Monday, August 18, 2008

International Flavor

I write this sitting in a circle of friends that includes people from Serbia, Italy, France, and the U.S. An Italian movie is playing next to me, and two individuals from Serbia are playing ping pong a few feet from me, communicating in Serbian.

This scene epitomizes my experience in Switzerland and points to the international nature of the country. It is situations like these that have characterized my time in Switzerland and the aspect of my trip that has been the most educational to me and what I want to comment on.

The international flavor of my trip was evident from the very first evening that I was here. Two of my three roommates were from Spain and the third was France. The conversations that flowed that night with my roommates and others that lived next to me transitioned fluidly between English, Spanish, French, and even a bit of Turkish. As we explored the different languages and the cultures, I was already beginning to pick up on the similarities and differences n betweethe cultures.

Switzerland is the perfect locale for such conversations and experiences. Composed of four different cultural regions, Switzerland embodies the notion of internationalism. To hear that a person is actually from Switzerland comes as a surprise to me, as even in my lab, I am surrounded by individuals from Netherlands, Greece, France, England, and Pakistan. I have realized that Switzerland's culture is in great part derived from this very diversity. Strong regional influences contribute to this diversity and internationalism.

What is the most noteworthy to me is the fact that despite being from completely different countries, everyone that I have met is very open-minded and harbors a desire to learn from people unlike themselves. Perhaps it is the inherent nature of people who travel abroad to be more adventurous and curious of other cultures. Regardless, the open-mindedness and inviting nature of everyone I have met only serves to enhance my experience here.

In my 7th week in Switzerland right now, I have had the chance to travel all around the country, having visited Interlaken, Jungfraujoch, Zurich, Lucerne, Mt. Titlis, Schaffhausen, Ticino, and this past weekend, the Aletsch Glacier. Of course, I have also taken the time to wander through Lausanne, attempting to soak in the atmosphere of the city and the country through my travels. One of the things that my travels during the weekends have taught me is that even in the U.S. I need to travel more. Studying at the university and becoming enveloped by its activities, I often forget how much I truly love to travel.

As I continue to work through my last 3 weeks here in Switzerland, I hope to travel to Paris, France and afterwards to several different countries including Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany. I hope to write again about my trip to the Aletsch Glacier this past weekend and my adventures this coming weekend...Au revoir until then!

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