Since this blog is mainly read by potential future interns I will focus on trying to give you guys a few general comments and tips. For a bit of context, I spent a bit more than two and a half months at EPFL working at LIONS on convex optimization. I had a great time both in terms of academic and personal aspects, and you found a lab here that peaked your interest I definitely encourage you to apply. Here are a few pieces of advice you might find valuable.
#1 Free time
At EPFL the normal working hours are 9-5 and you have weekends (and a few vacation day if you want depending on your lab’s policy) so you do actually have quite a bit of free time. For me a lot of this was spent on cooking (cheap, delicious, fun experience for me) but I know many people who basically never cooked and still were able to save some money. One thing I was really interested in was sports practices I could participate in. It turns out, that basically all official sports activities close beginning of July, but do not worry. There is an ultimate Frisbee club with weekly practices every week, pickup volleyball is always on and you can always just organize any other pickup game with your friends (or rent a boat!). Also, EPFL does not seem to have a swimming pool for everyday use, but the lake is pretty nice and there are many cool public swimming pools and water parks (!) close by. For the weekends I went traveling almost every day. I didn’t really have to go too far, there’s plenty of things to see in an hour of range. And at least once, you should go on a longer hike in the mountains. This might require quite a bit of planning, but it’s totally worth it.
Half-fare cards, After 7 tickets, Eurorail passes, Supersaver tickets are your friends. You should spend some time figuring out which ones work the best for you. I recommend you buy a bike here. You buy it for a 100 and sell it back for 50. Although a bit hilly the area is great for biking. I especially recommend biking in the wine yards.
This is very lab specific. I had a very vibrant lab and had lots of fun (and made actual progress through hard work). When choosing a direct supervisor, keep in mind that some people leave for months over the summer and you don’t want that to happen right after you arrive. Luckily, my supervisor left for conferences when I could already work somewhat independently. What I appreciate the most, is that I received a tremendous amount of help and personal attention and I never felt that I was overworked at LIONS (as opposed to MIT). I am applying to this lab for graduate school starting next year.
Food is expensive, even on campus cafeterias for my taste. On the other hand cooking for yourself is actually quite cheap. Especially if you go Monday morning to Denner when they put %50 tags on a lot of their products (which will expire in 2-3 days, but that’s fine). This is the overall theme of my post. Lausanne is a great place to spend your summer at. Your stay can also be challenging at certain points, but you always overcome these challenges and feel stronger afterwards.
Don’t schedule your arrival the day before starting work, especially if you are starting on a Monday. Sundays are very quiet in Switzerland (unless you go to the lake shore where everyone’s grilling their sausages), most things are closed. Give yourself at least 2-3 days to settle in, walk by the lake, meet your neighbors and prepare for unexpected challenges 🙂
Gergely Odor, MIT
Laboratory for Information and Inference Systems (LIONS)