Debating the existence of Switzerland

At the time of application for this internship, I knew of two things: one, it in Lausanne, Switzerland, and two, they spoke French there. Despite the weeks of research I did on EPFL I somehow forgot to google Lausanne.

The acceptance letter arrived at the end of January. To my relief, I was no longer jobless this summer. This time, I was so swamped with technicalities for my exchange in Paris that I again  forgot to look up Lausanne (or Switzerland in general).

It was some time in April that a friend of mine showed me a photo of a brilliantly blue lake framed with snow capped mountains and told me she wanted to go to Lausanne. I could not believe it; I was going to be living there this summer?

Before I knew it, it was two months later and I was standing in front of Lac Léman, seeing it with my own eyes. After living in a bustling city like Paris for 5 months, Lausanne was like a breath of fresh air, literally. The bright blue skies with a fine crosshatch of plane trails brought out the lovely burnt umber of the roofs in the city. My apartment was located between UNIL and EPFL, which meant that it was nestled in a small forested area. Walking to and from work every day I would cross a bridge spanning a gurgling stream. It was tranquil and absolutely perfect.

At EPFL, I had the pleasure of working in the lab of Professor Jacques Fellay. For the last three months, I got to dabble into the world of genome wide association studies and nanopore sequencing of DNA. In other words, I got a taste of the intriguing world of genetics and the mysteries it contains. Coming into this term, the words LINUX and R were completely new to me and a couple of lines of coding might as well have been hieroglyphs. My supervisor, Chris, was amazingly patient and explained anything and everything to me with great enthusiasm, no matter what it was.

Outside of work, every weekend was booked with things to do, places to see. With fellow interns, we made the most of our stay. From hikes in the mountains and swims in crystal clear lakes to road trips to Italy and flights to Germany, we enjoyed every moment of it. Weeknights saw us converging for a drink by the lake and watch the mountains turn pink with the sunset.

There was a running joke this summer that Switzerland doesn’t actually exist but is all a dream. After all, there is no way a country can have this many mountains, cerulean lakes, waterfalls, emerald fields and picturesque towns… can it? Somehow, Switzerland is this beautifully kept secret. Where everyone I know wants to come the Europe to see France or Italy, I would come back to Switzerland in a heartbeat.

3 months gone… now it is time to leave and I do so with a sad smile. I have had an experience I will never forget and this internship has got me thinking about new possibilities for my career. À bientôt, Lausanne, tu vas me manquer beaucoup.

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Jennifer Lin, University of Waterloo
Laboratory of Human Genomics of Infectious Diseases (GR-FE), EPFL

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