Information and Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

Swiss Semester is a coeducational program of academic, personal, and physical challenge for high school sophomores from the finest independent and public schools in the United States. Swiss Semester's campus is Zermatt, Switzerland, an outdoor paradise that epitomizes the security, stability, healthfulness, and natural beauty for which Switzerland is renowned. Interested students from affiliated schools should talk with their school's Swiss Semester Coordinator or the Director of Swiss Semester, Mr. Kris Robbins, and plan to apply in early December.Students from non-affiliated schools are welcome to apply to Swiss Semester and are encouraged to talk with families who have sent children to Swiss Semester (for a list please contact Swiss Semester).

Personal Growth

Increased insight into one's self and others is an essential facet of the realization of personal potential that Swiss Semester is all about. As a result of living together in a foreign country and sharing new and exciting experiences, students develop an increased awareness of how their actions affect others; they become less self-centered and more considerate. Almost all past Swiss Semester students mention "increased independence," "greater academic focus," and "better study and time management skills" as additional benefits of the program. Students leave Swiss Semester with pride in all that they have accomplished and return to their communities and high schools with increased "can do" attitudes. (view quotes from past Swiss Semester students and parents).


Travel and exposure to foreign cultures are an important and integral part of the curriculum and contribute significantly to the personal growth of Swiss Semester students. Much of the travel and "field work" is designed to reinforce and extend what is learned in the classroom. Furthermore, Swiss Semester students learn to be comfortable and self-sufficient in foreign settings. The travel includes trips within Switzerland and longer trips to Italy and France.


Outdoor activities and challenges supplement the academic curriculum and further the development of confidence and self-reliance. With an emphasis upon hiking, mountain climbing, and skiing, advantage is taken of Zermatt's incomparable alpine setting. Possible weekend adventures include hikes to mountain huts, mountain ascents, more challenging rock climbing, canyoning, ice climbing, gorging, biking (mountain and city), and glacier crossing.


It is important to understand that Swiss Semester is first and foremost an academic program with very high expectations which attracts very academically capable applicants (see college list of Swiss Semester graduates). Swiss Semester offers adventure, challenge, and a temporary change of routine and setting, without sacrificing rigorous academic preparation for competitive colleges. The curriculum is carefully planned with the participating schools to ensure academic continuity, ease of re-entry, and credits toward graduation. Because of the personal and intellectual growth experienced during Swiss Semester, students almost always seek greater academic challenge and achieve higher grades upon their return to their sending high schools. All the classes at Swiss Semester incorporate the surroundings, the school's travels, and the student's development in the course material making Swiss Semester truly an integrated experiential learning environment.


Math — according to the students' sending school texts. This ensures that when the students returns to their schools after Swiss Semester they will be at least at the same level as their peers.

Language — French or Spanish according to the students' sending school texts. The French students will get an opportunity to use their French in and around Zermatt and during the program's travels.

English — standard honors sophomore English class with an emphasis on writing and literature pertaining to Swiss Semester's travels and the students' emotional growth during the program.

Humanities — this course integrates Art History with Western Civilization. It will relate the style of a number of key works of sculpture, painting, and architecture to the social/political background of the eras in which they were created. The students will get an opportunity to see some of the works "first hand" during the program's travels.

Science — geology and geology labs (there are few better places to study and experience geology than in Zermatt).

Current Affairs — this class meets once a week to discuss world "headline" news. Particular emphasis is placed on European relations and U.S. foreign policy.

An "average" class day:

  • 0750-0800 morning meeting
  • 0800-1120 four academic classes
  • 1120-1630 out in the mountains (climbing, hiking, geology lab, and skiing)
  • 1630-1810 two classes
  • 1810-1915 dinner
  • 1915-2145 study hall
  • 2215 lights out
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