ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is a public university founded in 1854 by the Swiss Confederation. ETH is a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics university in the city of Zürich, Switzerland, and is a founding member of the IDEA League and the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) and a member of the CESAER network.Show more
The course content, the possibilities and opportunities at the university and through industry partners is excellent and shows why this is a leading university. Though the teaching is not very modern and could adapt to new possibilities (only few courses have a more tech oriented and interactive teaching). Also the study life balance is not ideal. A lot of work comes along the semester and with exam in august and february time for personal development is very limited. In worst case students have 2 weeks of holidays at the beginning of september and none in winter (time where no studying should be done). Not only does that not allow to relax from time to time it also does not allow to apply the knowledge in internships throughout your studies, which compared to other leading universities is a huge lack. ETH will have excellent students graduating with barely any work experience.View more
I would like to stress the work life balance at ETH:
ETH is a renowned university because of it’s cutting edge research.
Studying here is quite hard, especially in the first two years when you have to learn all the basics and have little to no choice about what subjects you take. After that you have a solid knowledge in your field of studies so you can soon recognise which field you would like to specialise in. The third year and also the master degree afterwards give you the possibility to focus on your favourite topics. You also have to work on a couple of practical projects which really help you to get the specific skills in the field you want to later work in. It’s not unusual that a master thesis results in a paper or a start up, so you can see the level is quite high there.
Sounds nice so far right? You can dive into the topics which you enjoy and work on super interesting projects and the best thing is you can even go to the professor with your own project ideas and the chance is high that you get the chance to work on that. Because we have a high standard here the professors are also willing to invest money in projects so you barely have no limitations at all.
So where’s the downside?
How can you achieve and learn so much more at ETH than at any other university in the same amount of time? The recipe is easy: you give up your free time, your life and your soul… sounds dark but don’t worry, you can also just take longer for the bachelor as well as master degree, it’s no problem here and a lot of people do it.
I want to show you a normal year in a student’s life at ETH.
First you have the part with lectures which ranges from September to December and February to May/June. Like at every other university you have classes you go to. After that comes the studying time where you have 1 month in winter and 2 months in summer in which you study. Because the curiculum is so full in order to be able to learn as much as possible in a short time that they just throw all the knowledge at you. And in the studying session you finally get the time you need to learn all that and also to practise your self-discipline. Then we have exams in January/February and in August. If you’re unlucky the holidays you get are one weekend in winter and 2 weeks in summer. I’m not kidding… it’s the truth, we like to joke about our non-existent holidays, but we do so with a tear in the eye.
So why would you sacrifice all your time for work and how do you not get crazy?
Luckily we have a lot of student associations at ETH. We have one association per field of study, some are also mixed together (math&physics, electrical&mechanical engineering) and also a roof association of all students inside of which there are also a lot of subassociations for everything. Whatever you like to do or would want to do, you can do it. We have some sporty associations which organise tournaments or a skiing competition with the university from Lausanne, also we have commissions brewing their own beer, an association with whom you can travel through Europe almost for free, theater groups, an entrepreneurship club, workshops with enough tools to work on your own projects and much more. Also all the time the specific student associations of your field of study are organising events. So you get during the Semester a nice variety of events and entertainment which helps you to gain enough energy to survive the tough studying session afterwards.
So my facit is: I love to study at ETH, I wouldn’t change it, even if I could choose all over again.
The only three downsides for me are the lack of summer holidays and the fact that not a lot of professors have a good didactical education, they’re the best in their research field but they sometimes lack the skills to clearly transmit us the knowledge which increases the amount of effort needed during the studying sessions in order to successfully master the exams. The third downside is that the first two years are super heavy because of the amount of theoretical basical knowledge you have to learn. Because of that a lot of students drop out, so you loose about half of your friends you meet on the way…
If you’re interested in studying at ETH here a small overview of needed languages:
the first year is completely in German,
the second year is half in German, half in English
and the third year is completely in English
Master: 100% English, around 50% of master degree students are international students from all over the world
Also if you didn’t manage to get a scholarship and if it’s financially impossible for you to come to Switzerland for masters, keep in mind that you can also study less credits per semester and work next to it. It’s super easy, if you’re good at a subject, to directly work at ETH as an assistant and help with the exercise sessions. Also if you’re good in coding, there are quite a few companies at which you could work part-time. Also don’t forget that if you’re interested in a PHD position, they earn quite well here, so you can easily make a living with it 🙂View more
I study in my final year of the bachelor degree electrical engineering and information technology. In my experience it depends quite heavily on your previous knowledge how hard the first year of your studies is for yourself. Nevertheless you need to be always hardworking and at least in the second year almost everyone has to overcome some difficulties. In these two years you have to pass mandatory blocks of exams.
When you have passed all the obligatory tests the most interesting part of your studies begins. You can deepen your knowledge in topics that interest you the most personally, you can work on practical group projects and there is also the option of doing an industrial internship. This is what makes ETH an amazing place to study. You’re also given the choice to freely assign some ETCS points to subjects of the the complete range of lectures at the university.
The third year helps you to make up your mind about your direction of interest since you have to choose between a consecutive or a huge variety of specialised masters programmes.
All the buildings fulfill high standards – even the older buildings. The technical equipment for labs is up to date. ETH offers everything a student needs to study.
Most of the professors so far did quite a good job at teaching. Some of them may lack some educational skills but they are all experts in their field and do cutting-edge research. So what they lack they can make up for with their wide knowledge and mostly really helpful script. Unfortunately the exams written by the main assistant of the professor are mostly not as representative as they should be because they’re either stressful and unsolvable in this time or too easy so every mistake makes a huge difference in the grade.
ETH has two campuses. One in the city centre close to the main station and one on Hönggerberg. Depending on the field of study you may be more often in one of the places. In the case of electrical engineering you will be mainly in the city centre. Both locations are usually reachable in about half an hour from most living areas in Zurich.
Each field of studies has their own student association. In case of electrical engineering you are part of AMIV which is together with mechanical engineering. It’s one of the biggest associations and offers everything you could think of. There is something for everyone. From a cultural team which organises events to Bastli where you can materialise your own projects to EESTEC where you can attend workshops and travel in the whole of Europe and much much more. There even is a brewing and coffee association in AMIV.
Beside the specific electrical engineering association there are also association for movies, board games, theatre and if there is not enough you can open your own association.
It’s one of the hardest things to find a place in Zurich which is also affordable. Unfortunately there is nothing really cheap offered by ETH itself but you may be lucky to find something cheap through the organisation WOKO. There are some students apartments on Hönggerberg by ETH but as far as I know they are also quite expensive.
Especially in the third year of the bachelor or in the masters degree a lot of foreign students attend courses at ETH. Also ETH is known worlwide and offers great opportunity to do an exchange to study abroad.
I value the opportunity that I have the chance to study at ETH. It offers you a great education and a future with many opportunities. All in all it’s the place for me to study electrical engineering!
I studied at this university for my masters degree and I definitely would recommend it. The topics of the lectures are cutting edge, you have the opportunity to build your own program and most of the professors (at least in my field) are real experts. There are many possibilities of doing research projects, and by so having access to great labs and gear. The teaching has a perfect blend between theory and practice. The teaching is strongly connected to research, therefore the topics covered are very cutting edge and the chance to publish a paper during the studies is concrete. Great programs for encouraging spin-off startups. Student life is very active, with a lot of student associations for any of your interests. The environment is really international but knowing German is a plus for everyday life. ETH offers you many services for free like sports facilities and language courses. I didn’t really like the exam system: I find them too much focused on speed, resistance to stress and memory than actual reasoning. Furthermore, you have a chance per year to have an exam, at a fixed date. Accommodation is hard to find in the city and expensive, and student dorms are still very expensive and not enough. Life in the city is expensive, chances of a scholarship are basically non-existent and therefore it will be hard to enjoy life in the city, let it just be a beer out.View more
Honestly speaking, the first year is really hard but it’s definitely worth it and through the student associations anybody can find something to balance out the hard work. Though the first year isn’t the most interesting one, motivation can be found quite easily because there are a lot of cool projects where the learned stuff can already be used and the subjects build up a lot on each other.View more
I’m currently in my fourth bachelor semester on my way to becoming a Biomedical Engineer. I’ll do my best to elaborate on the different aspects of student life here in Zurich.
First of all, the lectures and classes: especially in the first two years of studies (in the bachelor) you’ll have very little choice about your classes. The goal of these two years is for you to establish a base of theoretical knowledge on which future classes can be built on. Later on, you’ll be more free to choose the subjects you wish attend.
All in all, the quality of classes is high and students are expected to dedicate a lot of their time to studying and lectures.
Student life: going out in Zurich is expensive, that’s why a big part of the nightlife is self-organized by students. Student associations are very active (though that also depends on your field of studies, there’s one per department) and organize a multitude of events.
Living in Zurich: most people can’t afford to get a place of their own in Zurich, prices are very high. So students resort to sharing apartments or living in student dorms.View more
For the first years of the Bachelor’s degree, the given curriculum is quite specific and there are not many options to choose. Once the basic knowledge is acquired, more and more options to choose are introduced. The last year of the three year programme is full of electives and eventually the thesis (at least for most students). The most students will do their thesis in one of the Labs at ETH itself. Theses in the industry are rather seldom.
For the Master’s degree, there is a tutoring programme. Each master student has a professor of their department who is responsible for them. Together with this tutor, the course list is determined. Quoting a friend: “For your masters, you can choose whatever lectures you want. You just need to find a Prof who signs it”.
For both, undergrad and postgrad programmes include a certain amount of lectures which are not directly connected to the studies themselves. E.g. some economics, psychology, languages. Great for following personal interests!
Generally, studies at ETH are very demanding and anyone applying there should be ready for some hard work. Holidays are scarce: depending on how lucky you are with the exam schedule you have 2 to 4 weeks between exams and the new semester in summer and 3 days to 2 weeks in winter. Plus one week for Easter.
But to be honest this is why relaxing is mostly done during the semester. The really hard work is done in the lecture free time before exams. two months in summer and one in winter. Which does not mean that the semester is long holidays. Often some kind of deliverables are demanded.
Hard work, but it’s worth it. A lot of knowledge is obtained and especially in Switzerland people with an ETH degree are looked for. Besides that, anyone will leave with a big and powerful network.
Student life at ETH is dominated by student associations. Each field of studies has it’s own student association, which are part of the association for all students at ETH. Each of these associations organizes a multitude of activities. More than anyone could possibly attend. Few examples: movie nights, beer tastings, theatre visits, skiing weekends, paintball,…the list is never-ending.
Due to high prices in Zurich’s clubs, most students prefer to hang out in student bars or in summer around the lake. But of course, there are also great clubs.
ETH has one campus right in the city centre and one about half an hour from there. There is a free shuttle bus connecting them. The campus in the centre is about 10 minutes from the main train station and extremely close to the old town with a lot of great bars to relax after studying hard.