First of all I would like to state some of the positive attributes of the stay, in terms of research and otherwise. First and foremost is the Swiss life, culture and its natural beauty. The environment it self had certain kind of soothing experience. May be it was the mountains and the running water, but it was all very good. The people I worked with were very dedicated professionals. The lab setups, the infrastructure and the system all seemed to be very appealing. Another positive point that I would like to emphasize is the size of the cities and their organization. I live in Chicago and it is kind of huge place. Basel on the other hand was quite small well organized town which was kind of easy to manage even though I had not lived there for long.
Now coming to few negative points or some things if present/not-present would have made my life much easier. One of the challenges that I had to face many times was that of the language. Every thing seemed to be in German, even the road maps and other essential stuff, like groceries etc. The other challenge that I faced, was the new working style and environment. The working attitude at Eth is a bit different, than the working environment in Chicago. I will say more about this in the document.
I found my colleagues to be very professional, very dedicated and very knowledgeable in their fields. I had the chance to work with physical statistician and mathematicians and was integrated very nicely in the team. We had kind of weekly meetings related to research I was involve, discussing the possible solutions to the problems arising and the ways to practically confirm the theoretical assertions.
I found the research team in Swiss to be somewhat similar to the team I work here with, in US. My team is always very helpful with anything work related (not to mention non work) and fortunately I found the same in the Swiss. The research mentality however, differed in some areas (such as how to approach the problem or confirm a theory etc), but that was partly because the interdisciplinary nature of the research that I was involved in the Swiss. Nevertheless, the research experience was very fruitful, and I learned a lot, acquired new skills and made a lot of new connections. I enjoyed my work at Eth Zürich.
I am currently in a PhD program, so I would rather finish my program here at US. Had I not started my PhD here at US, and the quality of research that I witnessed in Switzerland, I would have certainly considered pursuing PhD at any reputable Swiss university. Nevertheless, after my PhD if I get an offer for post-doc or a faculty position, I would seriously consider it.
My institution did not apply for my visit visa. I am citizen of Pakistan, and live in the US on student visa. I needed a visa to enter the Switzerland and I applied for it from Chicago, USA. I was told during the visa process that it would take around 4 to 6 weeks, and I had some trouble because my appointment date had already started while my visa was being processed. Anyhow, I got my visa in about 6 weeks and every thing went just fine.
The accommodation in Basel was difficult to get at first. I suppose it was due to the football games that were going on at the time I was looking for accommodation. It was extremely difficult to find a place at first, partly because there were very few temporary rentals available and partly because very few people replied back to my email in English. Anyway, I was supported by the nice admin people at Biosystems Science and Engineering Dep’t Eth Zürich. They contacted a few people and forwarded the links for the accommodations that were available at that time. I was lucky enough to get a room just 2 days before my flight.
I spent around 1200 to 1500 CHF per month during my stay in Switzerland and I stayed in Basel for little less than 3 months. In addition to the Thinkswiss, I was supported by the Biosystems Science and Engineering Department, Eth Zurich Switzerland.
Lastly, I would again like to thank ThinkSwiss organizers, Presence Switzerland, and the Swiss Embassy in Washington. I had a wonderful, enjoyable and unforgettable experience.....
Parallel Algorithms and Multimedia Systems Laboratory,
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,
University of Illinois at Chicago, IL USA.