I spent 6 months in Lausanne, Switzerland working as a research intern in the Reconfigurable Robotics Lab at EPFL, from June to December 2014. Looking back at this time spent in one of the most beautiful countries on Earth, I find myself at a loss of words to describe it. (I’m an engineer, words are not one of my stronger suits anyway). But I can certainly share a list of very memorable experiences from this time.
1. First, the work – Working on futuristic, pioneering research about novel actuators and sensors and their applications in robotics and automation at a world class university. The casual and relaxed environment that is so much more conducive to creativity
2. Colleagues – My going away present from my colleagues was a post card with short messages written in 8 different languages. Yes, people with 8 different native languages, effortlessly communicating with each other in heavily accented English in a majorly French speaking part of the globe. Pretty cool, right?
3. Other interns – STEM students from over 7 of the top universities globally. Besides being great at their work, these people were a sheer delight to hangout and become close friends with. FIFA world cup screenings, music festivals, pubs, restaurants, hiking and biking trips, potluck dinners, let’s-sit-by-the-lake-and-do-absolutely-nothing-but-stare-at-the-water’s. (with a view like this, we really can’t be blamed for doing that)
4. Lausanne – cons: expensive (It’s Switzerland, no surprise there), can get a little difficult if you don’t speak much French, places shut a little too early at times.
PROS: alright, here we go… lakes, mountains, old wooden tower, cathedral, fondue, hot chocolate, crepes, awesome public transport, bike sharing, extremely friendly people from everywhere in the world (EVERY where: from New Zealand in the far east all the way to Costa Rica and Hawaii in the west), music festivals, art festivals, museums, farmer’s markets and did I say lakes and mountains?
5. Travel – Switzerland is conveniently small. One can travel across the country and back for a day trip with great ease. Trains are more punctual than the sunrise. The superiority of the Swiss infrastructure was obvious while travelling to nearby countries like Germany and Belgium! Every mountain peak and hiking destination in Switzerland provides a view that is purely mesmerizing.
6. THE FOOD! (one of my top priorities of course) – From a small Thai food truck or a Falafel vendor, to the finest restaurants and creperies, or even the vegetables, fruits, bread, cheese, chocolates, wines, milk etc. bought from a neighborhood grocery store. The food in Switzerland has a certain sense of purity, which resonates with that of the landscapes in the country, which makes it addictive.
Having always lived in concrete jungles, the bucolic charm of Swiss cities is spell-bounding. I must be extremely careful while planning my next trip to Switzerland: not keep it too short to be satisfying, but also not too long to be able to leave from there.
Manan Shah – Georgia Institute of Technology
Reconfigurable Robotics Lab, EPFL