There is a river running through the Swiss city Basel that is a popular place for a swim in the summer. The locals all have waterproof, floatable bags to store their belongings while they swim down the river but another intern and I decided to swim the river with our backpacks – stuffed with clothes, towels, and books – which were quickly weighed down with water. We dropped the bags off behind a tree on the riverbank and continued down-river through the town, with just our shoes floating alongside us. My time in Switzerland was characterized by these adventures. I was so excited to get out, explore and experience the country that my weekend trips were usually poorly planned and I almost always had to run to catch the train home at the end but the spontaneity of it all is part of what made my summer in Switzerland so exciting and memorable.
I arrived in Switzerland from Montreal on a weekend in early May for the start of a four month internship. After spending a day recovering from jet-lag I went to EPFL for the first time where I was met by Dr. Lamirand and Dr. Frajtag in the Laboratory for Reactor Physics and Systems Behaviour (LRS). The entire lab group was extremely welcoming and much of my first day was spent getting to know my coworkers over a few cups of coffee. At LRS, my main task was to make a 3D CAD model of the on-campus fission reactor CROCUS which is used for teaching and experiments. I went in without much knowledge of nuclear engineering but after several tours of the reactor and countless hours analysing the different systems for the computer model I learned a lot about the reactor safety and detection systems and I really improved my knowledge of CAD and finite element analysis software.
I really enjoyed the tight-knit work environment at EPFL. Every day our lab group would go for lunch together at one of the many cafes on campus and we would sometimes go for drinks after work as well. As they knew I was learning French they encouraged me to speak it as often as possible. If you are practicing your French I recommend finding a language tandem partner through the UNIL tandem site that matches learners with native speakers.
My accommodation in Lausanne was a residence operated by EPFL in Malley, halfway between downtown and the university. Living there was a great way to meet other students and interns and I highly recommend one of the EPFL residences if you’re in Lausanne for a short stay.
My summer as an intern at EPFL was really one of the best times of my entire life. I learned a lot about nuclear research and had a very fulfilling work experience, made some life-long friends and got to spend four months in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. À plus, Switzerland!
Laboratory for Reactor Physics and Systems Behaviour, EPFL