Nearly 5 months, a dozen countries and countless memories later, my study abroad experience has come to a bittersweet end. In the wake of my departure from Geneva and Switzerland, I find myself looking into the distance in search for the Swiss Alps only to be greeted by the flattest of lands that stretches on for miles. After a few weeks, the looming Swiss Alps no longer felt imposing; instead, they cultivated a sense of “home” and belonging whenever you admired them in the distance.
Truth be told, I had no idea what this semester would hold, but what has come as a result of it is experiences and places and individuals whom I am truly so grateful to have encountered on my journey. I’ve cultivated this new perspective for people, for the injustices that surround us, and for life. I’ve learned how to foster better relationships, what it means to actually live in the moment, and why compassion, gratitude and kindness are such important qualities to practice each day. I’ve learned to stop passing judgment on others, to wholeheartedly embrace the unexpected, to let each new experience change you.
Of course, I made a fair share of mistakes- I forgot to bring my TPG pass and as a result, spent the entire bus ride to UNIGE paranoid about the swift TPG officers coming on to the bus asking to check our passes, I sent the wrong email at work, I purchased the wrong tickets for the train once or twice, but mistakes are an inevitable part of life and in all honesty, have you really lived if you didn’t make mistakes? If I’ve learned anything from mine, it’s that life moves on. It does your body no good to hold on to all of that resentment or anger, and your negative mood will just detract from the experience even more.
My semester abroad has opened my eyes and expanded my breadth of knowledge about people, cultures, and public health institutions. I also had the opportunity to do some introspective reflection (I guess traveling solo for a couple of days can do that to you), which left me feeling restored and revitalized and allowed me to gain a better sense of direction of what it is that I want to do with my education and my career.
I couldn’t be more grateful that I had the opportunity to study abroad in Geneve, and I would go back in a heartbeat. No matter how much I loved the abundance of cafes in Eastern Europe or the affordability of Spanish tapas or the charm of the French Riviera, Switzerland and it’s people will always hold a very special place in my heart.
A land I once naivëly perceived to be nothing more than snow-capped Alps, chocolate, and Swiss cheese, I’ve come to realize that Switzerland is home to much more than that. There’s no arguing that it boasts some of the most breathtaking nature scapes or that it produces some of the finest dietary staples (bread, chocolate, cheese, and wine, to be exact), but there’s something so magical about the country that makes it feel as if you’ve entered into a different reality.
I’ll miss the Alpine tap water that could most definitely pass for liquid gold. It tasted so pure, and always crisp. Its freshness a given, of course. The best part about it though- it was FREE and available so widely.
I’ll miss the thrill of catching that early morning EasyJet to embark on an adventure that we planned just hours before. The opportunity to jump on these spontaneous trips is truly a unique one, and one that I don’t think I’ll be able to capitalize on anytime soon considering how school, work and the “real world” have such restrictive schedules. I am equally as grateful for all of the amazing memories and stories that resulted from these crazy, last-minute adventures. The anxiety that accompanies all of this quickly fades away as we arrive at our destination, upon which we are overcome with the most satisfying feelings of happiness and wonder.
I’ll miss waking up on Wednesday mornings, practically jumping out of bed, knowing that it was “Croissant Day.” There was never a better way to celebrate Hump Day than with croissants, especially freshly baked ones from the charming bakery right around the corner from our residence, Céline et Sébastien.
I’ll miss running up to the third floor suite (aka Kaylee, Michelle, Anna and Kstef’s room) where we would all gather every night to decompress from a long day of work. Many laughs were shared in that room, along with some comical/sometimes serious conversations, birthday celebrations, potluck dinners, dance parties, and the best memories.
I’ll miss walking from 18 rue Muzy, along the shores of Lac Leman, across the bridge to work at 32 rue de Malatrex each morning. To all of my brilliant friends at WHF, thank you for making my internship such a rewarding experience, filled with inspiring conversations and even more inspiring people.
I’ll miss having the luxury of hopping on the next SBB at Gare Cornavin after class on Wednesdays and embarking on unplanned adventures that end up leaving the best impressions. Train travel was by far the most convenient and comfortable way to get around the country, and the punctuality and extensiveness of Swiss public transport was truly unparalleled.
I’ll miss those evenings spent along the banks of Lac Leman mesmerized by the simplistic beauty of the sunset. After a long day at work, there truly isn’t anything better than to watch the sun fade into the horizon enjoyed with a good bottle of wine, some cheese, a fresh baguette and fabulous girlfriends by your side.
Thank you, Geneve, for friendships that I will cherish for the rest of my life, for adventures unlike any other, and most of all, for leaving me with an experience that makes me realize how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard <3