This summer, I had the opportunity to study in Geneva, Switzerland. Since I’m a double major at UC Berkeley, I did not anticipate having the time to study abroad. However, when I stumbled upon a six week Berkeley-Haas program on Sustainability & Business, I decided to sign myself up. The program focused on the intersection of business, NGOs, government, and civil society, and included a schedule jam-packed with guest speakers and office visits to the United Nations, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, International Labour Organization, and more.
Little did I know, this summer would change a lot: career-wise and perspective-wise. I rarely slept, lived in a bikini, and survived on Chez Ma Cousine’s chicken and Le Roi Ubu’s happy hour. I was also the happiest I’ve ever been. Here’s a taste of my summer in Geneva.
If you’re interested in reading more about my study abroad experience in Switzerland, check out my article on my Overnight Trip to Zermatt, Switzerland: Visiting the Matterhorn.
St Pierre Cathedral
Bains des Pâquis
Mont Blanc Bridge
Parc de la Grange
Promenade de la Treille
When I first arrived in Switzerland, I was eager to explore the entire city on foot. The first two days, I ventured off by myself and walked up to eight miles per day, starting my journey at my dormitory and walking as far as the Bains de Pâquis across the bridge. By the end of each day, my iPhone was often dead and my feet were so tired that I would hop on a bus and try to direct myself home. In retrospect, it took me a bit of time to get fully acquainted with the bus system. In the first week, I failed to take the right transfers and I adopted a get-on the wrong bus, get-off the wrong bus, walk a little, get lost, get-on the right bus strategy. However, I wouldn’t change the way I traveled – I saw nearly every corner of the city because of the way I zig-zag traveled to each location I wanted to see.
My two favorite places to go in Geneva were Bains des Pâquis and Baby Plage. Every day after class, I would take the bus Lake Geneva. Since the temperatures peaked at 102 F and my dorm didn’t have AC, the best way to escape the heat was to spend the afternoon climbing the rock wall in the lake or jumping off of the diving board at Bains des Pâquis. I also spent many nights at Baby Plage, swimming to the buoys and watching the city lights flicker in the distance.
In all honestly, I didn’t travel to Geneva to study in my room or to stay in my comfort zone. I was looking to explore Geneva on foot and spend every hour of my day being productive on my own terms – playing guitar, writing my own music, reading new books, and figuring out the “big picture” for my life after graduating. I was averaging about four hours per night of sleep for those six weeks, but my summer couldn’t have been better. There was a pervasive feeling of “celebrating life” in all capacities, and knowing that summer would only last so long left me with the motto: “do it all while you can.” This zest forced my friends and I to keep going, keep celebrating, and keep exploring despite the days we wanted to fall asleep on the bus home or skip our twentieth 8AM class.
In the first week I arrived, I had the opportunity to go to Fête de la Musique, a festival that occurs every year on June 21st. During the festival, the city turns into a massive street music party. Local artists are allowed to play music in their neighborhoods, public spaces, and parks. I took full advantage of this opportunity and wandered the city for countless hours, visiting different venues to get a taste of Geneva’s vibrant music culture. The highlight of my night was getting up on stage (pictured in the image below) to dance alongside a local band.
I also had the opportunity to visit the United Nations in Switzerland and learn more about the organization’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the organization’s actions to defend human rights, deliver humanitarian aid, and promote sustainable development. The United Nations office in Switzerland is the second-largest of the four major office sites. Founded after World War II, the UN continues to aid in international negotiations between different parties. While visiting, I was able to see one of the conference rooms where UN specialized agencies hold bi-weekly briefings.
My summer abroad in Geneva was an experience I’ll never forget. I had the ability to travel every weekend outside of the city, visiting Annecy, Nice, Prague, Munich, Vienna, and Zermatt within a six-week timespan, and get a taste of what it’s like to live in Geneva. Life was simple and well-spent during the summer. I was rarely on my phone and spent more hours outdoors than indoors. Moreover, I was exposed to passionate industry leaders, companies, and organizations that were dedicated to promoting positive change.
Along the way, I learned lessons on what it means to find career fulfillment, as well as personal fulfillment, in a world that prioritizes a “go-go-go” attitude and rarely affords you the time to sit with your own thoughts. Geneva was a break from the fast-pace nature of Berkeley and a lesson in the value of sitting still and soaking up an experience.
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