International Relations and Public Health students have the opportunity to gain valuable real-world experience through the Geneva Internship Program. During the first six weeks of the program, students take core classes while preparing for an eight-week professional internship at a local organization. Throughout the program, students live in a conveniently located residence hall near Lake Geneva. The internship manager facilitates individualized internship placements in English.  Students are placed in one of the many humanitarian, political, public health, or economic organizations headquartered in Geneva.

The program is divided into two phases:

Week 1–Week 6 (Core Phase)

During the first part of the program, students take one required core course and one elective course. Students also meet with the program's internship advisors in order to be placed according to ability, professional goals, experience, work habits, and availability of local placements.

Week 7–Week 15 (Internship Phase)

During the final eight weeks, students enroll in an internship. Students work full time, four days per week, while enrolling in one required course, which meets once a week for a full day depending on their track choice; this course will usually be either on a Tuesday or Thursday.

Students also choose from one of two tracks and must specify their track selection at the time of submitting an application: International Relations or Public Health.

Note: Syllabi are for course approval and reference only. Students will receive up-to-date syllabi when their courses begin.

International Relations Track

Required Course

All students in the International Relations track enroll in one of the following four-credit courses.

  • CAS PO 243/CAS IR 445 Introduction to Public International Law (4 credits)
    • Formerly CAS PO/IR 445
    • Prerequisites: at least two classes in international relations, law, or related social science coursework.
    • Public international law governs primarily, though not exclusively, the relations between states. The core areas of this law are its subjects; sources (or means of creation of law); the rules governing responsibility for breaches of international obligations, and those relative to dispute settlement. The decentralized structure of the international legal order means that a particular important question is when, and under what conditions, states can safeguard their rights by recourse to the use of force. The course is taught by lectures, extensive reliance being placed on primary materials (e.g., treaties, resolutions) and on decisions of international courts and tribunals. These can be supplemented by readings, such as those listed below, and drawn mostly from M. Evans (ed.) International Law, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003.
    • Syllabus
  • CAS PO 247/CAS IR 418 Politics, Nations, and Identity in the New Europe: Switzerland and the European Union (4)
    • What is Europe, and are the Swiss in or out of it? This new course is designed as an introduction to some of the most pressing cultural and political issues in present-day Europe. Focusing on the host country, Switzerland, it will set this small independent nation in the context of European history through a structured comparison with its most powerful neighbors, France and Germany. The history and rationale of the European Union, the current crisis in the Eurozone, the challenges of the EU enlargement, and the thorny issue of migration will all be discussed. In a first section we will address historical and background knowledge on key elements of European history and the European integration process as well as the international criticism Switzerland faced in the mid-90s as a result of its policies during and after World War II. In a second section we will compare Switzerland’s society, political culture, and political system with France's and Germany's. Highly controversial and relevant topics for Switzerland and Europe, e.g., where to draw the line of what country is in or out of Europe, immigration policy including relations with Central European states regarding migration of Roma and Sinti will be discussed as well.
    • Syllabus

Elective Courses

Students choose one of the following elective courses for the first six weeks of the program.

  • CAS AH 308 "From Caesar to Corbusier:" The History of Switzerland Through its Art and Architecture (4 credits)
    • This course covers the history of Switzerland through its art and architecture. It will give a thorough chronological grounding in the development of the Swiss confederation, from the Roman period to the early twentieth century, setting the country’s development in a wider European context. At the end of the course students should have a wide-ranging knowledge of the major events in Swiss history and a critical appreciation of the way in which they have shaped the built environment of the country and its artistic heritage. They should also have a general grasp of the main currents of Western art from antiquity to the early twentieth century. There are no prerequisites for this class.  However, a background in history, philosophy, literature, or religion will be helpful. The ability to read in French, German, and/or Italian will also aid with the required research paper.
    • Syllabus
  • CAS FR 113 Beginning French I (4)
    • The beginners’ course is designed to give basic oral and written language skills. In order to facilitate life in Geneva, it focuses on practical and daily communication in French and provides a stepping-stone to interacting in French during an internship in an international organization. The content of the course reflects all aspects of French-speaking cultures (French and Swiss) and gives the necessary speaking, understanding, reading, and writing skills to continue to the intermediate French course.
    • Syllabus
  • CAS FR 213 Intermediate French I (4)This class is for students who have taken one or two semesters of French and are reasonably confident speaking and reading the language. It will focus on gaining fluency and accuracy in speech and at establishing grammatical rules, especially the use of tenses and modes up to and including the subjunctive and the conditional. Classes will concentrate on aural comprehension and speech, with grammatical exercises as homework and several written assignments increasing in complexity over the six weeks of the course. Syllabus
  • CAS FR 313 Advanced French 1 (4)
    • This class is for students who have taken three or four semesters of French. The course is designed to give advanced oral and written language skills in French. It focuses on communicating easily in French as preparation for the internship in an international organization. The content of the course reflects all aspects of French-speaking culture (French and Swiss).
    • Syllabus
  • CAS PO 247/CAS IR 418 Politics, Nations, and Identity in the New Europe: Switzerland and the European Union (4)
    • What is Europe, and are the Swiss in or out of it? This new course is designed as an introduction to some of the most pressing cultural and political issues in present-day Europe. Focusing on the host country, Switzerland, it will set this small independent nation in the context of European history through a structured comparison with its most powerful neighbors, France and Germany. The history and rationale of the European Union, the current crisis in the Eurozone, the challenges of the EU enlargement, and the thorny issue of migration will all be discussed. In a first section we will address historical and background knowledge on key elements of European history and the European integration process as well as the international criticism Switzerland faced in the mid-90s as a result of its policies during and after World War II. In a second section we will compare Switzerland’s society, political culture, and political system with France's and Germany's. Highly controversial and relevant topics for Switzerland and Europe, e.g., where to draw the line of what country is in or out of Europe, immigration policy including relations with Central European states regarding migration of Roma and Sinti will be discussed as well.
    • Syllabus

Internship Phase

During the second half of the semester, students will be placed in full-time internships. Students will be engaged in their internship for approximately 8 hours per day, four days per week. Accompanying course meetings will be arranged for one full day each week. Interns will be placed in local IGO’s or NGO’s. Although the common language of these workplaces is English, fluency in other languages will always be an asset. Due to the competitive nature of internship placements in Geneva, students will be interviewed and will need to prepare thoroughly for the internship, which will be academically graded.

Academic credit for the internships is assessed through an e-portfolio which starts on arrival and ends at the conclusion of the semester, requiring at least one submission per week during the length of the program.

  • CAS PO 242/CAS IR 444 The Activities of International Organizations (4 credits)
    • Formerly CAS PO/IR 444
    • Prerequisite: CAS IR 445
    • The proliferation of both the number and types of international institutional arrangements has been accompanied by the development of specialized areas of international law: international criminal law, environmental law, and trade law, to name a few. Several types of institutional arrangements, both within and outside the UN system, are examined, as well as their normative, operational, and enforcement activities. Introductory lectures provide an overview of the substantive law relevant to the institution considered, thus building on the Introduction to International Law course. The role of non-state actors in their relations with international institutional arrangements is also considered. Teaching is by a combination of lectures, talks by specialists drawn from the various international institutions located in Geneva and to the greatest extent possible, visits to those institutions.
    • Syllabus (444)
  • CAS PO 405/CAS IR 455 Internship in International Organizations (International Relations)
    • Formerly CAS PO/IR 455
    • Students work with an NGO, humanitarian organization, or inter-governmental organization. Past internship placements have included International Catholic Migration Committee, Centre of Applied Studies in Negotiations, and World Women Summit Federation. Students must submit a written portfolio or paper regrading their internship experience and receive an evaluation from their internship supervisor.

Please note these are examples of past internship placements only. While BU Study Abroad guarantees an internship to program participants, specific placements vary from semester to semester and may not always be available. Likewise, internship placements may be available in academic areas not listed.

Public Health Track

Required Course

All students in the Public Health track take this course during the first six weeks.

  • SPH PH 506 Principles of International Health (4 credits)
    • Principles of International Health is designed for students with an interest in the theory and practice of health management in developing countries. There are no prerequisites: students with a background in international relations, politics, and economics will all find that the course touches on issues relevant to their main field of study. The course is divided into six topics, including nutrition, maternal and child health, and infectious diseases. Policy issues involving research into the causes of illness and the treatment of disease in the developing world will also be discussed. The course will be directed and partly taught by Dr. Philip Jenkins, who has worked on public health issues at the World Health Organization for eighteen years. There will also be many specialized guest lectures by international experts from the World Health Organization or other health care organizations based in Geneva and field trips to some of these organizations.
    • Syllabus

Elective Course

Students choose one of the following elective courses for the first six weeks of the program.

  • CAS AH 308 "From Caesar to Corbusier:" The History of Switzerland Through its Art and Architecture (4)
    • This course covers the history of Switzerland through its art and architecture. It will give a thorough chronological grounding in the development of the Swiss confederation, from the Roman period to the early twentieth century, setting the country’s development in a wider European context. At the end of the course students should have a wide-ranging knowledge of the major events in Swiss history and a critical appreciation of the way in which they have shaped the built environment of the country and its artistic heritage. They should also have a general grasp of the main currents of Western art from antiquity to the early twentieth century. There are no prerequisites for this class.  However, a background in history, philosophy, literature, or religion will be helpful. The ability to read in French, German, and/or Italian will also aid with the required research paper.
    • Syllabus
  • CAS FR 113 Beginning French I (4)
    • The beginners’ course is designed to give basic oral and written language skills. In order to facilitate life in Geneva, it focuses on practical and daily communication in French and provides a stepping-stone to interacting in French during an internship in an international organization. The content of the course reflects all aspects of French-speaking cultures (French and Swiss) and gives the necessary speaking, understanding, reading, and writing skills to continue to the intermediate French course.
    • Syllabus
  • CAS FR 213 Intermediate French I (4)
    • This class is for students who have taken one or two semesters of French and are reasonably confident speaking and reading the language. It will focus on gaining fluency and accuracy in speech and at establishing grammatical rules, especially the use of tenses and modes up to and including the subjunctive and the conditional. Classes will concentrate on aural comprehension and speech, with grammatical exercises as homework and several written assignments increasing in complexity over the six weeks of the course.
    • Syllabus
  • CAS FR 313 Advanced French 1 (4)
    • This class is for students who have taken three or four semesters of French. The course is designed to give advanced oral and written language skills in French. It focuses on communicating easily in French as preparation for the internship in an international organization. The content of the course reflects all aspects of French–speaking culture (French and Swiss).
    • Syllabus

Internship Phase

During the second half of the semester, students will be placed in full-time internships. Students will be engaged in their internship for approximately 8 hours per day, four days per week. Accompanying course meetings will be arranged for one full day each week. Interns will be placed in local IGO’s or NGO’s. Although the common language of these workplaces is English, fluency in other languages will always be an asset. Due to the competitive nature of internship placements in Geneva, students will be interviewed and will need to prepare thoroughly for the internship, which will be academically graded.

Academic credit for the internships is assessed through an e-portfolio which starts on arrival and ends at the conclusion of the semester, requiring at least one submission per week during the length of the program.

  • SPH PH 507 Controversies in International Health (4 credits)
    • This course introduces students to the international organizations active in the field of public health by examining the international character of health—particularly with the emergence of HIV/AIDS, multinational droughts and famine, humanitarian crises, and the threat of infectious pandemics like SARS and avian flu. This course will place an emphasis on issues involved in best coordinating the efforts of agencies involved to achieve the greatest benefit for afflicted people. Through a series of lectures with international health specialists and structured visits to international aid institutions, students will learn about the administration of international health organizations, the international difficulties arising from third party relief work, social determinants of health, health care and gender issues, and global pharmaceutical trade.
    • Syllabus
  • CAS PS 495 Internship in Health and Human Services
    • Students might work in research departments and health activism. Past internship placements have included International AIDS Society, NGO Forum For Health, and the International Union Against Cancer.

Please note these are examples of past internship placements only. While BU Study Abroad guarantees an internship to program participants, specific placements vary from semester to semester and may not always be available. Likewise, internship placements may be available in academic areas not listed. Only graduate students may intern at the World Health Organization.

The Global Learning Experience: An Online Course

Students in all Fall and Spring programs have the opportunity to enroll in The Global Learning Experience at no additional cost.

  • CAS IP101 The Global Learning Experience (1 credit)
    • All program participants have the opportunity to make the most of their semester abroad with The Global Learning Experience, a self-paced, Pass/Fail course with brief readings and experiential assignments that accompany them while living and studying in a country and culture different from their own. Students post their work, experiences and observations to an online platform to trace and articulate their achievements abroad from an academic, personal and professional standpoint. The course links students with the faculty instructors as well as peers studying on other BU Study Abroad programs around the world. Students earn one credit in addition to the total program credits mentioned below at no additional cost.
    • Syllabus
Program Residence

  • Double or triple rooms with shared bathrooms
  • Shared, fully equipped kitchen
  • No dining hall
  • Laundry in BU residence
  • Common study and recreational space at BU residence
  • Fall Semester: early September to mid-December
    • Spring Semester: mid-January to late April
    • Fall Semester: March 15
    • Spring Semester: September 15

    Given visa restrictions, serious candidates for the spring semester Geneva Internship Program are strongly advised to apply by September 15. Although we will continue to accept applications up to September 30 or until the program is full, preference will be given to qualified candidates who submit their applications on or before September 15.

    Notification of admissions begins after the application deadline.