Monday, July 20, 2009

Horror story beginnings and fairytale continuations

It was not a dark or stormy night; it was not even particularly cold. The scenery was not a hideous warped old forest but instead was the clean and pretty city of Lausanne. Regardless of the setting, I was frightened. I am a 20 year old student named Steph and this was the beginning of my first trip out of the United States. I was delayed on both of my flights and they lost my luggage. That was frustrating but not at all scary. It didn’t do much to dampen my mood. It was the failure to find housing that night that got to me. I had been delayed four hours and by the time I got to my apartment there was no one there to give me a key. I searched with a non-English speaking man for a hotel but, as I would later find out, the Festivale de la Cite Lausanne was going on. This meant that there were no vacancies. My first night abroad and it was looking like I would be sleeping on a park bench. I was very afraid of could happen in the night.

With the above as evidence, my first day and a half in Switzerland was not the best. I ended up sleeping at the house of the man who had tried to help me find a hotel. It was uncomfortable as I don’t speak French and he didn’t speak English but it turned out alright. He kicked me out at five am the next morning because he had work but not until I had eaten. This is a prime example of how nice the people here are. He and his roommate took in a random stranger that did not speak their language, let me shower, gave me clothes, fed me, and refused my money when I offered it.

After that troublesome experience, my trip has gone quite well. My apartment is spacious and clean. The other people in my suite are all very interesting and my floor is full of other students.

My time, when I am not working, is full of exploring Switzerland, be it just Lausanne or taking a train to see what there is too see. The first week was the Festivale de la Cite Lausanne. The cathedral was beautifully lit and was surrounded by music and food. I went there often. It was fun when the weather was good and still beautiful in the rain. Sitting under a tree there with a bottle of wine listening to a pretty little girl perform while watching sun showers pass over the city below will be an image that stays with me for quite some time. So far I have also gone to the Montreux Jazz Festival and the Blues Balls Festival in Luzern. Both of those cities were fun to wander through even in the areas that did not have tents or festival related paraphernalia. The day after my first trip to Montreux I hiked with some other students to Rochere de Naye. The sights were breathtaking. The mountains here are beyond words and pictures do not do the area justice. If you think the cities are nice wait until you breathe in that mountain air.

Pretty as the mountains are, Luzern was also beautiful. After spending a day there sightseeing and spending some time at the Kunstmuseum Luzerne, I headed off with some friends to Schwyz where we stayed in a hostel for the night. The next morning we were off to Arth-Goldau to hike over the mountain and down to Weggis on the other side. From there we took a ferry back to Luzern. The boat ride was like something out of a fairy tale; there were castles and patches of farmland amongst these majestic mountains. Coming to the city was like waking up from a dream because the city came from nowhere and took over the shore.

You don’t need a train ticket to see great things though. There is a ton to do around Lausanne. The lake is always worth going to, there is soccer to be played and there are parties to be had. Fuseball and ping pong are just two of the worthwhile pastimes I have found here. You can even go see movies if you want to (cough cough the new Harry Potter film cough). This really is quite a fun place.

My lab is the icing on the cake. As the main focus of this trip, I could not be happier with my research. The people here very nice not to mention the topic is interesting. I am working with an enzyme involved in to onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. There is a lot that remains unknown about the disease and the enzyme so there is a lot of ground to cover. This means that I am really making a contribution to the field in just the short time I am here. I couldn’t be more excited.

I wouldn’t change the lab work at all but sometimes I do wish my co-workers spoke more English. Anyone considering a trip to a foreign lab should really prepare themselves for the language barrier. Even if everyone can speak English enough to present their work many labs function in a different language. This doesn’t make the work any less interesting but it does make for quiet lunches and breaks. You also lose out on the lab experience where you can learn from those around you and bounce ideas off one another. The only English I get is direction which is great but not enough to have me start developing ideas or helping as much as I would like to in the lab. Still, my lab has really made this trip fantastic.

That is all for now. Sorry it was so long. I will try to remember to do this more often so you will not have to read through so much. I alos apologize for the scattered style of this entry. I will be better organized next time. I hope you are all having a fantastic time, where ever you are!

1 comment:

Erin said...

Hi Steph! Sorry about your first night...sounds pretty odd. We should most certainly meet up for coffee or food before I leave, or maybe if you're going to Bern next week we can do the train together. Our research seems closer to the same category of stuff than most in the program, so it would be fun to exchange ideas & things. Switzerland is an even smaller world than most! As to the paragliding, I used They were very good, and you should do it!