I’m not even going to look at the date of my last post… needless to say, I’ve been MIA for a WHILE. So why don’t we try to catch ourselves up a bit, huh?
The last time I blogged, I was in Athens, having returned from an unforgettable trip to Crete and relishing the beauty, hospitality, and affordability of Greece. In the days that followed, my group and I continued to explore Athens, discovered the best falafel ever, learned a TON about the Greek financial crisis, visited the Acropolis, and got to know one another super well. Leaving Greece was definitely tough, and it didn’t help that Switzerland was waiting for us beneath a fresh layer of snow; nonetheless, I was excited to return to the incredible landscapes and homecooked meals that awaited me.
It’s now been just over three weeks since I got back to Lausanne. In that time, mine and my group’s routine has remained pretty consistent: For three hours in the morning, half of us take a French class, and the other half (myself included) attend a class on alternative financial systems (where everyday a different guest speaker comes in and discusses anything from Impact Investing to Islamic Banking to Bitcoin). After a long lunch break, the group as a whole returns to the classroom for another three hours to learn about research ethics. At 5pm, we are free to go back to our respective villages / cities along the lake to spend time with our host families and relax.
Though the days can be long (especially with a one hour commute each way), they aren’t too difficult, and I’ve genuinely found almost every lesson interesting. I feel like the material we’re being presented is extremely relevant, which is a nice change from the often outdated graphs and theories I’ve encountered in traditional econ classes. The combination of learning about these non-mainstream / up-and-coming / alternative economic systems along with the opportunity to meet passionate individuals who are directly involved in each field has been extremely effective in influencing my way of thinking. I am now more than ever convinced of the financial, social, and environmental benefits of impact investing, or eco-innovation, for example. I now feel like I could actually contribute something of worth to a conversation about digital security, or the future of the blockchain, or the function of complementary currencies. And that’s super exciting!
In addition to school, much of my time over the past few weeks has been spent with my host family. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that they were “better than cashmere,” and that verdict stands truer than ever… I still can’t believe how lucky I am to have been placed with such a genuinely caring, highly talented, and ridiculously fun group of people.
We’ve done a few distinct activities together (like going to a super cool aqua center / water park in Bern, or making some extra AF neon cupcakes, for ex.), and those have been super fun. But the part I’ve been loving the most is the experience of living with this family. Drowsily sharing Anne’s homemade bread (which Céleste insists is like eating a “brick,” but which I LOVE) and jam at breakfast, trying to teach each other jokes in our respective languages (turns out it’s v hard to explain what makes “knock knock” jokes funny… or maybe they just aren’t … ?), and taking turns with the aux cord while washing the dinner dishes (grace à Elias, voici the best 4 minutes and 24 seconds of your life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTY3LevaQQ0) are the moments that are forming this into a truly exceptional experience.
That being said, there was one night that was particularly special: Anne’s surprise birthday party. The whole day was spent preparing: Céleste, Elias, and I made a “Happy Birthday” garland and polished glasses while the rest of the family, plus some friends, a few neighbors, and both sets of grandparents came over bearing tables, flowers, a coat rack, a projector, and god knows what else to set up. Anne’s favorite caterer, too, came over to prep what would be an incredible 5-course meal of salmon, asparagus and morel mushrooms, roasted chicken, risotto, and two desserts. When Anne came home, there were about 30 people hiding on her balcony waiting to surprise her.
That evening, I talked at length with some very sweet grandparents (one of my favorite activities), laughed over a presentation of Anne’s childhood photos, and danced to 80’s French hits (see link from two paragraphs ago) with my host siblings until 3am (!!!). This evening reminded me of my own large family gatherings and made me feel closer to home than ever.
Basically, my host fam ROCKS. So much so, that I’ve taken it upon myself to single handedly market the west coast as the best place on earth (like “manifest destiny,” minus the imperialist and chauvinistic attitudes that drove it… so actually not at all like manifest destiny) to make them visit me after I leave.
And yet, I do at times decide to leave the house for reasons other than school, which, considering how fun the other kidz in my program are (and the fact that we’re in Switzerland???), is easy to enjoy. Earlier this week was definitely a highlight: I, along with some friends, decided to take the 30 minute train to Montreux, a city situated at the end of the lake and home to that famous castle that always pops up when one googles “Lake Geneva” (because everyone’s googled that a few times, right?). Following a lunch of $16 hamburgers (a very average price for this place, despite not including fries or anything!! coming back to US prices will be a TREAT), we walked over to that very chateau, exploring the city on the way.
Montreux is absolutely breathtaking. The clear blue water, colossal mountains, multitudes of colorful flowers, and (somewhat bizarre and yet still stunning?) palm trees lining the roads combine to create an almost suspiciously perfect scene. If this place can look this unbelievable under an overcast sky, I can’t imagine what it must look like under a blue one.
On the walk back to the train station, we stopped by a free museum called “Queen Studio Experience”: it turns out that Freddie Mercury, along with his bandmates, loved Montreux so much that they recorded SEVEN of their albums here!! First of all: I get it 100%. I, too, would record seven of my albums in this stunning lil slice o’ heaven. But also: what a strange and specific addition to Montreux’s legacy! As if this place couldn’t get any cooler.
So there it is! And, yes, the past few weeks have involved more than all that you’ve just finished reading (I also went to Milan, for example! PS I really don’t like Milan, but this isn’t the time or place to talk about that !!), these experiences nicely describe the gist of it. I won’t lie — it’s been a little bit exhausting to be in class for six hours a day, to speak only french at home, and to fit in traveling amidst all of it; however, the LEARNING, personal GROWTH, and MEMORIES these experiences have been providing me with are making this one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
This weekend I’ll be spending Easter with my host family in Fribourg; we’ve already started prepping, and I’m sure I’ll write about all that next time. Until then, though, here’s your long awaited SWITZERLAND-IS-EXPENSIVE-HOW-DO-YOU-SAVE-MONEY-TIP:
- Stay organized & BUDGET: Wanna know the REAL reason I’ve been neglecting my blog? It’s because I spend all my time BUDGETING. (Not saying that’s an excuse, but like… at least it’s not instagram?) (Ok it’s also because of instagram.) But in all seriousness: writing down how much money I have, how much money I need to save for future spending, and how much money all of my potential activities (i.e. travels) would / should cost, etc.!! has allowed me to enjoy my time here without stressing nearly as much about money. It’s allowed me to plan upcoming trips to Nice, Munich, and all over Italy, while knowing exactly how many times per week I can splurge on a sandwich from La Gourmande. BUDGETING = FRANCE AND SANDWICHES. Don’t forget it.
And with that, I leave you all to your respective lives, until my next post, which will hopefully be written sometime this millenium.
À bientôt et merci !