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Programs : Brochure

  • Locations: Zurich, Switzerland
  • Program Terms: Fall, Spring, Year
  • Budget Sheets: Fall, Spring
Fact Sheet:
Language of Instruction: English, German Language Prerequisite: No previous study
Minimum Cumulative GPA: 3.0 Credit Available For: SEAS
Other Eligibility Requirements: Prior Coursework as Required by Subject Type of Program: Semester/Year Study Abroad
Housing Options: Apartment/Off-Campus Application Deadline: Fall/Year: March 1, Spring: September 15
Program Description:

Program Snapshot

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich)
BZH Logo
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich (ETH Zürich) has come to symbolize excellent education, groundbreaking research, and applied results beneficial for society as a whole. Founded in 1855, it today offers researchers an inspiring environment and students a comprehensive education as one of the leading international universities for engineering, technology, and the natural sciences. Premiere research facilities, state-of-the-art classrooms, and an attractive urban environment create an ideal setting for the university's 19,000+ students.

For additional information, visit the ETH Zurich Exchange Student website. The FAQ section of the ETH website also has a lot of helpful information, as does the Handbook for International Students.
The City of Zurich

Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, with a metro population of around 1.3 million inhabitants. The beautiful city, in which German is the main language spoken, is one of the most expensive cities in the world and home to many financial institutions. Zurich’s quality of life has been ranked very high for many years, as there are many cultural attractions within and near its borders, including multiple art galleries, theaters, mountains, and lakes. The old city and its windy, cobblestone, and car-free streets, is not to be missed!

Did you know…?

ETH Zurich hosts the annual Polyball, which is the largest decorated ball in Europe, and welcomes more than 10,000 dancers and attendees.

Albert Einstein is among the many famous ETH Zurich alumni who have contributed to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.



The program at ETH Zurich is for SEAS students only.

Five spots for Penn students are available each semester at ETH Zurich. All candidates should identify a second choice program. Priority will be given to juniors and first semester seniors.

Minimum GPA Requirement: 3.0

Language Prerequisite: n/a

Additional Course Pre-requisite(s): Relevant coursework in your proposed discipline of study is required. 

Other Requirements: Completion of at least two full years of undergraduate study by the end of the academic semester (fall or spring) prior to departure is required.


Language of Instruction

English, German


A full course load at ETH Zurich generally consists of four to seven classes per semester.  Penn students must maintain a full course load while abroad and may only enroll in courses at the undergraduate level. Students are permitted to take no more than the equivalent of 5.5 CUs during their semester abroad. 

ETH Zürich does not have a centralized campus within the city, but rather has two city campuses, both offering cutting-edge facilities for students and researchers alike. The main building was constructed in the 1860s in the heart of the city, and when the university grew, it spread out into the surrounding quarters. Though other facilities are located near the main building, a new campus was built on the Hönggerberg in the outskirts of the city, which is approximately a 20 minute bus ride from the main campus. Since each campus houses different departments, students may have courses at both campuses; however, there is a free shuttle that transports students between both campuses during the week.

Penn students are enrolled in a particular department at ETH and must take at least 2/3 of their course load within this department at ETH. The standard course load at ETH Zurich consists of courses equaling 30 ECTS points, although exchange students are allowed to take a minimum of 20 ECTS. The ECTS points assigned to each course reflect the amount of course work, including study time, per course and can range from 2 ECTS to 10 ECTS. Undergraduate exchange students can conduct study projects during their stay but cannot work for the first six months of their stay in Switzerland due to legal constraints. Yearlong students are eligible to work during their second semester and can work with a professor for no more than 15 hours/week during the semester.

The ETH-Bibliothek is the largest library in Switzerland and the main library of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. In addition, it functions as the Swiss center for information on science and technology. In addition to the main library, most of the individual departments have their own libraries which can be accessed by the student body.

ETH Zurich Academic Calendar
ETH Zurich Course Catalog for Incoming Exchange Students


Due to the nature of the Swiss academic calendar, students studying abroad for the fall semester must make alternative arrangements for final exams in order to be able to return to Penn for the spring semester. While it is common, it is not guaranteed that a professor will allow students to take exams early via an oral examination.
There are two examination periods at ETH – end-of-semester exams (during and directly after the semester) and session exams (a few weeks after the semester ends and beyond). To view the type of examination for a particular course look under “Performance assessment” in the Course Catalog.

Grading Scale

As on all Penn Abroad programs, grades are recorded on the Penn transcript and are calculated in the cumulative grade point average.  The pass/fail option can be exercised according to the Penn on-campus policy of your home school. For more information on Penn Abroad’s academic policies, click here.

To receive your transcripts of records you need to contact the study administration office of your department before you leave ETH Zurich. It is your own responsibility to request your transcripts and make sure they reach you in time. The transcript of records is not sent to you automatically. Please note that the study administration office can only issue your transcript of records once all grades are published.

Grades are reported to Penn on the ETH Zurich scale and then converted to Penn grades according to the following grade equivalencies:

This scale below is effective through Spring 2018:
ETH Zurich Grade Penn Grade
5.30-6.00 A
5.00-5.29 A-
4.70-4.99 B+
4.40-4.69 B
4.00-4.39 C+
3.00-3.99 C
2.00-2.99 D
0.00-1.99 F

This scale below is effective starting in Fall 2018 and beyond:
ETH Zurich Grade Penn Grade
5.75 - 6.0 A +
5.25 - 5.5 A
4.75 - 5.0 B
4.25 - 4.5 C
4.00 D
3.75 or Below F

Special Features

BZH Special FeaturesOrientation Activities

All Penn students are required to attend the orientation activities organized by ETH Zurich prior to the start of each semester.  More information will be distributed upon acceptance.

Language Courses

Students are encouraged to participate in an intensive German language course at ETH Zürich. The course is a two-week intensive course that begins before the semester starts, but students are responsible for their own housing and costs related to this language course. 

Students are also highly encouraged to take a German language course during their semester at ETH. More information about the German language courses are available on the Language Center website.

Internship Opportunities

Though students generally do not participate in internships while attending this program, many internship/job fairs and recruitment events are organized during the year through individual academic departments and the student union.

Group Excursions, Buddy Program, and Student Associations
BZH Special Features
ETH has a vast array of student organizations and Penn students are strongly encouraged to get involved during their semester abroad. VSETH, ETH's student union, is the umbrella organization for most of the University's student societies and it helps organize events and excursions throughout the semester. Exchange students are members of VSETH at no cost. ETH also has a very active ERASMUS Student Network (ESN) that aims to ensure that all international students in Zürich feel at home, have a great time, meet new people, and get a good glimpse of Swiss student life and Swiss culture in general. The ESN organizes a buddy program and hosts a number of events and trips, including ski trips in the Alps, chocolate tours, and trips to sports games.

The Academic Sports Association Zurich (ASVZ) oversees sporting programs for students at ETH and the University of Zurich. They provide numerous sporting clubs as well as several events throughout the semester.


BZH Campus
Participants must be willing to live under local conditions for students.

Swiss universities do not offer on-campus accommodation. However, there is a student housing agency that handles housing for exchange students at ETH Zürich and the University of Zurich that can provide a limited number of rooms in student houses throughout the city of Zurich that are within a 30 minute commute from the university via public transportation. More information will be distributed upon acceptance to this program.

Woko rents out furnished rooms, in student residences, student houses or flats throughout Zürich. With Woko, students usually rent a single room, which is part of a communal living situation. This communal housing referred to as a Wohngemeinschaft (or WG) and usually consists of 4 to 8 students sharing a kitchen, bathroom and a common living area. Students have to clean their own rooms and are jointly responsible for all the other household chores. Kitchens are fully equipped and student rooms are furnished; however, students provide their own personal linen, pillows and bed covers. Monthly rent payments cover central heating, electricity and in most cases free access to TV and a communal internet network.

ETH Zürich has around 15 student cafeterias and student restaurants ("Mensa") in different buildings on both campuses. They offer affordable daily menus, sandwiches and self-serve salad buffets. ETH Zürich students are also entitled to the usual student reductions at any University of Zürich student restaurant or cafeteria.

Further information regarding accommodation can be found here.

Cost and Finance

Penn Abroad Financial Policies

Students are charged Penn tuition and academic fees for all Penn Abroad programs.  Additional expenses will typically include items such as housing, visas, and airfare.  Please see the program budget sheets below for more information.  For more on Penn Abroad’s financial policies, click here.

Financial Aid and Study Abroad

In most cases, financial aid applies to Penn-approved programs.  Student Financial Services reviews program budget sheets each semester to determine how to appropriately adjust your aid package. For more information on how Financial Aid will work during your semester abroad, click here.

Budget Sheets


Scholarship Opportunities

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program: Competition for awards for study abroad, for US citizen students who are receiving federal Pell Grant funding at a 2-year or 4-year college or university. 

Some scholarships are offered through ETH Zurich. Please review the scholarship section of this website for further information.

Next Steps

For information on the Penn Abroad application process, click here.

To open an application or learn more about the program, please click here to schedule an appointment with a Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager.

For a student perspective on life and academics in Zurich, contact a Penn Abroad Past-Participant or Exchange Student.