At Zurich International School, we encourage students to discover new ideas and possibilities, and learn by trying and doing. They’ll be inspired to go further, but take their own path. That means that what they learn will be transferable and transformative.
We will provide an education that builds on who each child is, as well as what they know. We will ensure that every student understands the importance of good values, and the power they hold to make the world better. And we will ensure that ZIS supports every child’s social, emotional and mental wellbeing throughout their journey with us.
We provide an education for tomorrow’s opportunities. We pledge to deliver outstanding teaching, led by well-supported teachers. We provide clearly-defined academic and co-curricular activities, with a strong focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
We will develop true global citizens who recognize the value of their local community. Your child will be open to different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives. They will understand the importance of inclusion and equity. And – through our excellent German pathways and local connections – we will help your child develop a bond with their community and a desire to support it.
Our goal is to ensure that every child leaves with a love of learning. That means that – wherever they go – they’ll approach every new experience with the thrill of discovery, rather than the fear of failure.
Countries represented in our community
Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses offered
of current parents recommend ZIS
students across our two age-appropriate campuses
Grade 12's Victor is fascinated by the potential of repurposing materials for new uses.
Victor, Class of 2024
It's about finding new materials that are accessible and not expensive
As a passionate football fan – he supports Arsenal and France – Victor Legenne was glued to last year’s FIFA Men’s World Cup. But it wasn’t just the matches he was interested in. One of the Qatar stadiums was particularly unique, created from 974 shipping containers – the first ever temporary World Cup stadium. After the tournament, the stadium was dismantled, and the containers sent to be repurposed in countries in greater need of the materials.
“When I heard that they could build it and then take it down and transport it I thought, that’s really impressive,” says ictor. “It’s a totally new approach to buildings. Normally when we build something, it’s permanent, and then we wait for it to wear or we break it down.” Examples of sustainable architecture like this are something Victor, Grade 12, is exploring as part of his International Baccalaureate Higher Level Design Technology course. “I’ve been thinking about the idea of using containers and repurposing them for low cost to provide homes for people. I’m also exploring the use of better-quality materials, so that builders don’t resort to buying poor-quality materials that can impact the environment.”
It’s perhaps no surprise that Victor has such a passion for design technology – as a child he loved playing with LEGO, Play-Doh and Jenga. And thanks to his parents taking him to museums and galleries, he has long had an appreciation of buildings. Inspiration is all around, especially as one of his favourite architects, Sir David Chipperfield, designed the extension to Zurich’s Kunsthaus gallery.
His school projects – which include an IB internal assessment inspired by the innovations in stadium building and his IB extended essay on how changing the ingredients in concrete might make it more sustainable – allow him to combine several of his passions: football, architecture, sustainability and, importantly, helping others. “Last summer, I went by myself to Tanzania where I did some humanitarian work and helped rebuild a school that was hit by a tornado. It really inspired me to want to help others, especially people that don’t have the capacity to help themselves.”
Repurposing building materials offers not only the chance to make the construction industry more sustainable, but also to assist with housing and infrastructure in disadvantaged countries. “We produce around 30 billion tonnes of concrete every year,” says Victor. “Instead of always producing new materials, why not try and reuse old materials? That’s where the idea of containers comes in, because so many of them get discarded when they’re no longer suitable for transport.”
For Victor, architecture can and should be about more than just beautiful buildings. “That is important, but for me what counts the most is that everyone has the opportunity to stay safe and healthy. It’s about finding new materials that are accessible and not expensive to provide homes to the people that don’t have the same opportunities.”
Download a or request a copy of Voices Winter 2023/24 from the Voices Webpage.
Grade 8's Rylee is at her happiest when she's expressing her creativity in whatever form that is.
"Singing connects you to real life, the past, the future, new cultures, worship - or just fun!"
Rylee, Class of 2027
Rylee, Class of 2027 is at her happiest when she's expressing her creativity,in whatever form that is.
It’s an expression thing, says Rylee Young (Grade 8). “I love all the creative arts – singing, dancing, acting and painting. When I’m acting, I get to be a different person and bring a character to life. And you can share your thoughts and views through artwork – just as someone like Banksy does. The arts can connect to real-life feelings and experiences.”
Rylee has been singing in choirs since she was very young. And, she points out, she sings everywhere else, too. “Around the house, when I’m out doing stuff, I’ll always be singing,” she says. “I just adore it, and I’ve even written a few songs of my own. I also really enjoyed the ZIS choir because we sang a whole range of songs. Singing connects you to real life, the past, the future, new cultures, worship – or just plain fun!”
But it wasn’t until she came to ZIS that she discovered her passion for acting. “I’ve always loved the thought of it but never had the opportunity or space to try it,” she says. And dancing has been another new discovery: she’s currently taking dance at school and loving it. “I love the window in the new dance studio because it lets in lots of natural light but also provides privacy,” she says. “The lighting combined with the new mirrors gives a clear view for dancing, and the way the music echoes off the walls is amazing.”
And incredibly, she also finds time for drawing, painting and photography. Her passion for the arts enables her to develop other skills, too: from being more confident in front of an audience to looking beyond the horizons of her world view. “Drawing and painting have taught me how to be more aware of the world and what is going on,” she says. “I have done a lot of expressive paintings of real-world issues and problems.”
And, of course, the arts are deeply collaborative. Plays, choirs and films: all these are only possible when people with different skills and personalities work together towards a common goal. It’s no surprise to hear that Rylee’s favourite moments are all about the relationships the creative arts help to build.
“The Dancing Queen song and dance moves will forever be in my mind from the arts festival last year,” she says. “But I also enjoy singing at church with my Dad. We sing together and it makes me so proud and happy to lead people in worship. When I was doing the plays and the movies, I loved being at the rehearsals, hanging out with my friends. I remember a lot of laughter. There was never a dull moment. It was always fun – even the challenging moments.”
Right now, her future career is up for grabs – but whatever it is, she’s sure that it will include her passion for the arts, even if that’s behind the scenes. “I’m pretty sure it will lead me to fun and success, no matter in what form that is,” she says. “I’m thankful that ZIS provides opportunities to help me learn new things and express myself through the arts. It’s truly my passion. And now that we have the new building, I have a lot more room to paint, dance, sing and act – oh yeah, and learn!”
Download a or request a copy of Voices Summer 2023 from the Voices Webpage.
Isabella explored her Colombian roots through the Barefoot Service Club.
"Being at ZIS has really grown my awareness of other cultures. I wouldn't trade that for anything"
Isabella, Class of 2022 (2009-22)
Isabella, Class of 2022 (2009-22) explored her Colombian roots through the Barefoot Service Club.
With her Colombian roots, the Upper School Barefoot Service Club was an essential choice for Isabella Sanchez, Class of 2022 (2009-22). Dedicated to raising awareness of, and funding for, education in Colombia and other Latin-American countries (and affiliated with Colombian singer-songwriter Shakira’s Pies Descalzos – or Barefoot – Foundation), the club offered a way for Isabella to connect with her heritage.
“It meant a lot to me,” says Isabella. “I haven’t lived in Colombia, but I visit a lot and discover various different places within it. So being in a club that helped to give back was quite lovely for me, being so far away and living a completely different life in Switzerland.”
One of her proudest achievements as a member and then President of the club was organising Barefoot Week, involving a volleyball tournament, decorating the school with Colombian posters and delivering lectures on its culture.
Another was presenting on behalf of Barefoot at the annual European conference of the Global Issues Network, which supports and grows sustainable youth-led empowerment in the face of challenges including climate change, poverty and illiteracy. Working with other clubs at ZIS, Barefoot “created an interactive story game that told the lives of three different kids facing these issues. It was the best way for people to understand what their support can do for someone else.”
And in recognition of her outstanding leadership, Isabella received an Award for International Understanding from the Educational Collaborative for International Schools, which acknowledges students who are actively involved in promoting international understanding.
“She is a truly international student who recognises the advantages and opportunities that education offers,” said the judges. “With a humble Colombian heart, she appreciates the culture of others and was a driving force encouraging ZIS students to understand the social problems in Latin America. She is a fantastic leader who has a way of making others feel appreciated and comfortable. She leads by example and has been a positive force at ZIS throughout her time here.”
Isabella helped to raise almost CHF8,000 over the course of her time at ZIS, money that is sent to support school projects administered by the Pies Descalzos Foundation in underdeveloped areas in Colombia. As a result of her efforts, “most people at the school know more about who we are, because we try to make activities that directly correlate to Colombian culture,” she says with pride.
It wasn’t just the Barefoot Club keeping her busy at ZIS, though. Isabella was also a keen participant in Model United Nations (MUN), enjoying the debating and the chance to “delve into other issues around the world”. It’s thanks to her experiences at the MUN that she decided to go into law, which she’s now studying at the University of Bristol. “Being at ZIS for so long has really grown my awareness of other cultures,” she says. “I wouldn’t trade that for anything else.”
Download a or request a copy of Voices Winter 2022/23 from the Voices Webpage.
Learn the language, make yourself happy
"I really wanted to learn English so much because I really wanted to join in."
Learn the language, make yourself happy, says Nina
Nina's dedication to learning English has turned her into the “most happy girl”.
In common with most of her young classmates, Nina shed a few tears on her first day in Pre-School last August. But there was one big thing that meant Nina’s first day was an even bigger step than usual – she barely spoke a word of English.
“We were very nervous at the beginning,” says Nina’s mother Emelie, who had relocated from Sweden with her family. And Nina herself remembers the difficult time. “I could only say ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’. I did cry every day at first,” she says.
Wind forward just one year and Nina is now thriving in her new environment, having set about learning English with remarkable dedication and passion. “I really wanted to learn English so much because I really wanted to join in,” she says.
She had plenty of help. In the Lower School, teachers Sarah Burnham and Rossa Phul, and one of the school counsellors, Lea Richter, made a plan that could take account of the whole picture. “We managed to get her together with a couple Well read Nina Emanuelsson’s dedication to learning English has turned her into the “most happy girl”. of Swedish girls in Kindergarten that she could play with outside at recess,” says Sarah. “Having some buddies and a friendly face made a really huge difference to her school day.”In no time, she started to ask simple questions and began using short sentences to join in the play and contribute to class discussions.
The benefits of learning a second language at a young age are widely documented, but it can be easy to underestimate the effects on socialisation, sense of belonging and ability to settle into a new environment. By spring break, Nina’s confidence had progressed rapidly and, says Sarah, “she became a thoughtful and regular contributor in all our class discussions,” just one of 400 students in the Lower School – from more than 70 nations – who between them speak 40 different languages.
Nina now happily plays games like ballerinas, tag and hide and seek with her friends – in English. When she made cinnamon rolls during the holidays, she was able to come back to school and teach her classmates how to make them, using English instructions. And as she starts her second year, Emelie says Nina, now five, “is just the most happy girl. She has the confidence to play with anyone and is herself again. It is amazing to see.
Download a or request a copy of Voices Winter 2020 from the Voices Webpage.
"It's not only adults who go to conferences; children also get the chance to have a voice."
Henrik, Grade 6
Henrik, Grade 6, on his love of public speaking
Henrik says before the MMUN conference, the biggest crowd he had spoken in front of was a school assembly.
Facing a 1,500-strong crowd would be enough to give most adults pause. But 11-year-old Henrik Kaas was undeterred. Last March, as a Grade 5 student, he was selected by organisers of the Montessori Model United Nations (MMUN) conference in Rome to speak in front of the entire assembly.
“Was I nervous? Yes!” he says. “I stuttered a little. There were way more people than I’m used to but I think it went OK.” In fact, by the end of the conference, the Lower School MMUN advisers Alice Sikora and Jamie Raskin say that Henrik had emerged as a highly competent speaker.
At the MMUN conference, the young delegates take the role of national representatives, presenting, debating and brainstorming. Henrik was allocated Cuba as the country he had to represent, and he was challenged to argue for fair trade. “Until that point, I knew nothing about Cuba and I knew nothing about fair trade,” he says. With the help of the UN’s resources, online information and some guidance from his teachers, he put together a presentation that he delivered, first to other delegates before presenting to the entire assembly.
This isn’t the first time Henrik has been away from home with the school, but this trip, he says, was the best so far. “I was lucky to share a room with my friend, but I made friends from other countries and I learned a lot during those few days. We talked about completely different stuff from normal.”
It was an intense experience – to qualify to attend as one of a dozen ZIS delegates, Henrik had to present in front of a panel of ZIS teachers. “Probably the biggest thing I can remember from the whole experience is that there’s an island of plastic in the ocean twice the size of Texas!”
He returned to school “more informed about the world” and with a determination to speak up. “I learned that it’s not only adults that go to conferences; children also get the chance to have a voice. And that it’s stressful to talk in front of big crowds – I’m amazed by the number of people that do it and don’t appear stressed or panicked.”
But he’s ready for his next public-speaking engagement. “I’ll definitely feel calmer. When you do something for the first time, it’s scary, then you get the hunger for it and want to do more, so I can’t wait.
Download a or request a copy of Voices Spring 2020 from the Voices Webpage.
"I have this passion for using my abilities to help the student body unleash their potential."
Isabelle, Class of 2020
Isabelle explains why leadership is about the team.
Public speaking - Isabelle says she used to be more reserved, but speaking in front of 500 people at school assemblies quickly improved . her confidence.
It might seem unlikely, but it was while watching Grade 9 students trying to win a tug-of-war against their teachers that Isabelle Dady, Class of 2020 (2013-20), realised how much fun student government could be. As a Grade 11 representative, she had helped organise the school’s first Spirit Week, a five-day competition between faculty and students. “I figured out that I have this passion for using my abilities to help the student body unleash their potential.
As Upper School Student Council President in her final year at ZIS, she promoted causes that benefited the whole campus, something she’d long been enthusiastic about. “I think that’s when my confidence improved, as people really supported me.”
Isabelle’s team was keen to make meaningful changes, not superficial ones. “We wanted to promote students’ voices on administrative matters, and collaborated with Upper School Principal, Mr Markus, to set up a process so students could be heard.”
She says the highlight of the year was being asked to speak at the ZIS Women in Leadership event alongside Director Lisa Lyle and holistic health coach Martina Fink, where she hoped her presence inspired younger students. “The last female Student Council President was six years before me, so I wanted to challenge the mindset that powerful positions belong to guys. The president elected after me is another girl, so hopefully that worked!”
A pandemic was never part of the plan, but the council made the end of the school year as enjoyable as they could. Instead of an in-person Spirit Week, they ran a virtual event, featuring dance and cooking challenges as well as Instagram Live performances by student musicians. “We were debating whether to do it, because you can’t force spirit on anyone, but I’m really glad we did.” And then there was the online graduation, at which Isabelle and fellow student Nicholas , Class of 2020 (2005-06, 2014-20), reflected on the unusual end to their peer group’s school career.
“It was disappointing, but we didn’t let it stop us,” says Isabelle, who is now studying at Dartmouth College in the US. “We just adapted. The challenge made us stronger.”
“When you solve a math problem with logic it feels like you’ve been touched by brilliance.”
Liam, Class of 2020
Why I love... math
Class of 2020, MathEmatician
Liam says that when you solve a math problem with logic it feels like you’ve been touched by brilliance.
Liam, Grade 12, first realised how much he loved math when things didn’t quite go to plan. “There was a competition in Grade 4,” he recalls. “Four ‘mathletes’ were to be chosen and I was so sure I’d be one of them I’d stopped trying. When I wasn’t picked, it was a wake-up call. I realised how much I enjoyed it and that I wanted to be good at it.”
Liam took the initiative and began spending hours in his bedroom learning calculus and trigonometry beyond what was being taught in school. By Grade 7 he was working on derivatives – something not usually covered until Grade 11.
“I thought I could ‘do’ calculus, but really I could just do one bit of it. I didn’t really understand it. Still, it gave me bragging rights with my friends.”
In fact, things didn’t get serious until his math teacher picked up on his progress. “At the end of Grade 7, Ms Reed said: ‘We can see you’ve been spending hours on this and you’re committed to it. You should push yourself’.”
The school worked with Liam to ensure he had the tools he needed to anchor his knowledge – “like explaining what the little triangle over the letters in an equation means,” he says – and that he was always challenged.
“What I love about math,” he explains, “is there’s always a right answer. And you can figure it out from things you already know. It’s almost stealing: using logic to solve a problem. It feels like a stroke of brilliance.
“Take quadratic equations. That formula looks like random variables but it can be applied to every single quadratic! It’s ridiculously cool and strangely intriguing.”
Liam also plays chess and runs cross country. “I like that you can measure your running progress in numbers,” he says. “Like going from 22 minutes for five km to 18.45 in three years.”
As well as his ambition to become an astrophysicist, Liam wants to learn differential equations, in homage to the stars of the TV show, The Big Bang Theory. “I too can be socially awkward,” he laughs.
“A lot of the time, I’ll draw someone I don’t know. I’ll create my own person and add anything I want.”
Lucy, Grade 8
My Passion - Art
Lucy, Grade 8, always has pen and paper to hand.
Lucy says that drawing is character-creating.
Since she was very young, Lucy's family have always known where to find her: sitting at a table with pens and paper, drawing something. “I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember,” she says. “It’s always been with me, and my parents have always been supportive of it.”
Inspired by classic art and artists such as the Mona Lisa and Van Gogh, Lucy nevertheless doesn’t have a particular style, she says. At the moment, she loves to sketch “people, things that look cool or interesting, or whatever I feel like in the moment”. Drawing, for her, is also character-creating. “A lot of the time I’ll draw someone I don’t know. I’ll create my own person and add anything I want.”
Her passion for art has flourished at ZIS. “My teacher, Rainer Jutzi, is so much fun. He really challenges us but also makes the class exciting and enjoyable, and takes me out of my comfort zone.” She found a recent project, to create a piece of art around social protest, particularly inspiring. Students were asked to pick an issue they felt needed to be spoken about and represent it.
Improving her craft is tough, she says. She’s already familiar with the artist’s struggle for inspiration – “I know it’s a stereotype, but sometimes I’m just staring at a piece of paper and I don’t know what to draw!” – and still life is a challenge. “I find many things hard about art, but it’s always been a struggle for me to draw things that have a lot of detail or texture, because I’m more on the creative side.”
Art, she says, takes her out of this world and transports her to a completely different place, with none of the traditional rules or boundaries. All she needs is that table, paper and pens. “When that happens, I’m lost. I’m in the moment – I’m experimenting and creating, and nothing else matters. Art is a great place to lose yourself.”