehistoric archaeology, classical archeology, cultural studies of the classical antiquity, Eastern European history, general history, history of arts, history of East Asian arts, musicology, philosophy,Psychology; Social sciences: political science, media and communication, sociology, ethnology, popular culture studies]);Economics, Business Administration and Information Technology: Economics and business administration, economics, business administration, management and economics, banking and finance, computer sciences);Law: law Science: biology, biochemistry, chemistry, earth sciences, geography, mathematics, physics); Theology: religious science, theology.



As an ISEP student, you can build your own program by choosing your courses from a variety of fields. Use the notes for course searching to help you find which courses are available.


Course Description

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

Fields of study which can be pursued without or with little knowledge of German include law, political science, English language and literature, business administration, economics, banking and finance, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, earth sciences, geography, mathematics, and physics. 

Website for Course Availability

Fields of Study

  • Biology Recommended!
  • Business Recommended!
  • Communication
  • Computer and Information Sciences
  • Education
  • Foreign Languages and Literature
  • History
  • International/Global Studies
  • Law/Criminal Justice
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Philosophy and Religious Studies
  • Psychology
  • Social Sciences


1 intensive German language course is offered in addition to regular classes during the semester.

A 2-week intensive pre-session German language course is offered before the beginning of each semester for an additional fee at all levels. 


For students with high German proficiency, there is generally no constriction in the choice of the academic field as long as the academic prerequisites are met. Students without sufficient German skills have to check the offer of courses in English.

About 2/3 of courses and ECTS credits must be taken in the faculty where the ISEP participant would like to be enrolled.

Programs in human medicine and veterinary medicine are closed to ISEP participants.


Students applying to this site should be mature and independent. Without knowledge of German, course options can be limited and students are encouraged to be flexible. It is possible to study at the Faculty of Science, at the Faculty of Law, at the Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and IT and at the Political Science Degree and at the English Department (for students who are enrolled as Students of English Language and Literature at their home university only). Some knowledge of German is encouraged for basic day-to-day life. 
A 3.0 GPA or higher is recommended for students to be successful in Zurich.

For information on Courses: click here

For Course Lists in English: click here.

Here is the link to the University Home Page.


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.


Academic Environment and Teaching Style

Please understand that the academic system is quite different. Classes are usually lecture-based, instead of discussion or group work. Classes are often much larger than those found at Lake Forest College. Grades are based heavily, at times almost entirely, on one end-of-term exam, though some courses will also offer a midterm.  Professors are often more formal than those in the United States.

All courses/modules may have prerequisites.  Some departments may have limitations on numbers of courses that can be taken within or outside it.  Be aware of these limitations.

Can review the country handbooks for ISEP here as well:



ISEP Placement info: http://www.isep.org/Coordinators/us_placement_notes_english.asp


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.

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

Grade averages between 5.5 and 6 are very rare; an average of a 6 is mostly impossible. In exams, quarter steps are usually used to indicate grades between integer grades: e.g., 5.25. To pass a year, this overall result needs to be sufficient. Sometimes further conditions need to be fulfilled, such as a maximum allowed a number of grades below four. At the university level, classes can often be repeated individually in case of an insufficient grade, so not the whole year or semester needs to be repeated.

Since education is the responsibility of the cantons (except for the federal universities), grading notations may differ depending on the region. In some regions, + and - are used to indicate marks below or above an integer. Sometimes the - is used to indicate a better grade if it stands after the grade and a lower grade if it stands before the grade (in which case - is a symbol for “bis” ‘to’ rather than ‘minus’), for example -5 is lower than 5 which is lower than 5- in that system. 

6 Excellent
5.5 Very good
5 Good
4.5 Satisfactory
4 Pass
3.5 Fail
3 Poor
2.5 Very poor
2 Extremely poor
1.5 Almost no performance
1 No performance
0 Absence without good cause 

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.

Transfer of Credit

Students will be able to earn ECTS credits for courses. In the ECTS system, credits are allocated to course units according to the workload required to complete the course unit. The workload takes into account lectures, practical work, seminars, field work, private study, examinations, and other assessment activities. ECTS is thus based on a full student workload and not limited to contact hours only. In the ECTS system, 60 credits correspond to the workload of a full academic year of study and 30 credits to that of a semester (full-time studies). ECTS credits are relative rather than an absolute measure of student workload. They only specify how much of a year’s workload a course unit represents at the institution allocating the credits. ECTS credits ensure that the program will be reasonable in terms of workload during the period of study abroad.  Students must earn 30 ECTS credits to earn 4 Lake Forest credits.

Credits will only be given for a course if the student has passed the evaluation. A written or oral exam will usually be administered at the end of the semester.


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

The University of Zurich was founded in 1833, though its origins stretch back as far as 1525 and the days of Protestant reformer Ulrich Zwingli. Today the University of Zurich is the largest university in Switzerland and plays a leading role in Swiss higher education. To its 25,000 students, it offers a great diversity of studies, with more than 100 different degree programs and over 3,000 combinations of disciplines in seven faculties. Two thousand lecturers in 140 institutes provide the broadest range of subjects and courses available at any Swiss institution of higher education.

Nine museums and collections, covering subjects from anthropology to zoology, constitute yet another valuable academic resource.



Students are advised to arrive in Zurich during regular business hours on September 1st or February 1st respectively. 

Orientation is held shortly before the lecture period begins.


The Academic Athletics Association of Zurich (ASVZ) offers classes in over 70 different types of sports, recreation, and wellness, as well as various drop-in facilities such as solariums, saunas, and weight rooms. Most of the offers are included in ISEP benefits.
The Erasmus Student Network ESN organizes various excursions (for example city tours within Switzerland, ski and trekking weekends, etc.) and runs a buddy system.
For a complete list of student organizations, see: www.uzh.ch/studies/studentlife/organizations/various_en.html

Housing and Meals

Students are housed in student hostels and receive a stipend to cover room and board. In case students wish to search for their accommodation on their own they find useful information on www.uzh.ch/studies/studentlife/accomodation_en.html. Students should note that finding housing near the university in Zurich can be quite limited and expensive, so it is recommended by ISEP to opt for arranged housing by the university; in this case, students would still receive a stipend to pay for their room and board expenses.

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.

Experiences of Former Students


“I love Zurich because it is a small city with all the amenities of a big city, totally cosmopolitan. You can hear any language of the world in the street and on the trains and trams. The quality of life that you can breathe is one of the best in the world, the transport system is first rate, efficient, punctual and clean, and you can travel easily to any point. I just want to say, I love Switzerland!” -Francesco Garcia, ISEP Exchange student to Zurich