Sunday, June 15, 2008

It's my first blog post! I'm Erin Kiley, and I graduated in May from the Univ. of New Hampshire with a B.Sc. in Mathematics and a B.A. in Russian Language. For the next two (or three? I suppose I haven't decided...) months, I'll working in the city of Thun, in the microwave facility at EMPA ( ), a Materials Science and Technology lab. As an undergraduate, I had a little experience writing computer models of microwave oven systems, so the experience at EMPA (which has one of the most sophisticated microwave systems in the world) should be a very educational one.

I arrived in Thun on Monday night, and stayed at my research adviser's house for one night (the EMPA secretary found a room for me the next day). I had the wonderful opportunity to meet my adviser's wife and his children, who range from around 8-12 years old. The children are lively, talented, and very witty; and it's also somewhat humbling that they all speak French and German natively, and the two older ones are learning English--considering that, of the languages spoken in Switzerland, I have only studied French for four years (and that was five years ago!). I've been trying to remedy my complete lack of linguistical prowess here by enrolling in a night course in German at the local language institute, but I found out that everyone, professors included, goes on holiday for three weeks in June. So now I've got flash cards, a phrasebook, and a big task ahead of me (:

Although I haven't been here long, the big difference I notice between Swiss life and life in the 'States (also something different from life in Hungary and Russia, two other places I've lived before) is the structuring of work schedules. Many of the Swiss people in the lab will arrive at work at 8:00 or earlier (in the 'States, it's usu. 9:00), take coffee breaks every hour (in the 'States, usu. no coffee breaks), go home for a two-hour lunch, and then leave the lab at 5:00 p.m. Some people are in the lab as late as 7 or 8:00 p.m. every day. It's a bit different, and I think it provides a quite effective work environment.

I have noticed that, in general, the Swiss are early risers. When I wake up at 6:00 on a Saturday morning, my first instinct is to roll back over and get a few more hours of sleep--but in Switzerland, I suppose that's unusual. I went downstairs at 8:00 this morning, and said "Guten morgen" to my landlord and landlady (I suppose they're more like host-parents, since I live in one of the bedrooms upstairs but can use their kitchen, laundry, living rooms, musical instruments, etc), and she corrected me: "Guten tag, you see, 'morgen' means 'morning,' and it's not still morning..."

Anyway, more developments later on my adventures in Thun. If any of you wants to visit a small lake town with some gorgeous mountains as a backdrop, please feel free to be my guest! I also intend to see a few specific events in Switzerland while I'm here, including the Montreux Jazz Festival (4-19 July) and possibly the Int'l Yodelling Festival in Luzern (26-29 June). Where is everyone else planning to go?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.