Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Here's some info on visas, apartments, and budgeting:
To answer some practical questions posed by our excellent ThinkSwiss administrators, if you're doing research for three months or less as a US citizen, you don't need a visa. Therefore I have no advice for those seeking a visa. To find a place to live, go to the apartment list, it's fantastic. I had to change apartments for personal reasons, but was where I went first even then. If you are a practicing Christian, look up a few churches in your denomination (maybe including non-denominational and maybe even from mosques and other religious communities, although that might be a tougher search) and contact them to see if they have apartments or free rooms you can rent. Keep in mind when picking a neighborhood in Bern, at least, that buses and trams don't run very late within neighborhoods on the edges of the city, although the main-street trams run late and can usually get you to within walking distance, if far (I was in Wabern for 2 months, which is gorgeous but the bus closest to my street stopped way too early). You should also get a mobile phone with a prepaid card from a company like Orange, for example. Of course, consider emailing your workmates as well; mine were helpful, in fact the house in Wabern where I stayed for my second and third months was the family house of a workmate, but this is idiosyncratic to each institution of course. People in Switzerland are helpful, just ask. I highly recommend borrowing, renting, or buying a bike (and a helmet); I was lucky enough to borrow one from my mentors. You can even take your bike with you on most trains (although I don't remember if you have to pay a bike fee).
Budget is hard to calculate retrospectively. I somehow found a great place with really cheap rent (250CHF/month), but I would budget (if you are staying outside of Zurich and Geneva) 500-600CHF for rent/month,
500CHF/month for groceries and eating out,
500CHF/month for travel including buying the discount/youth HalfDays card and/or Gleis7 (see my entries at an earlier date) and extras including gifts, chocolate, clothes, that broken leg on your first ski lesson, whatever.
So that's about 1500/month, and that's not counting airfare, which for me was paid by my institute in lieu of a salary.
Groceries are similarly priced to good grocery stores in the States. Eating out is absolutely ridiculous for a Houstonian (we have great food for great prices), for example pasta with calamari for 25CHF. Yet we had really good schawarma from the corner Lebanese restaurant for 8CHF and other restaurants had lunch plates for 10CHF... so think 10-30CHF for lunches and 17-40CHF for dinners, barring small sandwiches, wurst (sausage), and pizza. For Geneva, however, expect to pay at least 30-50% more. Travel expenses depend on you and can vary widely. But I would eat less and travel more if you have to! So all in all, I pretty much emptied out my bank account including half of the scholarship (the second half comes when you are done, much like a bandage for your wounded coffers). You might do the same, but if you need to save and you're under 25, get a cheap apartment, buy the discount travel cards HalfDays (HalbTags) and Gleis 7/Voie 7 (the under 25 part), cook your own food, and travel after 7pm!

Tschüss, Zusammen! Machen Sie viel Spass!!!!!!! Vielleicht wir sehen uns ein mal in der Schweiz :). Bye, everyone, have fun! Maybe we'll meet someday in Switzerland.

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