A profound experience comes to an end
We made it to Geneva, and the weather was slightly different than we expected. It was rainy and cold. But before I get to talking about Geneva, let’s talk train rides.
Trains are very efficient in Europe. Our train ride from Florence to Geneva with a train change in Milan was very comfortable. However, there is one thing about trains that is unpleasant … boarding and getting off the train. It is a hassle, everyone is in a hurry, undoubtedly you will enter and the wrong end where the baggage hold isn’t. People are impatient and in a hurry.
NOTE: Sometimes, a "nice" person will help you get your bags on. Often this is a Roma person (less politically correctly called a gypsy). They will demand money for helping get your bag on. My advice is not to accept help from anyone unless you know them.
Once the arduous process is over, you can get to your seat and enjoy the ride (and the view).
Back to Geneva …
So we met our local guide who manages the Kent State residential facility in Geneva which was located just a few blocks from the train station. She gave us a walking tour of Geneva where she led us to Old City. We saw St. Pierre Cathedral; the church John Calvin propounded Calvinism as well as the archives from Geneva.
Switzerland, which has been a neutral country for centuries, has one section in Geneva with canons. These are remains from the one war Switzerland was in. From here we walked back to our hotel. We had the rest of the evening to get settled into our rooms.
The next morning we learned about the Kent State Geneva Program and some other useful information pertaining to navigating the city. Geneva hosts the headquarters of hundreds of organizations including The International Red Cross, The World Health Organization, and the United Nations (Geneva is one of three headquarters for the United Nations the other two being in New York City and Vienna, Austria). Baring this in mind, Geneva is a very expensive city. A cup of coffee cost about 8 Swiss Francs. There are however ways to budget and plan accordingly.
We had a full kitchen at our facility, so we could buy groceries and cook which was cost effective for us. That afternoon we went to the United Nations (UN), headquarters for a tour. The UN in Geneva is the former League of Nations headquarters so these halls have a lot of history within them. This UN office is where about 70 percent of all UN related work is done.
Thousands of conventions are held here discussing many different topics including trade, human rights, education, working conditions, and much more. We saw several rooms where the representatives meet and conduct their business. With the conferences that take place, many countries have permanent missions in Geneva.
After the UN tour, we walked up the hill past the massive U.S. mission and toured the Geneva School of Diplomacy. Here we learned the theoretical basis for why such a school in necessary and what they do to help train current and aspiring diplomats.
That evening we had free time where I went for dinner with friends. After dinner, we decided we wanted to walk around Lake Geneva and see the landmark of Geneva, Jet d’Eau (water Jet). This water cannon blasts 800 gallons of water per minute to heights of 500 feet in the air. It serves as a focal point for the city and is based by the lake. Walking to this was nice because we had the marina on one side with the boats lined up and a park to our right with beautiful fountains and flowerbeds. Once we got to Jet d’Eau we just had to walk through the streams of water. We got soaked, but it was a nice moment to goof around with classmates. We went back to the hotel and prepared for our final day in Geneva.
The next morning we had our final class where we reviewed the professional guidelines for education abroad, talked about risks associated with study abroad, and offered final observations and reflections from Geneva and the trip overall. We had a break for lunch and then met in the afternoon for our final tour at Webster University.
Webster University has a full campus in the sense of what we would consider a campus with residential facilities, academic buildings, a library, admissions and administrative buildings, counseling chalet, and bomb shelter … Ok well maybe the last two aren’t normally found on a college campus.
Bomb shelters are required by law in Switzerland, though the laws regarding their use are becoming less restrictive, they still have to serve as a bomb shelter and cleared out for human inhabitance within 72 hours. This was a chilling reminder of the Cold War. The counseling chalet is a ski chalet with individual counseling rooms. Another added bonus of the Webster campus is a clear view of Montblanc (White Mountain). This is the highest peak in Europe and to see it during sunset reflecting the pinks and oranges opf the sun is absolutely beautiful.
Webster University was nice as it demonstrated the potential a university international program can have developing full campuses around the world that integrates with the main campus back in the U.S.
We had a final group dinner and being in Switzerland, the most appropriate dinner choice was fondue. We went to a very traditional Swiss restaurant and had cheese fondue with bread and potatoes.
NOTE: If you have cheese allergies, the mere atmosphere with the overwhelming aroma of cheese can be problematic for you. Also choose your beverages wisely, a belly full of a cheese ball can make the next day rather unpleasant. I suggest drinking water, hot tea, or white wine with your fondue. Anything else, you’re taking your own risk.
Dinner was great, dipping breads and potatoes into the cheese and enjoying conversation with the great friends we made over the weeks was the highlight of the trip. There were two gentlemen playing music and singing, which added to the Swiss flair of the dinner. One man on accordion and vocals and the other man played the trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, bells, spoons, saw (yes he played a saw), and an alphorn (From the Ricola cough drops commercials).
It was really entertaining to see and hear the music performed. After dinner we went back to our hotel and prepared for our departure the next morning. For many of my classmates, the adventure ends tomorrow and they return home. However, I will be in Europe for about 5 more days visiting Madrid, Spain and Paris, France. I will meet up with some former BU exchange students and do some sightseeing.
This trip has been so profound on me educationally, professionally, and personally. I have learned so many things about myself, the way I view culture, how to design a study abroad, and the challenges that will arise while studying abroad. Moreover I have made some great friends. I could not be happier to know such wonderful people that I now have the pleasure of calling friends and I eagerly wait for the time we can call one another professional colleagues.
For anyone still considering a study abroad and why they should, I’ll tell you why. What do you take away, sure you take away the sights, and experiences, but it’s the people that really transform you. Ultimately, we study abroad because of the people we meet. If you’re asking yourself why you should study abroad, the response should be: Because you have yet to meet some of the best friends you’ll ever have!
Until then, as they say in Italian, Signi d’oro – Dream
— Ryan Geiger, graduate student