I am writing this blog post as I am about halfway through my adventure being a research intern in Switzerland, and I think it has given me ample ability to reflect on my experience so far!
In looking at the picture above, you may be thinking “wow, that is a really cool tower!”. That was precisely my thoughts. As Americans, we don’t necessarily have access to such old relics of history and so stepping out of the hotel for the first time and immediately being greeted by that was certainly a culture shock. In fact, a lot of my experiences in my first week followed that trend: experience something I am not used to and write it off as “different” from me and my own lived experiences without taking the time to appreciate it as someone who is going to live in that town for the next two months!
My sister traveled with me a week before my internship began so that we could be tourists and I could get to know the country a bit before I started actually living there. Once that first week was done, though, I had to switch up my mindset. Up until that point, I was living in Switzerland as a tourist, not really integrating myself into the culture. I didn’t really realize, but I was thinking of myself as one thing and everybody around me who had their own lives in Switzerland as something else. Reality came quickly though when I realized I had to integrate into the culture to be able to make friends and not feel so “other”.
It really helped that literally everyone I met, from my advisor to the other students who live in the same building, are just the nicest people ever. They made it so simple and easy for me to be able to integrate and, not just learn, but appreciate the differences that make us so special and unique.
So, I suppose if I had to give a piece of advice after living abroad for a month is that you should never underestimate the kindness of people. We help each other 🙂