Swiss Reflections

Switzerland, you treated me so well! Lausanne is really the perfect place to be as a student as it is essentially a city full of young people who want to have fun. You are always meeting new people, which is really great! Although Switzerland can be very expensive for tourists, being here for 4 months means that you can take advantage of the long term deals they have, that make living more affordable for swiss people. This means buying the half fare card (half price on all transport) is cost effective, as well as the track 7 card (free travel after 7 pm), checking out museums in Lausanne on the first Saturday of the month (it’s FREE!!), going to movies on tuesdays (half price if your mobile phone provider is Orange), etc…

The Research Internship:

As soon as I arrived, I felt very welcome and part of the team. Three coffee breaks per day + relaxed lunch breaks with the lab really establish a sense of comaraderie with other members of the lab, something that I think is lacking in North America. I loved how well the Swiss/Europeans incorporated social/relaxation time into their work environment, making everyday life that much more enjoyable. In North America, I have found that personal or leisure time is kept very separate from the work environment.

Working in the Physics of Aquatic Systems Laboratory is excellent because it means plenty of time spent on the boat in the sun! (Measuring reflectance of the sunlight off the water conveniently meant that we could only do fieldwork with clear skies and calm winds 🙂 ).

Measuring reflectance to determine chlorophyll concentration (Who you gonna call?!).

Measuring reflectance with PhD student Vincent Nouchi to determine chlorophyll concentration in Lake Geneva (“Who you gonna call?!”).

Being a part of EPFL’s Research Internship program was very special because you are surrounded by gifted students from the globe’s top universties. All amazing people, from very different backgrounds, very accepting of everyone’s differences; we all got along extremely well!

Life beyond EPFL:

Outside of the research internship, Switzerland has unlimited activities: music festivals, hiking, and all sorts of other outdoor activities. Conclusion?: HIKING IN SWITZERLAND IS AMAZING! Trails are extremely accessible by public transit, unlike anything I had seen in North America. Words cannot express the breathtaking beauty of the swiss landscape. Returning home, exhausted after a day of hiking and feeling accomplished about however many meters of elevation you climbed, is one of the best feelings in the world.

Summit of Schwarzhorn, near Grindelwald, Switzerland.

Summit of Schwarzhorn, near Grindelwald, Switzerland (2928 m).

Amazingly well maintained trails (Yes, the trail is vertical, and yet in impeccable condition.)

Amazingly well maintained trails (Yes, the trail is vertical, and yet in impeccable condition, complete with a chain to assist hikers.)

How has this experience shaped my life?

1. One of the main reasons why I chose to apply to this research internship was to discover if research was something I was interested in. I can definitely say that I am left with a very positive impression, and it has helped me to narrow down my interests. (Although the immediate steps to be taken in research are not always clear and can be discouraging, it is OK, and actually quite a common occurence in research.) I would love to come back to Switzerland for a PhD in a couple years time.

2. I NEED to live near mountains.

3. All of the amazingly diverse people I met during my time in Switzerland reinforced the notion that having a positive and open outlook to the world can is extremely rewarding and the relationships created as a result of this outlook are easily worth 1000 times the effort initially put in. Shout out to all you amazing interns!!!


One of the last dinners with a majority of the interns. Photo courtesy of Morgan Jackson.

Thank you to EPFL and Karen Undritz for this amazing experience!

Kate Schuler, McGill University
Physics of Aquatic Systems Laboratory (APHYS), EPFL

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