“Israel intensifies Gaza offensive.” “Ukraine crisis: Russian army vehicles seen near border.” These are some headlines I stumble upon, as I am fortunate enough to drink hot green tea and enjoy a warm chocolate croissant at my lab desk. Switzerland, a country of three different language-based regions, bewilders me with its incredible harmony despite its different and various cultures. In this blog, I wish to convey two goods and two bads of my time here, in alternating sequences, to enable you to paint your own landscape of Switzerland. Let’s dive in with the good.
Lake Léman anchors my experience. Simply put, I love the lake. On the first day I arrived, some floor mates I had just met dragged me to go to the “Last Day of School” event, organized by EPFL, right by the lakeside. This marked the start to my great relationship with the lake. Since then, the lake and I have shared many experiences together, from swimming and picnics to basketball and biking. EPFL interns get access to bikes for free via the PubliBike system so I take the twenty minute scenic bike route home any chance I get, provided I could obtain a bike and that it didn’t rain. But of course, it rains. (Pictured above: A boat ride to Thonon Les Bains)
Precipitation obstructs plans. Sometimes it’s okay, but Sunday rain is the worst. Most places are closed on Sundays, and the rain prevents outdoorsy activities. Just cozy up, grab a good book and watch some good movies. The rain pushed our Matterhorn trip back twice, so plan around it! (Pictured above: I don’t take pictures in the rain, but this was taken on my flight into Geneva. It’s cloudy at least!)
Travel, travel, travel! There are two trans-Switzerland passes I highly recommend. The demi tariff lets you buy train tickets at half price. The Voie 7 lets you take any train for free after 19:00. Together, they allow you to travel all over Switzerland. Take a trip to Geneva and see the Red Cross Museum. Or go to Montreux during their legendary Jazz Festival. And definitely hike Gruyere, where they have amazing fondue and raclette. And although the passes are limited to use only in Switzerland, do not feel restricted. You can easily go to other European cities. I personally highly recommend Paris. (Pictured above: A selfie for a hike to the Trift Suspension Bridge)
Everyone here speaks French! I actually view this as a good thing, but it might take some getting used to. For the university, everyone will know English; in fact, half of my lab does not speak French. Outside of campus, you can get by using Franglais and weird hand gestures and symbols to communicate. If you immerse yourself, you can even come out a French speaker (maybe). For now, learn Merci and Au Revoir. Thanks and bye for now! (Pictured above: A hike with the lab that doesn’t speak French)
Nicholas Cheung, Johns Hopkins University
Angiogenesis and Tumor Microenvironment Lab, The Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC), EPFL