Design PF

Céline Paloma Haacke

at HEAD Geneve, Switzerland

The student of B.A. in Accessory Design about her semester abroad

"Since I am writing this field report five months after my semester abroad, I can already inform you that my experience made me stay here in Geneva. So I’m still there and currently working as a trainee in the field of shoe design.

The city
Geneva is above all a profoundly international city. Known for its many international organisations, it is home to the United Nations. The city is part of the Romantic canton where the main language is French and is located in the southwest of Switzerland. Its natural scenery includes Lake Geneva and its 140-metre-high water jet, but also the snowy peaks of the Alps in the background. Being used to my hometown Hamburg, it took some getting used to such a horizon. With its justified cliché on my part of the city where everything seems to breathe well-being and luxury. You will find numerous jewellery shops, watchmaking houses, high-class hotels, and banks. But Geneva also has a cultural face that can be discovered in its old town, its 18th-century houses, its Saint-Pierre cathedral, several museums, numerous art galleries, a theatre, and even an opera.

The school
The HEAD is a renowned design school in Europe and has many different buildings around the city depending on the subject you are studying. You can find study courses like Visual Arts, Film, Space Design, Visual Communication, Fashion Design, and Accessories Design which is based on watch and jewellery design. I chose the course Accessoires Design which took place in the beautiful old building next to the main station where almost all the trains, tram and buses are making it easy to reach. The old building is known for all the courses that have something to do in the fashion world. On my first day I remember how much impressed I was by the well equipped ateliers, studios and informatic rooms.

In my class we were 20 students in total. Since day one they all made me feel welcome and always had an eye one me in case I needed help. Today I consider myself very lucky that those people became more than colleagues and that I'm still friends with them since I'm working outside the HEAD. The courses were all in French which wasn't a problem for me, because French is my second mother tongue. I recommend everyone who is interested in joining this school to improve his or her French language skills. English is also possible but it will definitely be more complicated to communicate with your colleagues.

The workload at HEAD was really intense. I learned to be as efficient as possible in my studies. However, I always had the choice of how many subjects I wanted to participate in. My personal favourite project was in collaboration with Tag Heuer for a watch design. Because it was something completely new and exciting for me where I had a lot of fun. In general, HEAD has a huge network and many contacts to large companies, especially in the field luxury items.

The life
“Why is Geneva so expensive?!”, was the first thing I thought of in Geneva. The currency in Switzerland is the Swiss franc (CHF), but many shops also accept Euro. The average cost of living in Switzerland is higher than in neighbouring European countries. For basic expenses such as food, housing and public transport, students need around CHF 1,800 per month. Many students therefore live with their parents or on the French border with Geneva because life is cheaper there. For financial aid Switzerland is not associated with the Erasmus+ program anymore so an intern solution was put in place called the Swiss-European Mobility Program (SEMP) which provides grants for incoming students.

Apart from the money, Geneva offers many activities. As I started my time there in the winter semester, I was lucky enough to experience the Swiss winter season. Beautiful Christmas markets and lights decorate the city and fill the streets. The Genevans are bon vivant, love to show off their city, partying and especially love to eat fondue. I don't know how many fondue parties I've been to, but enough to stop eating it. Because Geneva is considered to be the getaway to the Alps, my friends from the HEAD also took me for my first time skiing. I am not sure that sliding down a deep mountain on a pair of sticks with a potential breaking of an arm or leg is my thing, but I'm so glad I survived and I'm so thankful for the patience of these guys.

All in all, I just can recommend every student to step out of their comfort zone and go on a semester abroad. Yes, there will be some administration stuff to do, and yes it's not easy to move to a different country especially when you have a lot of stuff and yes it is okay to be nervous first. But these 6 months made tremendous benefits to my career, enhanced my network, and showed me how much I appreciate my student life. You realise how fast your semester abroad will pass and you will try to catch every happy moment in it. And finally studying in a new country exposes you to increased career opportunities! As I wrote at the beginning, I am now working in Geneva as a trainee and am therefore also getting to know the working world of this city. Maybe Paulo Coelho was right when he wrote: “Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near.”