The CSE department begins a new exchange with École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Autumn 2015. We plan to send 4-8 undergraduates each year to EPFL. This is one of the top CS programs in Europe, located in the city of Lausanne in the French-speaking region of Switzerland.


Preparing for an exchange to EPFL

CSE majors interested in studying at EPFL should read through our general info on CSE exchanges, speak with a CSE advisor, and attend our annual info session on CSE exchanges. The application for CSE exchanges takes place in January and February, and selected students must confirm their intent to go abroad before the end of February. 

EPFL provides lots of info for exchange students here.

Academic preparation: Visiting CSE students will choose from advanced bachelors courses and masters courses taught in English (more on language below). These courses are roughly equivalent to CSE 400-level and masters courses. CSE majors selected for this exchange will have strong grades, will complete required 300-level CSE classes before the exchange, and should feel comfortable going into 400-level work. (Note that this does not mean you need senior class standing; students who begin 300-level CSE courses as sophomores may be ready for an exchange in their junior year.) Newer CSE majors may also be considered for an EPFL exchange if they speak French well enough to take courses taught in French.

Some language skill is helpful in any travel experience, but is not required for studying at EPFL. All masters courses and 40% of bachelors courses are taught in English. Participants have also access to 3-week French language courses, which we highly recommend for anyone who is not already fluent. These begin in mid-August, before the regular autumn term begins. Language skills will benefit you academically and in navigating Lausanne.

EPFL's academic calendar: Find EPFL's calendar here. EPFL’s school year is roughly the same as UW’s (mid-Sept to mid-June), but their break between semesters happens during the middle of UW's Winter quarter. Autumn semester runs mid-September through mid-December, with exams in January. Spring semester runs mid-Feb through mid-May, with exams in June. EPFL exams cannot be rescheduled; students should plan to attend the full term, including exams.

We encourage students to attend EPFL for a full year if possible, so they can easily complete a full year of coursework. Students who visit EPFL for only one semester will miss two UW quarters (Autumn+Winter or Winter+Spring). Since one semester abroad + one quarter at UW is less than a full year, attending EPFL for only one semester could somewhat delay your progress in degree requirements, and make it difficult to earn full-time credit mimimums the year (necessary for financial aid).

Going abroad for a full year also provides a more immersive experience -- helping you improve language skills, build better relationships, and engage in more fun travel throughout Europe.  

If it is not possible to go for a full year, we do send students for semesters as well so please still apply! 

Applying to Visit EPFL

Find info on the CSE Departmental Exchange application process on our page of general exchange info.


Info for selected students: Confirming your exchange

Living and studing abroad requires a lot of preparatory tasks. Allow time for all of these, and keep deadlines in mind. It's your responsibility to complete all the necessary steps for both EPFL and UW.

After you are selected for an exchange, you must email Jill to confirm your exchange by the confirmation deadline. If you are unable to go, please let us know as soon as you have made your decision. We will want to offer your spot to another student, and give that person enough time to consider their decision.

CSE will send your exchange info to UW Study Abroad, and they will send you instructions on their exchange requirements.

CSE will also nominate you to EPFL, and introduce you via email to our coordinators at EPFL. You must then apply formally to EPFL.

Your application to EPFL:

Selected students must formally apply to EPFL: instructions on this page. This application is mostly a formality, but will take time to complete. The EPFL application deadline is April 15 for Autumn semester, and November 1 for Spring semester. The application is totally online - nothing needs to be mailed.  

The application requires a number of components, including a study plan with your desired courses. Please review the application requirements early, so you know what is required, and begin compiling your materials well before the deadline. After you are have applied to and are accepted to EPFL, you will receive information about housing and enrollment.

EPFL online application deadlines:

  • April 15 for the Autumn Semester 2015 (and full-year exchanges)
  • November 1 for the Spring Semester 2016  

Additional EPFL application notes:

  • The learning agreement for your exchange must include between 20-30 ECTS per semester
  • You must have the prior knowledge (prerequisites) to attend the chosen courses (it's up to you to determine this)
  • Access to courses in EPFL's College of Management of Technology (Management of Technology and Entrepreneurship, and Financial Engineering) is authorized only under a prior special request to the Student Exchange Office. Students who might have registered without our authorization will be automatically withdrawn from the courses.


Passport, Visa and Residence Permit

If you do not currently have a passport, you should apply for one as early as possible. Processing can take up to 12 weeks.

You must apply for a Swiss visa at least 3 months before the start of their study at EPFL.

This page provides EPFL guidelines on Swiss visas, residence permits, and other immigration details. US citizens staying in Switzerland for more than 90 days must get a visa. Your Swiss visa application must be submitted at least 3 months before your exchange begins. 


About EPFL


CSE exchange students at EPFL will choose from courses in the School of Computer & Communication Science ("IC"). Some bachelors courses and all masters courses are taught in English. 

You can combine courses from the bachelor's and master's level, but you must have the necessary prerequisites for each course. Specific courses may have enrollment limits.

Our general info on CSE exchanges has details on how to pick courses and how courses are evaluated. For the first CSE students visiting EPFL, we are happy to pre-evaluate courses as well as possible; since we don't have historical info on how EPFL courses have transferred back to UW, pre-evalauting some selected courses should help you finalize a good schedule.

Registering: Course timetables are available online a month or two before the semester begins. You must finalize your registration by the end of the second week of courses. Note that this gives you a little more time to consider your schedule than you have at UW.  

French Language: CSE students visiting EPFL have access to 3-week French courses, which we highly recommend for anyone who is not already fluent. These take begin in mid-August, before the regular autumn term begins. Language skills will benefit you academically and in navigating Lausanne. We expect most visiting CSE majors to take only English-language CS courses; however, you may choose courses taught in French if your language skills are strong enough. 

Life in Lausanne

EPFL provides info on Living in Switzerland here.

Lausanne a French-speaking city in western Switzerland, located on Lake Geneva and very close to France. It's a fairly small city, but very international and with the amenities of many larger cities: good public transit, museums, culture, and nightife. Lausanne has two universities, and is home to the International Olympic Committee. Large cities nearby are Zurich (2 hours by train), Geneva (45 mins), and Paris (3.5 hours).

Expenses & Housing in Lausanne

Students are responsible for travel costs and living expenses while in Lausanne.

Although students are responsible for paying for housing, EPFL typically pre-books housing for exchange students, to help ensure that you have a place to live. As housing in Lausanne is very limited, EPFL recommends that you start your search as soon as you have been nominated by UW. You should use all the options on the EPFL website