Crafting Character Abroad: A Bachelor Student's Journey in Switzerland

As a student, there are some common experiences and emotions globally, a few of these come to mind — including work-life balance, establishing your identity, and appreciating your independence.

International students represent a significant proportion of the Swiss population, amounting to 167,000 people, and as such, we have created social groups to gather and play sports, games, music, etc. to develop a sense of identity. It would serve you well to engage in these while you are in Switzerland because being a foreigner means you have a community, a backbone, and a highly welcoming and diverse society while getting the chance to be yourself. Basically, do not worry about being an ‘outsider'.
Many people believe that the sole purpose of higher education is to enhance their academic knowledge. Though this may be true for highly specialized fields such as medicine and engineering, I have discovered that, for more general degrees, it is more about character development, resilience, and gaining valuable skills. Character development is not an aspect that should be overlooked because it is essential for you to build confidence, discipline, and maturity. These characteristics will in turn help you to set boundaries in your professional and personal lives, but also to build a comfortable environment for yourself (do not underestimate the power of character in professional settings!). Work-life balance can only be achieved if you have the character to communicate your needs to your employers, and ensure those needs are heard and met.

Knowledge of accounting, economics, and politics can be learned and will be tweaked multiple times throughout your journey in life. On the other hand, character cannot be so easily manipulated if you have established a solid foundation. This is usually done when you are far away from your parents, AKA your ‘comfort zone'. In this crucial phase of your life, it is necessary to create your identity rather than to just explore it. Exploring has a connotation of pre-existence but I find that our identities outside of our home-countries are blank and must be drawn or shaped into existence.

Switzerland is the ideal place for character development because individuality is taken to relatively large extents. Freedom of expression allows you to test out different characteristics and comportments much to your advantage (sounds a bit mechanical, but life can genuinely be that simple sometimes).

Independence is highly desired, but truthfully for a person from a developing nation, it is not easy to adapt initially. It is something that you learn to appreciate with time, but a sense of independence allows you to travel, make money, (cook the food YOU love eating most — very important) and to be self-sufficient which are essential life skills.

This was a little insight into my life so far as an immigrant and international student in Switzerland. Though at times I do experience my lows since I am far from home and way out of my comfort zone, I see most of the challenges as opportunities to grow and solidify my character. The beauty in Switzerland is learning the art of acceptance — the Swiss may not consciously know that they radiate an ‘'it is what it is'' mentality, but it is extremely comforting and teaches you to not be too reactive in life. Enjoy the process, go with the flow, create memorable experiences, and most importantly establish your identity, character, and resilience.
Blog by Nour Nasser
BSBA Student and Student Ambassador