Except in a few rare cases, any period spent abroad under a university exchange agreement entitles you to the payment of a mobility grant, the amount of which is shown in the agreement information sheet, which you will find in the exchange agreements database. There are no particular formalities to complete to request a mobility grant; if you are selected for a university exchange, you are automatically entitled to the grant provided for the destination concerned.
However, for some destinations, no grant is paid; instead, the host university covers the costs of meals and accommodation.
Once you have been selected and your name put forward to the host university, SASME will contact you in good time to sort out the practical arrangements for the payment of your grant.
If your financial situation makes it difficult or impossible for you to consider studying abroad, don’t panic! SASME can offer additional funding for students in financial difficulty, on top of the standard mobility grant.
To apply for financial assistance, you must have received your confirmation from the host university. Once you have it, you should contact SASME and complete the financial assistance application form on its website (in the “Student support” section) and attach the information requested. If your application is accepted, the amount you are awarded will be paid at the same time as your mobility grant.
When you take part in a university exchange for one or two semesters, you are classed as an exchange student, which means you are entitled to a reduction in course enrolment fees. You will therefore pay UNIL only CHF 180 per semester instead of CHF 580. In addition, studying in your host university under the agreement signed with UNIL exempts you from paying enrolment fees at the host university. It can therefore be very advantageous to study abroad in these circumstances.
One of the major concerns of students who are preparing for an exchange is finding accommodation in their host city. How easy it is to find accommodation at a reasonable price will depend on your destination. Some partner universities have a campus and may offer you accommodation but this is far from the norm in the majority of cases.
Whatever the circumstances, it is worth finding out about the state of the local housing market and its conditions, well in advance. Follow the advice from your host university carefully and don’t hesitate to contact the relevant department for help, once the university concerned has confirmed your enrolment.
Make sure you read about the experiences of previous students who have taken part in an exchange, which you can find on the information sheet about the agreement with your host university. You can also check out the blog written by UNIL exchange students, where you will find plenty of informative stories from fellow students who are currently abroad!
You can also use the website student.com, which lists over a million accommodation offers in 25 countries, to help you find somewhere to live. The accommodation offered is mainly in student halls managed by private firms.
Finally, we recommend that you attend the UNIL ambassadors’ evening, which takes place in May every year, mainly to make contact with former students who have taken part in an exchange and can offer you plenty of practical advice.
The maximum length of a university exchange is two consecutive semesters, generally during the same academic year. However, academic calendars vary significantly in different parts of the world, and from one country to another, even in Europe. In the southern hemisphere, for example, the academic calendar is based on the calendar year and starts in January.
Therefore, if you are leaving for the spring semester according to the UNIL calendar, you may need to leave as early as January. You will also have to make arrangements with the heads of your faculty, section or school so that you do not have to sit your examinations in January.
Some countries (Canada, for example) split their academic year into three terms, so it is important to communicate clearly with the host university to determine precisely when you are intending to study there. Your mobility adviser will be happy to provide more detailed information on this point.
It is essential to get information on how you will be covered during your exchange in terms of insurance, particularly for illness and accidents, before you depart.
Your compulsory health insurance in Switzerland should also cover you against accidents, provided you are in regular employment and your employer covers you for this risk. If you are intending to terminate your employment contract in preparation for your exchange, it is essential to ask your LAMal insurer to cover you against accidents.
Once you have done this, you must contact the relevant local authorities in your host country about the requirements for health and accident insurance. Some countries will recognise your Swiss insurance (which will be the case within the European Union, if you have a European Health Insurance Card), while others will require you to take out local insurance.
In the first case, you should check the limits to your cover while you are living abroad with your LAMal insurer and, if necessary, take out top-up insurance to provide additional cover.
In the second case, it is not unusual for the host university to require you to take out additional insurance. However, you should still check that it provides appropriate cover during your stay.
Finally, you are recommended to take out insurance in case you need to be repatriated because of an accident or serious illness.