More logistics. While I know that logistics aren’t the most fun to read about, there’s been a lot I’ve had to figure out in my first two weeks in Switzerland. In retrospect most of this stuff was actually super easy, but it was pretty hard to figure out on my own. My hope is that this info will make it easier for anyone who comes later!

Health Insurance

I know that I talked about this in my last post, and it might seem kind of boring, but figuring out Swiss health insurance was my #1 source of stress during my first week in Geneva – so here is everything I learned so hopefully it’ll be easier for you!

How do I know which company to pick? During our orientation on our first day in Geneva UNIGE had worked with various insurance companies to come to the university and to give us information about their student rates. Health insurance in Switzerland is compulsory and, like pretty much everything else in Geneva, expensive. Since there is no getting around purchasing health insurance it was nice that UNIGE had 3 or 4 companies with much cheaper premiums come so that we had some idea where to begin. Obviously you can choose whichever company you think will work best, but after looking into all of them Advisor seemed to make the most sense. With a CHF 100 deductible, the monthly premium for Advisor is CHF 86. Although this might sound like a lot, it’s within a few Swiss Francs of the other companies and nowhere near as expensive as the monthly premium that normal Swiss residents pay. The main reason that Advisor seemed like the best choice was that I didn’t have to open a Swiss bank account. I’m definitely bummed I won’t be able to say that I have a Swiss bank account in my name, but it turns out that being an American college student makes it pretty difficult to open one.

How do I sign up? Advisor has an easy online application system that you can do in French or English (this was key). Even though it was in English I still spent countless hours trying to figure it out. It turns out you can leave the bank information section blank (which I did) if you don’t have a Swiss bank account. What confused me the most was on the final page it told me I would be insured for a year. While some other people on the program were able to change their dates, I couldn’t and got increasingly worried that I would have to pay for insurance past my stay in Geneva. As it turns out, they emailed me as soon as I submitted the application to ask how long I would be staying and told me that I wouldn’t have to pay once I left- such a relief knowing it was so easy!

How do I pay? After all the stress and confusion surrounding applying for insurance I didn’t know it would be hard to figure out how to pay as well. Advisor sent me an envelope with a piece of paper for each month I would be in Geneva with a detachable potion at the bottom. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, but later found out that if you bring it to the post office, along with money, they’ll pay your insurance for you. Honestly so simple now that I know! Now the only challenge will be remembering to pay it every month.

A post office near the lake. The building was so pretty I didn’t even realize what it was!


Nothing has made me more appreciative of my phone than only being able to use it on wifi in an unfamiliar place where I don’t speak the language. I didn’t have a Swiss SIM card for my first couple days in Switzerland and I felt so dependent on the people around me who already had working Swiss plans. Sure it’s nice to be able to Snapchat friends about what you’re doing or scroll through Instagram on the bus, but I really felt the inability to text and use Google Maps. I didn’t feel comfortable venturing out on my own knowing that I would have to rely solely on a screenshot of Google Maps to know where I was going and wouldn’t be able to text anyone or look anything up if I got lost.  As silly as it sounds, I really felt that having a working phone gave me the confidence to go out and explore the city on my own – which is something that I couldn’t recommend more!

There are two main phone companies in Geneva that offer good prepaid plans—Salt and Sunrise. The main difference is that with Salt you pay $2/day for unlimited data and then a certain amount per text and call. In contrast, with Sunrise you pay a certain amount every month depending on which plan you want. This felt more like what I was used to at home so I ended up going with Sunrise. I got a plan that gave me unlimited 4G data within Switzerland as well as unlimited texts and calls (to the US too!!) and a small amount of international data for weekend trips. One thing that I learned the hard way – make sure you know how to turn on/ off roaming. Since Geneva is so close to France my phone automatically connected to a French tower the first day I had it and I used up a chunk of my roaming data without even knowing it.

Housing Deposit

Ok so this one is still a little up in the air…. When you check into the Cite when you arrive one of the first things you do is give them a security deposit. Ideally they want you to open a certain kind of bank account called a depository account where your deposit stays during your stay. But, like I said before, I’m trying to avoid opening a bank account at all costs. The man at the front desk assured me that it would most likely be fine for me to just put my deposit on my American Visa, but I guess we’ll find out at the end of this when I try and get my CHF 400 back!