Tip Jar Returns and… Bienvenue à Genève!

By The Graduate Press Editorial Board

The Graduate Press would like to welcome all the new students arriving this semester at the Graduate Institute! Whether you are an incoming Master’s or PhD student (or a student on exchange), moving to a new city and beginning an academic year, presents a world of possibilities along with some anxieties that go with it.

While you have all probably somewhat settled in already, the Spring 2022 Editorial Board would like to share with you some tips to ensure a smoother transition to your life in Geneva. Some of us have graduated while the rest are around as second-year students so, hopefully, we have the experience, and (dare we say it) expertise, to guide you along this process! So, without further ado, here we go!

Academic Life

Academic life can diametrically vary from programme to programme, and with new specialisation tracks for MINT students, things will change even more. Therefore any tips we provide have to be taken with a grain of salt, in that they may not wholly apply to your specific programme, and therefore, your experience.

We highly recommend using office hours! Sometimes a class may be too big, or you may feel intimidated or uncomfortable raising your opinions in class, but that’s not the only way to get a professor to know what you think! Office hours to meet individual professors is not an uncommon undertaking in many universities, but it was new to us, as we are sure it will be for some of you. It’s a great avenue to not only clear doubts, but also have discussions with professors on prospective dissertation ideas, or research areas of interest. It’s obviously not a given, but who knows, some professors might also be able to pass on some job opportunities to you if they think it fits in with your areas of expertise!

We recommend using office hours for your TAs as well. You can always tell your professor or TA that during the first office hour you’d simply like to get better acquainted. Office hours can go a long way… On of us even landed a job during an office hour without realizing it! Grades are important but not the be-all and end-all… at least for me. Try to adopt a growth mindset (mistakes, mistakes, mistakes…means you’re learning! 🙂 and focus on the skills and new content you are gaining from your class discussions, assignments, and interactions.

Email the professors in case of difficulties. Mental health comes first. In case you are going through a crisis/mental health low period, email the professors and TAs and let them know about your situation. Often, they are more than ready to accommodate your special needs and make the learning experience comfortable and rich for you. You can also email your Academic Advisor (Dr. Laurent Neury) who can then relay your situation to your professors. 

Student Life

There are two components to life as a student that we hope to discuss here: life at the Institute, and life in expensive Geneva. Living in one of the most expensive cities in the world is naturally challenging. Don’t worry, we have some resources that might be able to help ease the burden on your budget. Here’s an older article that discusses how best to budget shop for groceries in Geneva. When we say student life at the Institute, we mean the various activities undertaken by student-run initiatives, as well as the ways in which one can be involved in decision making within GISA (the Graduate Institute Student Assembly).

There are dozens of student initiatives at IHEID. Take the time to attend different welcome sessions and figure out what you like! Initiatives are a great way to meet other students with similar interests, and supplement your studies with fun events around campus. 

If you are someone who regularly travels around the city, we recommend investing in the SBB Half-Fare Travel Card and the Monthly Transport Pass. For 45 CHF/month, the Monthly Transport Pass gives you unlimited access to the trains, trams, buses, and mouettes (boats) within Geneva. The SBB Travel Half-Fare Travel Card is a year pass for half priced trains across Switzerland and Europe. If you enjoy traveling, this pass is definitely worth the 120 CHF. 

It takes some time to get used to budgeting here, given it is a new place that’s more expensive than where you used to live. Cut yourself some slack for a couple of months. Don’t get disheartened immediately. You’ll eventually get the hang of it. 

Life in Geneva

Geneva is a small city or a big village, as some people like to say. It might be strange for some to be able to traverse the whole length of a city in less than an hour, which is exactly what you can do in Geneva. Yet, oddly enough, you may find soon that a combination of inertia and class-related commitments renders the city even smaller- effectively the 2.6 km stretch from Grand Morillon to Perle-du-Lac, especially if you live in the Institute’s two student residences. This is International Geneva,  or the Institute’s Bubble, and not to be confused with the rest of Geneva. Being within such close proximity to the Institute comes with the benefit that one builds close ties within the Institute’s community, not to mention being awake and on time for classes. However, those of you who might want to separate school-life from the rest of your life in Geneva, might find this to be a trifle stifling. It is in this context that our ‘Life in Geneva’ tip jar section aims to look towards life outside those 2.6 kms of Institute life. Happy exploring!

For an affordable dinner out, we recommend Saj Eat. It’s located near the Cornavin station and is open until 22:00/23:00 on weekdays and weekends (including Sundays!). 

Geneva has is wonderful for its numerous open spaces, be it parks or lakes/rivers. We find these spaces incredibly calming and most of them are safe even if you are alone. So, if you feel you need fresh air, that’s your cue to step out of your room and end up in some park. Most of these places have lawns and benches and massive tree cover which is amazing regardless of whether you want some peace and quiet or unwind with a book or even take a dip in the waters.  

Culture and Sports

One thing many IHEID’s students don’t know is that they have access to a large amount of activities offered by the UNIGE. Some are free, some cost a small amount of money.

If you are interested in cultural and artistic activities, check their website. Most are in French, but some are also in English. Activities offered are diverse. You can enjoy some dance classes, music practice and theatre, but also photography, video, audio workshops and many more. It is also a good opportunity to meet people from outside of the Institute.

If you are more the kind of person who enjoys artistic performances when other people are performing, check out the free tickets offered by UNIGE-Culture. We would advise you to regularly check their website as new offers are frequently launched. Tickets are available for a large range of activities. You’ll find some techno nights in L’Usine, operas in Le Grand Théâtre, stand up, theatre, and many more. From personal experience, we found that tickets for operas are highly demanded so you should be reactive, but they allow you to attend quality performances freely and at very good seats.

Lastly, UNIGE also offers a large variety of sports classes and facilities. Through partnerships with local clubs, they are able to offer student-friendly discounts on classes in disciplines including climbing, swimming, basketball, football, ice hockey, curling, zumba, skiing, karate, boxing, fencing, and many more. For more information, have a look at their website.

Generally, classes offered by UNIGE, both sports and culture, start during the first weeks of the semester and last till the end of the semester. It means you will also have the opportunity to start at the beginning of the second semester. UNIGE also offers language courses at their Maison des Langues; they have discounted rates for IHEID students. You can also check out UPCGe for cheaper options.

Cycling in Geneva

Geneva is not the most cycle friendly city in Switzerland. It’s still possible to travel by bike and it’s often faster than TPG. There are some very nice cycle paths along the lake, but quickly overcrowded on sunny days. Otherwise, you’ll always find cycle paths to cross the city. It’s better to check in advance, to avoid big roads. As Geneva is quite flat, it’s very enjoyable to cycle through. From the Institute to Plainpalais, it is 15-20 minutes by bike. 

There are a few things to be cautious about. First, the tramways: if you have thin wheels, the rails can be very dangerous when crossing them parallelly. The wheel can get stuck in the tramway rail. If possible, cross perpendicularly to the rail. Second, cars: people can get a bit angry against cycles in Geneva, so just stay alert as they sometimes have unpredictable behaviours. But if you follow traffic rules, no problems. Third, thieves: if you leave your bike anywhere in the city, always lock it. A lot of bikes get stolen in Geneva. And not just the bikes. Sometimes, separate pieces also get stolen. For example, one of our board member’s bike’s seat got stolen! The better you lock it, the safer it is. But also, if you have a cheap second hand bike, you’ll suffer less if it is stolen.

Other sources of culture in Geneva

Books and arts are expensive in Geneva, but you can get some good deals. The Library in English, at Rue de Monthoux 3, offers a yearly membership for students at CHF 80 and they also host two book sales a year, where you can get as many second-hand books as you can fit in a paper bag they give you for CHF 30. The next book sale is on 4, 5, and 6th of November! For arts and culture, subscribe to UNIGE’s weekly newsletter. Geneva often offers opéra, ballet, contemporary dance pieces, and classical music concerts. Make sure to also check the Victoria Hall’s webpage for the programmes. And if you’re around during summer, make sure to go to Parc Mon Repos early in the morning for some beautiful symphonic concerts, or late at night to watch some movies by the lake. The screenings are for free and it is a lovely way to spend time with friends. You can also check out the events hosted by Payot bookstores; there are several that are free and can range from Chinese calligraphy to an intro to the publishing world. 

We recommend exploring the rest of Switzerland if you can manage your budget. Some really cool festivals and events happen throughout the year. Festivals include Le livre sur les quais in Morges, a cheese festival in Luzern, les caves ouvertes in cantons de Genève et Vaud, Festichoc, Montreux Jazz (free side events), Paléo Festival in Nyon, the list goes on… We also highly recommend registering on Meetup and finding people to do the activities you love with you. 

Cheap Shopping

If you need some furniture or other products, of all kinds, and don’t mind buying second hand, there are a few possibilities in Geneva.

Emmaüs have large shops in Geneva, the more practical being the one in Carouge-Rondeau, as it is just at the other end of the train line departing from Sécheron. There, you’ll find mostly large pieces of furniture, such as chairs, beds, cupboards, tables, and so on. They also have a big collection of smaller pieces, such as dishes, some appliances or some clothing. Their book section is quite big. It’s a good option to buy books in French to improve your language skills !

The flea market in Plainpalais is also a fun experience. Here, you’ll find mostly smaller objects, not always in good condition, but cheap. As it is sometimes not sorted, be prepared to dig in boxes ! Clothes, dishes, vinyls, furniture, decorations, books, jewellry…name it, you’ll find it. On a sunny day, the atmosphere of the market is also a nice experience, as it is in the centre and many people are there. Some parts of the market offer more high end vintage products, or antiquities, which can be fun to have a look at, but less to pay for.

The flea market is held every Wednesday and Saturday, and also every first Sunday of the month. It is better to go in the morning or in the early afternoon as sellers often start to close at around 5pm.

In Plainpalais, you’ll also find the food market, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. It is a nice experience, but not necessarily cheaper.

There are also some thrift shops in Geneva, with a lot of clothing. We found the products to be more diverse in the womenswear section than in the menswear section. The Geneva Red Cross has a clothing shop, with cheap prices. Other trendy thrift shops tend to have less cheap products, such as Levi’s, but it is always a nice experience.

For electronic devices, and also a lot of other things, Cash Converter offers second hand products, generally in good condition. They also buy products, so if you have electronic devices in good condition, and not a lot of time to sell it yourself, it can be a good opportunity. 

For the online second hand market, in Switzerland, we have two very popular websites. works with auction systems on private sales. The highest bidder gets the object at the end of the sale. For highly demanded products, you may face competition, but for most, there are only a handful of people interested. Products sold there range from rare antiquities to 2 CHF DVD collections, through sports equipment and furniture. Don’t hesitate to have a look, but be warned it can be a long exploration as there are many products sold. Also be wary that shipping options can differ from one object to another. Sometimes it is required that the buyer picks up the item himself. It can be a long trip if the seller lives in Saint-Gall. And yes, as it is a swiss website, some offers are only written in German. Usually, products are in the described condition as the websites have strong policies about that, but we are never safe from a surprise.

Anibis is another popular website. It is quite like Ricardo, but without the bidding system. The same warnings are to be applied.

Otherwise, Facebook Marketplace has grown to big proportions in the last few years in Switzerland. You’ll also find good opportunities there. As it is not specifically Swiss, it also allows you to buy in neighbouring France.

Wanting to go (or are) zero waste? Check out Zerowaste Switzerland to find shops that promote sustainable living. 

Grocery Shopping Near the Institute

If you are interested in buying local when doing your grocery shopping, l’Union Maraîchère de Genève has a few shops in the city. The closest being at Rue de la Navigation, in Pâquis. There you’ll find seasonal vegetables and fruits from local producers. The prices are reasonable as they often sell weird-shaped vegetables and fruits, not fit for big retail standards. They also have a bio section. For more information, check their website.

Almost Geneva and Outside of Geneva: 

Finally, if you feel like taking a break from the city, make sure to explore the places at the borders and beyond. Geneva’s strategic location will allow you to easily go to France or to Italy. Go get yourself cheap tickets to Annecy, a French town an hour and a half away from Geneva, or just take a bus from TPG to go visit Annemasse. If you feel like eating some delicious pizza or watching La Traviatta at a great Italian arena, take a Flixbus to Turin or Milan.

Take the bus F and go explore Ferney-Voltaire, a town in France famous for its Carrefour that also has nice little boulangeries and a fantastic Asian market. Take bus 6 from Cornavin to explore the Salève, a beautiful mountain also in France, where you can do a nice hike to get a fantastic selfie with Geneva.

Or if you wish to stay within the borders, but not so within the borders, during summer you can go floating at Jonction, that magical spot where France and Switzerland embrace each other by the mingling of the Rhône and the Arve rivers. Or you can always hop on bus E to go to Hermance, where you can have a lovely picnic with a wonderful view to the lake. Make sure to get a good book, some snacks, and prepare yourself for a peaceful afternoon!

We also encourage everyone to take advantage of the wonderful natural landscape and outdoor activities that Switzerland has to offer. There are many possibilities for hiking (use the Swisstopo app to plan).

Last but not Least

We also invite first-years to check out the Unofficial GradPress Orientation Guide that was compiled in previous years.

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