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A Culture of Care

Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.
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Smith in Geneva

Boats on the river

Home to the United Nations, Geneva is a cosmopolitan city located on the beautiful Lac Léman. Study at the University of Geneva and/or at the Graduate Institute for International Studies and Development. International internship opportunities are available with human rights, security, environment and development organizations.

Application Deadline

Smith student applications for full-year, fall or spring semesters are due on the first Monday in February (February 1, 2021). Guest student applications will be accepted until the second Monday in March (March 8, 2021) on a space-available, rolling basis; applying by the February deadline is encouraged.



The program begins with a three-week orientation including intensive French language study, culture and history courses, and excursions. During the semester, students study in French and/or English and follow one of the three program tracks.

Choose Your Curricular Track

Track A. International Internship Program
Intern at an international organization at least three days per week; study French; take the core Humanitarianism and Practicum courses at the Smith Center; enroll in at least one Graduate Institute or University of Geneva course. Available fall or spring; can be combined with Track B or C for a year-long option. Applicants are expected to have at least one semester of college-level French or the equivalent.
Track B. University Studies Program
This track welcomes students from every discipline in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences. Students take French at the Smith Center and choose additional courses at the University of Geneva according to their interests, major and level of French. Available for the academic year for students with two years of college-level French or equivalent; and spring for students with at least one year of French or equivalent.
Track C. International Relations Program
Enroll in four Smith Center and Graduate Institute courses each semester, including French language. Take a core Humanitarianism course at the Smith Center along with other International Studies/Development courses at the Graduate Institute. Available fall or spring. Available for students with at least one semester of college-level French. Can be combined with Tracks A or B for a year-long option.


Resident Academic Director: Geneviève Piron, Ph.D.
Smith Faculty Liaison: Howard Gold, Ph.D., Professor of Government
Local program staff: TBD

The year in Geneva begins with a three-week orientation to prepare students for academic and cultural life in Geneva. The orientation is organized in three parts: French language courses, familiarization with everyday life (practical tours, scavenger hunts), and site visits (City Tours, United Nations, Museums, etc.)

French language classes include classroom and outside the classroom sessions in order to help students to find their way into the urban geography and culture of Geneva. Students practice oral and written French communication in immersion classes (small groups, 2-3 levels). Courses in Swiss Francophone Literature and History of Switzerland and Geneva are given to advanced and high intermediate students.

A two-day trip outside the city of Geneva (for ex., Burgundy, Swiss Mountains) concludes the orientation.

Students apply to one of three program tracks in Geneva. Students in all tracks are expected to study French or take a course taught in French each semester. Students are expected to take at least one University of Geneva or Graduate Institute course per semester.

Course Requirements by Curricular Track

Track A: International Internship Program

Students admitted to this track intern in an international organization at least three days per week and take the following courses:

  • Themes and Issues in International History: Humanitarianism, State-Building, and Development (taught in English)
  • Practicum in International Organizations
  • At least one University of Geneva or Graduate Institute course, in French or English
  • French language course at the Smith Center, depending on language ability
Track B: University Studies Program

Students admitted to this track enroll in four to five courses each semester.

  • Two to three university courses in French or English, depending on language ability
  • One or two Smith Center courses
  • French language course at the Smith Center, depending on language ability
Track C: International Relations Program

Students admitted to this track enroll in four to five courses each semester.

  • Two courses at the Graduate Institute (usually in English, French available)
  • Smith Center core course: Themes and Issues in International History: Humanitarianism, State-Building, and Development (taught in English)
  • French language course at the Smith Center, depending on language ability
  • One additional university course in French or English may be available with permission of the Director and Smith College


All Track A students earn 14 credits plus an additional 2 credits for orientation. All Track B and C students earn at least 16 credits per semester plus the additional 2 credits for orientation.

Recent Internship Placements

A sample of recent internship placements includes:

  • American Citizens Abroad (ACA)
  • Centre Catholique International de Genève (CCIG)
  • Center for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development (CSEND)
  • Child Rights Connect (CRC)
  • Defense for Children International (DCI)
  • Democrats Abroad
  • Fédération internationale de l'Action des chrétiens pour l'abolition de la torture (FIACAT)
  • Global Institute for Water, Environment, and Health (GIWEH)
  • Global Migration Policy Association (GMPA)
  • International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
  • International Bridges to Justice (IBJ)
  • International Center for Migration, Health and Development (ICMHD)
  • International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD)
  • International Communications Volunteers
  • International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)
  • International Organization for Migration (IOM)
  • International Publishers Association (IPA)
  • Kenes Associations Worldwide
  • Plan International
  • World Heart Federation (WHF)

A Student's Perspective

Read two articles written by previous students about their internships in Geneva:

Waking the Dragon in Switzerland by Clare Ma '13

A World in One Place by Vanessa Louchart Bustamante '13


About the Smith Center

The centrally located Smith Center houses the offices of the resident academic director and the associate director, who provide academic advising and friendly guidance. The Smith Center has a study lounge with internet, computers and a printer, a small library, a classroom, and a kitchenette.

Histories of Globalization(s): Themes and Issues in Humanitarian Responses (taught in English)

This class explores the history and politics of international organizations and humanitarian interventions. Through the practical case study of Geneva, it aims to provide students with critical tools to challenge a number of commonplace assumptions about the role of governmental and non-governmental organizations in the world from a global history and political perspective.

French Without Borders

French classes for all levels are based on linguistic training and immersion in the local and international environment. Beginners are taught the basics of language in a dynamic, communicative way adapted to the needs of everyday life (sometimes courses are provided at the University of Geneva when there are few students on the program). Intermediate and advanced students review and develop their linguistic skills, while exploring transdisciplinary topics such as Swiss Culture Throughout History, Francophonies, The European Idea, Translation in Perspective, etc.

Practicum in International Organizations

This is a required course for students enrolled in Track A. Designed to support the learning objectives of the internship placement, students choose a research topic related to the organization, or areas of expertise of the organization, where they are interning, and meet regularly with a mentor that helps them with their academic research. Students produce a 20-page well documented research paper in either French or English at the end of the term.

Photo of the University of Geneva

University of Geneva Courses

All students in Tracks A and B may choose to enroll in Université de Genève courses from the faculties/departments listed below. The language requirement to take full advantage of the courses is advanced. Some courses taught in English are available for students with less than two years of French. These are offered primarily in the spring semester in the English Department, Global Studies Institute, and Economics.

Faculté des Lettres

Courses in classical studies, gender studies, French, English, cinema, art history, history, civilization in the Middle Ages, linguistics, comparative literature, musicology, philosophy. For foreign languages (Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Russian), classes include more hours than at Smith.

Faculté de Sciences de la Société (SDS) and Faculté d'économie et de management (GSEM)

Courses in social sciences, political science, socioeconomics, economics, international management, and international trade.

Global Studies Institute (GSI)

Courses in international economics, history, anthropology, international law, and international relations.

Faculté de Traduction et d'Interprétation (FTI)

One of the oldest translation schools in the world, the FTI of the Université de Genève offers courses in translation, linguistics, multilingual communication, and interpretation.

Other Faculties

The university also houses the Faculté des SciencesFaculté de Psychologie et d'Education and the Faculté de Théologie. The Schools of Medicine and Law are not open to students on the Smith Geneva Program.

Photo of the Graduate Institute of International Studies and Development

The Graduate Institute of International Studies and Development Courses

Students on Tracks A and C will enroll in courses in fields of international studies at the Graduate Institute of International Studies and Development in Geneva. Track A students may enroll in one course; Track C students will enroll in two courses. The Institute offers courses in Anthropology, Economics, History, Law, Political Science, Sociology.

Courses are provided in French or English, although all papers and oral presentations can be in either language. The Graduate Institute is a unique institution that links the academic world and international organizations. All students on the program can benefit from its libraries and unique research atmosphere.

Smith College also has a separate joint BA+MA degree program with the Graduate Institute.

Program Dates

Arrive in Geneva

Friday, August 27


Monday, August 30 – Friday, September 17

Fall Semester 2021

  • University and Smith Center courses begin: Monday, September 20
  • Fall courses end: Friday, December 24
  • Housing for fall-semester students ends: Saturday, December 25
  • University fall exams (for full-year students only): January 24 – February 11 (to be confirmed)

Winter Break

(for full-year students)

Saturday, December 25, 2021 – Sunday, January 23, 2022

Spring Semester 2022 Program Orientation

(for spring-only students)
  • Arrive in Geneva: Friday, January 28
  • Orientation: Monday, January 31 – Friday, February 18

Spring Semester 2022

  • University and Smith Center courses begin: Monday, February 21
  • Spring Break: Friday, April 15 - Sunday, April 24
  • Spring Semester ends: Friday, June 3
  • Spring Semester University exams: Monday, June 6 – Friday, June 24 (to be confirmed)
  • Housing ends: Sunday, June 262

1The end date of the program depends on the student's choice of track and classes and can only be determined after advising. Track A and C students taking classes at the Graduate Institute can be finished on June 3, 2022. Track B students must take classes at the University of Geneva and usually have final exams.

2In the spring, students may stay in their rooms after June 24, 2022 if a final exam is scheduled after that date. In this case the student may stay two days beyond the last exam date.

Life in Geneva

Group of students posing while eating in Geneva

Student Residences

Year-long Students

Year-long students live in international student residences in the center of Geneva. The CUP residences (Centre Universitaire Protestant), house students in fully equipped apartments which enable them to integrate into the life of the city and University.

Each student has a single room in a suite with kitchen, bathrooms and common space that is shared with three to seven others. Students find it economical to buy groceries with the program-provided living stipend, and to cook for themselves and with their suitemates. There are many opportunities to connect with local students, including the popular wintertime University hosted ski trips.

Depending on capacity, students staying for the whole year can also be placed in the other residences (see below).

Fall or Spring Semester Students

Fall or spring semester students occupy single or double rooms in different student residences: Cité Universitaire, a big community building for University of Geneva students, Grand Morillon, a new international students residence for Graduate Institute students and interns, or Home St-Pierre, a cozy women’s residence located in a historic building in the Old Town. In all instances, students have access to kitchen facilities and wifi. Semester students also receive a food stipend for their meals and have many opportunities to participate in University of Geneva cultural and sports activities.

Activities & Excursions

The city of Geneva, the surrounding region of western France, and destinations throughout Switzerland offer students a wide range of activities during the academic year.

Cultural Excursions

During orientation, a two-day trip is organized to help students socialize and discover the region: for instance, Burgundy (night in a castle, bike trip in the vineyard, and wine tasting) or Swiss Mountains (night in a chalet, sleigh ride, chocolate workshop)

During the semester typical day trips can include the medieval Château of Chillon, the Swiss capital of Bern, the medieval French city of Yvoire and the Lavaux vineyards (UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Cultural Activities

Small group and individual outings to the theater, the opera, the museums and to lectures on politics and international relations. The Association of the International Students in Geneva (Exchange Student Network) offers a warm welcome and organizes parties and events; the University of Geneva offers a variety of cultural activities such as theatre, dance, cinema club, choir, etc.

Sports Activities

The University of Geneva offers a wide range of sport activities. Among other activities, enjoy sailing or rowing on the beautiful Lac Léman, horseback riding, alpinism or a ski trip to the French or Swiss Alps.

Cultural Immersion

Occasional invitations from alumnae families to join them for discussions of the "Swiss way of life."

Please be sure you meet Smith College's eligibility requirements for approval to study abroad. In addition, Smith in Geneva has its own program-specific requirements. Women and men from four-year colleges are invited to apply. All program tracks require a 3.0 GPA. 

Curricular Track Requirements

Track A: International Internship Program
  • At least one semester of college-level French or equivalent required; ability to communicate in elementary French expected
  • Evidence of maturity, responsibility and preparation for study abroad and interning in an international organization
Track B: University Studies Program
  • Two years of college-level French or equivalent required for full-year enrollment; at least one year of French or equivalent required for spring enrollment
  • Evidence of maturity, responsibility and preparation for study abroad
Track C: International Relations Program
  • One semester of college-level French or equivalent required
  • Background in political science, government, or economics
  • Evidence of maturity, responsibility and preparation for study abroad

Application Materials

  • Smith Programs Abroad Application
  • Language Evaluation
  • Non-language Faculty Recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Copy of passport

Applicants from other colleges must also submit:

  • Home School Statement of Support
  • Official transcript
  • Original sample of written work in language of the program which has been submitted for a course and graded by an instructor

Students can find the application materials and apply to a Smith Program Abroad online using the new Smith International Travel Experiences System (SITES) by clicking on the appropriate log in option below.

Smith Student Log In  Guest Student Log In


Before applying to a Smith Program Abroad be sure to:

2020-21 Semester Fees

Tuition: $27,915
Room and Board: $9,380


The Smith Program Abroad fees in Florence, Geneva, Hamburg and Paris include intensive language instruction, cultural orientation, tuition, academic advising, assistance with university enrollment and course selection, supplemental study abroad insurance, medical evacuation and repatriation coverage, excursions and cultural events, room, board, cell phones or SIM cards, and the services of on-site directors

Smith Program Abroad fees do not include international travel, passport and visa fees, books and art supplies, and personal expenses including phone calls.

Financial Aid

Smith College students are eligible for financial aid on the same basis as when they are studying in Northampton (with a few exceptions). For questions about Smith financial aid related to study abroad on a Smith program, please visit Student Financial Services.

Smith College does not provide financial aid to students from other institutions; those students should contact their own college for financial aid assistance.

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and University of Hamburg Scholarship

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) together with the University of Hamburg are collaborating to offer scholarships to students who are studying abroad in Hamburg during the academic year. All year-long students (including guest students) are encouraged to apply to this merit-based scholarship. Two scholarships for €4,250 each will be awarded each year. Information on how to apply is included in the Smith in Hamburg program application.

Health Insurance

All students enrolled in one of the four Smith Programs Abroad are automatically covered by a supplemental study abroad insurance policy through Gallagher Student Health and Special Risk.

Please note that this is a supplemental plan only. All students participating in these programs are also required to be covered by a U.S.-based primary health insurance and will be automatically enrolled in and billed for the Smith College student health insurance plan through Gallagher Student Health & Special Risk at the beginning of the term abroad.

For students who are U.S. citizens, this insurance plan may be waived online at Gallagher Student Health & Special Risk if the student has another primary health insurance policy that provides comparable coverage. International students are required to be covered by the Smith College student health insurance plan through Gallagher Student Health & Special Risk as you would on campus.

More information about insurance is available on our Health & Safety section.

Visas for Studying in Switzerland

The Swiss government requires all students who are not EU citizens to obtain a student visa before arriving in Geneva. The Office for International Study (OIS) will facilitate a group visa application process for students studying on the Geneva program.

Students must submit a copy of their passport valid six months beyond the end of their studies in Geneva with their Smith program application. Proof of application for a passport or proof of passport renewal such as a receipt will be accepted.

Students (U.S. citizens, permanent residents and international students with valid U.S. visas) will submit all the required visa application materials to the OIS by the stated deadlines. The OIS will in turn submit the visa application materials to the Swiss Consulate in New York approximately 14 weeks in advance of the program start date. Processing may take up to eight weeks. Students will be notified by OIS when their visa applications have been approved. Students will then send their passports to the New York Consulate for visa issuance.

Things to Consider

Because students must send their passports to the New York Consulate for about a week in late July or early August, international travel during this time is strongly discouraged. Students who arrive in Switzerland without student visas will have to return to the U.S. to obtain the student visa.

Please note that students who stay in Switzerland during the summer are responsible for all living expenses, visa requirements, medical insurance, etc.

Accepted Students

For resources and information about the Swiss visa application process, please visit the Geneva Accepted Students website.