EECS Study Abroad: ETH


Useful links:
Planning a semester at ETH
We recommend that our students go to ETH for the spring semester of their Junior year.  An ETH semester has 14 weeks. Due to holidays, there are always some days off, so you can expect a typical course to have 13 weeks.  So, very similar to an MIT semester.
A full semester at ETH is officially 30 ECTS (see below), but students normally do maybe 25 (and take one semester or even two longer to complete the program). For incoming exchange students we recommend not to exceed 25 ECTS, and we require 20 ECTS. How much this means in terms of technical subjects is not clear; the courses that we recommend as matching have  ECTS credits in the range of 4-8. Let's call courses with 8-7  "big", courses with 6  "medium", and courses with 4 "small" (there is no course with 5). Recommended course loads for exchange student would for example be

  • 3 big courses, or
  • 6 small courses, or
  • 2 big courses, 1 medium course (plus maybe a small one)

Hence, the number of technical subjects ranges between 3 and 6, depending on their weight.
A description such as "3V + 2U" means that there are 3 hours of lecture (V) per week, and 2 hours of exercise classes per week (U). An "hour" is 45 minutes. Exercises classes are run by TAs and typically repeat difficult material from the lecture, or deepen the understanding by solving problems with the students. Weekly homeworks are standard but not mandatory for the students to solve. However, students are encouraged to do so to better learn the material. Some courses do have mandatory homeworks, this is indicated in the performance assessment tab on the course catalog page. G is a lecture with integrated exercises, but this format is rare. S is a seminar, P is a lab. Then there is A which stands for independent work. Some courses where students are expected to work more than average at home do have an A component.
ECTS are usually computed by the formula V + U + 1 where the 1 stands for the extra work that students are anyway expected to so. Each A adds another credit.
There is no problem in taking classses in other departments, as long as 2/3 of the credits are from CS (EE credits count as CS credits here, although at ETH, these are different departments). HASS courses are also no problem, ETH students also have to take one of those, and there is a wide selection available.
Advice on taking courses in German (from Stefanie Jegelka)

Regarding taking courses in German: if you are fluent, why not, it is a good way to learn it better. (It may depend a bit on the professor — Swiss speak german differently from Germans, but ETH also has many German faculty.) One thing they could try to do is pick up a German textbook and see whether they can follow it. German textbooks tend to be written in a more formal and complicated style than English ones ;-) So, if they can follow that, they should be ok, given the professor does not teach in Swiss German.  There are always a few technical terms that are different if translated; I remember myself back in the day as an exchange student in the US, never having learned all the linear algebra terms in English. But in the end, I was ok, one could learn it from context.

They could also try watching some German lectures online to calibrate. I found some here:


These are a bit old, if they search on youtube for “Vorlesung X” where X = ‘Informatik’ or ‘Algorithmen’ or ‘Programmierung’ or ‘Rechnerarchitektur’, then they should find some newer (and better) ones.

Searchable Course Catalog
PDF Course Catalog
Application process

  • The application is completed online at
  • The application will be open shortly, and the deadline is  September 18th, 2017.
  • A brief letter of recommendation from an MIT advisor, Course 6 instructor or UROP supervisor is required.  Please contact them now, if you are interested in applying.  
  • Questions can be directed to Julie Maddox,