Scenic Switzerland

Making place: Tourism, culture and global communication

Updated: October 3, 2011

Murren, Switzerland


The regular Switzerland program will not run in 2012. Instead, Professor Thurlow is planning an “Urban Communication” exploration seminar to Berlin (Germany), Interlaken (Switzerland) and Paris (France) between 19 August and 09 September, 2012.

More information is available on Professor Thurlow’s website >>

This intensive study abroad opportunity will help you understand some of the human consequences of globalization by studying the important role of communication in tourism. The world’s single largest trade, and a truly global cultural industry, tourism is very powerful in shaping everyday interpersonal, intercultural and inter-national communication. Nowhere is this more apparent than Switzerland — the birth place of modern tourism and a country which embodies the challenges and successes of multilingualism, multiculturalism and multinationalism. Since the 1850s, Switzerland and especially Interlaken (our “home base” for the seminar) have organized and promoted themselves as the quintessential tourist destinations. It was actually between June 26 and July 15 in 1863 that Thomas Cook organized the first ever tour of Switzerland. And, in the face of global warming, European/EU politics, global economics and international travel, the Swiss “production of place” continues to this day.

Class in Murren, SwitzerlandThe Communication Switzerland Program is an enjoyable learning-by-doing experience involving different theoretical issues and key research skills (e.g. visual ethnography, text analysis). Through a series of field trips, hands-on projects, and class discussions you’ll be asked to evaluate critically the implications of tourism for human communication on both a local scale and a global one. In doing so, you’ll be examining the linguistic, visual, material and spatial strategies used to represent (and produce) Switzerland as a global tourist destination. It’s in this way that the seminar will address the darker side of tourism as well, by considering how the making of place and the production of culture always overlook many areas of life. You’ll also study how visitors and local people interact in tourist sites.

In 2011, the program is also organized with a particular focus on the famous “Grand Tour” — a touristic rite of passage for elite Europeans in the C17th. In addition to Switzerland, three of the greatest destinations at the time were MunichParis and Florence each of which continues to this day to promote itself as a “global tourist destination”. And this is precisely where your journey will take you too!

Comments from past students

ParisEmily Eggers, Communication major: I’m so accustomed to being in the classroom, listening to lectures or participating in sections, and so I’ve never had such a great chance to be fully immersed in the subject.

Deanna Sonni, International Studies major: I loved feeling like I was going backstage and seeing something no other tourist would be seeing.

FlorenceCourtney Gosnell, Business major: My experience in Switzerland was absolutely amazing — the location was beautiful and I really enjoyed getting to know everyone in the group so well.

Andy Dean, Communication major: I had no idea how much I would change and grow as a person. This trip, the class and the whole experience will stay with me the rest of my life. I know they’ve changed me.

About the instructors

Crispin Thurlow was born and raised in England, before living for twelve years in South Africa, eight years in London and six years in Wales. He moved to the USA in 2003 and is currently a professor in the UW’s Department of Communication. In 2007, he received the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award. Kristine Mroczek, a doctoral researcher in the Department of Communication, brings both a professional and academic knowledge of the tourism industry. Her research is rooted in critical/cultural communication, discourse studies and visual communication. This will be the fourth time Crispin and Kris have run a study abroad program in Switzerland.


Anyone can apply to join this class: it is open to Communication majors and non-majors, as well as to students in any other department. Applications (see link right) will be reviewed and eligible candidates invited for a short face-to-face interview. Each year, Crispin and Kris try to put together a class of mature students from a range of different backgrounds and who will work well together as a group. You do not have to have had any travel experience to be eligible.

Students in front of a boat


In taking this study abroad opportunity you will earn 12 credits (5 in COM 322 Global Communication, 4 in COM 478 Intercultural Communication, and 3 COM 498 Independent Research credit.) If you are not a Communication student, you should check with your advisors to determine how these credits can count towards your own departmental requirements. Out of state students pay in-state tuition when studying abroad. Alternatively, you may choose to take independent study credits.

Pre-program requirements

There are no course prerequisites for this seminar. However, once accepted you will be required to attend five pre-program class meetings in the Winter and Spring quarters: February 03, March 03, April 14, May 12, June 09. These class meetings are key to the success of your studies and travels; they are designed to introduce you to each other and to the academic program. The pre-program sessions are graded and failure to attend them may mean losing your place in the program. The Department of Communication or IPE Office may also require a cultural awareness session.


Student costs

The program fee is $4,040 and covers:

  • tuition fees for 12 credits (normally $2,901 residents; $8,433 non-residents)
  • all hostel accommodation
  • a Swiss Rail pass
  • train travel to Munich, Paris and Florence
  • required excursion fees
  • opening and closing night events
  • several group meals during the program
  • required text, journal and course pack

In addition to an IPE fee of $250, your other costs will include: round-trip fare into Zurich or Geneva and out of Rome (or Zurich/Geneva); health insurance; personal spending money; any visa-related costs for non-US/non-EU passport holders; and general meals.



Funding support is available for financial aid students and scholarship funds are also available to other students through the International Programs & Exchanges (IPE) office. Some of the best funding opportunities at the UW are listed on the Global Opportunities Scholarships website.

Application process

Applications are now being accepted online (see link above right) until 5:00pm on Friday 03 December, 2010. Competition for the Communication Switzerland Program is always strong and you are advised to apply sooner rather than later. Your acceptance will be based on an online application (with two references) in which you’ll be asked to give some basic information about yourself as well as a short statement about why this particular program is suited to your academic and personal goals. You must be prepared to attend a short interview on Friday 07 January, 2011.