Wouter Bezuidenhout at University of Zurich, Switzerland

Wouter Bezuidenhout

MCom in Economics

Semester Exchange in the First Semester, 2022 at the University of Zurich



The University of Zürich (UZH) has an excellent international exchange where an exchange coordinator assists you in preparing all your documents. This is facilitated through their “Mobility Online” platform. After filling in my application and sending documents to UZH, I received a letter of acceptance from them that I had to send to the Swiss Consulate in Pretoria together with my passport. I received my passport back within 1-2 weeks along with my entry visa. Due to UZH’s assistance, this process was greatly efficient.

Using the Mobility Online platform, I also applied for housing at the UZH/ETH housing office, and I was allocated a room. The housing office has a partnership with WOKO, a non-profit company that provides housing to students in Zürich. I stayed at the WOKO in Casar-Ritz-Strasse 1, and from my experience, this is where most of the exchange students got placed. I am glad that I chose to stay in the WOKO as one meets many international students who are keen to combine plans and travel together etc. It is also affordable, I paid CHF541 per month.

Choosing subjects is a tough decision from so far away, but nothing is set in stone as changing subjects once at UZH is really easy. UZH and ETH are positioned right next to another. ETH is the technical university and is world-famous. One cannot do an exchange from SU to ETH, however, once at UZ Hit is really easy to register as a special student and do a few classes at ETH. I did two subjects, and I am really glad that I did. The subjects were part of the Management & Technology (MTEC) master’s programme, which is comparable to an MBA.

Being an exchange student means you automatically have access to the ASVZ, which are the sport and gym facilities of UZH & ETH. This is a great opportunity to try new things and enjoy it. Lastly, and most importantly, I applied for a scholarship/bursary with the Heyning-Roelli foundation. This is a detailed application process, but it is so worth it. This is for anyone studying in Switzerland. You can google their name for the website and see the forms you need. I received a bursary of CHF5000 of which CHF300 was paid after my exchange experience report was handed in following the completion of my exchange. I therefore received CHF4700 into my Swiss bank account.


Experience at the Host University:

I think if you’re in finance, economics or interested in business–then I would definitely not look further than Zürich. It is the hub of financial excellence, entrepreneurship, and banking. I had an elective course taught by a UBS banker for example. It was excellent. Zürich is phenomenal, and I would recommend it highly. The only downside is that Switzerland is expensive–but the bursary goes a long way. It is also possible to save money on train tickets if you are quick. Once I arrived at Zürich Airport, I immediately went to the SBB office to buy my train tickets. There are certain advantages to being under 25 when buying train tickets, and because I was turning 25 two weeks after I arrived, I bought annual passes upfront. I bought the Zone Ticket for Zürich (Zone 110) for a year-pass, I bought the Seven-25 ticket, and the Half-Fare ticket. The Zone ticket is a no-brainer, whilst the other two depend on your objectives. TheSeven-25 ticket allows you to travel the whole Switzerland for free after 7pm and before 7am. I am happy I got this as I did many domestic trips to other parts of Switzerland and the ticket quickly became cost-effective. The half-fare ticket gives you discounts on tickets purchased–and in my case was used for discounted prices on longer trips or shorter trips outside the zone. This is up to you, but it is a must if you don’t take the Seven25.
At the school, I chose subjects that were part of the Quant Finance Master’s programme hosted by both UZH & ETH. This is a well-regarded programme that is very rigorous. I did Advanced Credit Risk Modelling, Quant Finance, and Swiss Financial Regulation. I would look at the subjects on Corporate Finance too. At ETH, I did Design Thinking & Lean Startup. I would recommend Design Thinking highly. It gave me substantial exposure to different institutions and people by doing modules at ETH & UZH, and I would therefore really recommend it. As I said previously, changing subjects is easy–and therefore enroll for a few subjects and figure out which ones fit your schedule best.
Europe is really accessible for travelling so I did a lot of it, and I was really happy about this. I travelled to 9 countries in total besides Switzerland. Flixbus is your friend, and so are Easy Jets, Ryanair & Wizz Air. I also went skiing in Switzerland, and that was really a highlight. Zürich has a lot happening all the time. During summer months, there are many places to swim by the lake. I watched the Zürich Football derby, FC Zürich vs Zürich Grasshoppers–and it was great. I would have loved to watch the ice hockey too; the Zürich team is good. In the first two weeks after arriving, there is an Intensive German course offered. I did not do this–because I still had a lot of SU work to finish up. But it is something I would recommend if you wanted to quickly meet a lot of people who are exchange students.
Wouter on a trip
Also, quick tip: once you arrive, you need to go to the Kreis Buro to register for your residence permit – this replaces your visa and is NB. I recommend you do this on your first or second day. There is quite a hefty fee you pay for this, however once you are given a temporary residence permit, you can use this to open a bank account. I opened an account with UBS as they have a completely free account for students.

Return to Stellenbosch:

I am on my way back to SA now, and I am already missing Zürich. An exchange is a good experience because one is immediately completely responsible for your whole person. So, there is an opportunity to really grow and learn to become stronger. An exchange also gives you academic freedom to explore, and this is important. I transitioned from Economics towards Finance using the exchange as a platform.  It is an incredible opportunity to network too, both professionally and socially. I have made a few good friends who I hope to stay in contact with. Switzerland stands in large contrast to South Africa. One sees in Zürich the level at which things can operate and how well. But one also really appreciates the tight knit communities in SA and the spirit of South Africans.