Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This is NOT Vacation

So 15 days in, a lot of us are still in that phase where this kind of feels like vacation, like we might be going home in a few days.

Wellllll, it is definitely not vacation. Not when I look at this stack of books.

I mostly just try to ignore that as much as possible until it's absolutely necessary. For example, I have a 15-minute presentation due next week in my International Organizations class. Hm.

I'd much rather share photos like this, however.

This is the view from the bridge we walk across to get to Old Town/Promod/Spring Brothers/etc. Until I figure out how to put high-res images on this blog, you'll just have to trust me that these pictures are not doing Geneva's beauty any justice at all.

I can't remember if this was the same evening or not. You can't see it in this frame, but there are several gigantic cranes that appear to be so permanent in Geneva that they are lit up every night. So sweet. I am sorry about how awkward I look here but that's just what happens when I am around cameras.

The rest of the weekend was definitely a bit of fun. We spent Sunday morning regaling the night's events, and my abs hurt afterwards from laughing so hard at our antics.

In a chocolate update, my favorite chocolate so far is the .75CHF bar from Coop City. Even the cheapest chocolate here is more delicious than what we have in the States. I might stay forever.

Also, I am loving me some Kent State Program housemates. And some clementines and Nutella. And views like this. This is what I see from my window. Oh, Genève.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Le Temps Est Beau!

I'm trying to be better about this blog thing. It's just difficult to put into words what it's like to be living in a foreign country for four months. Most days I feel like this is not real life somehow. I'm in a place where I don't understand what people say when they walk by, I can't quite read all the signs, and where it's difficult to communicate with almost everyone. It's extremely isolating.

But I also love it.

I love being able to walk out my door and take a few steps to the Rhône River. I can walk right by the Jet d'Eau in a matter of minutes. I love to see the mopeds flying by and the tiny cars everywhere. I love the way Swiss Francs look (although I don't love how easily they disappear), and I love the Turkish guys at the Kebab places that are all over around here. I love that it's the middle of January and it's in the 50s everyday. I will never, ever miss the weather of Northeast Ohio.

I love the discothèques and the way Europeans dress. I love the Irish pubs and the men who walk around all the bars trying to sell flowers. I love eating chocolate all the time because that is expected here.

Last night we went to a club called Shakers, and it was quite possibly the most fun night I've had in my life. My thighs are on fire today from all the dancing! Certainly not something I normally do. But, as they say, when in Rome... I met a really cool guy from Slovakia - I mean what are the chances of that happening in the States? Pretty much zero. There is just so much exposure here to things I have never known before. It's exhausting, but I feel that it is so good for me. I think it should be a requirement for college students to study abroad. There is truly nothing like it.

I'm realizing as I write these posts that I am horrible at remembering to take pictures. Absolutely horrible. And pictures would make my random ramblings much, much more interesting I'm sure. So I do apologize for the lack of color and image! I'll do my best to work on it.

On that note, I am going to try to do a bit of the MASSIVE stack of reading I have for my classes. First up, human rights. Tonight, some of the girls and I are having a Mom Night. Evidently that is where you bake cookies and watch movies.

I am game for that. Au revoir!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Week Two: Recap

Oh my goodness.

I would love to return to last week, when my life was about seeing the city and Lausanne and eating food and running around in a foreign country.

Now it's about CLASSES. Ugh.

Thanks to some complicated issues resulting from going to a school that operates on quarters and studying abroad at a school that operates on semesters, I have to take about a billion classes here. So for anyone who knows me, it's obvious that I am FREAKING OUT.

These are the classes I'm taking:

Human Rights: 1:45-4:30 on Mondays
European Economic Systems: 7:00-9:45 on Mondays
French: 11:15-12:45 on Tuesdays and 9:30-10:45 on Thursdays
European Politics: 3:00-5:45 on Tuesdays
Problems of International Organizations: 3:00-5:45 on Wednesdays
International Business: 7:00-9:45 on Wednesdays

So in case anyone wants to add up all those hours, it comes to a total of about INSANITY. No matter that the classes are all almost three hours each. If you've ever tried to sit though a three-hour class, you know that it doesn't matter in the slightest how interesting the subject matter is. Although I am quite interested in the classes I'm taking. We'll see how the business course goes since my mind works nothing like that of a businessperson. But me taking economics classes is what happens only when I have to take so many credit hours that I've exhausted all the other possible options. Right.

So since classes are stressful and the reading and papers and presentations are already piling up, let's talk about something different.

Geneva is incredible. Being in a foreign country is nothing like what I expected it to be, obviously. Even things that are a bit similar are super freaking different. Allow me to take you through some examples.

The Bus System: The TPG, Geneva's transportation system, operates on an honor code. Coming from the States, I am pretty much in shock that this exists (and actually works). Essentially, here's how it works. You buy a bus pass, you keep it with you, but when the bus comes, you just get on. You don't have to show anyone your pass. If at some point they do a random "check," where they ask to see everyone's pass, and you don't have one, you're pretty much screwed. So there's the potential for me to be here for four months, ride the bus the entire time I'm here, and never be asked to present my bus pass. So I could save 180CHF but never purchasing a pass. Not that I'd ever do that. But still! Imagine NYC trying to implement something like that. Hahahahha it's laughable.

Grocery Stores: Oh my goodness. The grocery and shopping situation here is quite, quite different from the States. As someone who has never been to Europe before, everything is different to me. Here they essentially have shopping conglomerates. Everything you could possibly need is in one gigantic building. For example, they have this thing called Manor about twenty steps from where we live. On one level is a cafeteria-type deal, there's a department store situation, a gigantic grocery store (where I've already purchased my weight in chocolate), a Best Buy-esque electronics store, a beauty supply/pharmacy, etc. There are also stores called Migros and Coop, essentially kind of the same thing. Big, crowded, noisy, confusing. But I've come to love them. A bus ride away is an Aldi. Like the Aldis in the states. Wonderful wonderful wonderful when you factor in how freaking expensive Geneva is. A Starbucks Frappuccino will run you between 8 and 10CHF. Not kidding. The first time I walked into one of these grocery stores I was considerably overwhelmed. Nothing looks the same as in the States. I couldn't find anything I wanted and my 4.5 years of French did me little good while freaking out. A few trips later, I am loving it. I love searching for things I want and just looking around at all the fascinating words and foreign foods. Miam miam!

Kebab: OH MY GOSH. Delicious. Cannot even give a long explanation for something so delicious.

I think that might be enough for now. It's been a lazy day here in Geneva. About to be a crazy night :) Not having class on Fridays is going to be both wonderful and detrimental to my bank account..

Until next time, au revoir from Geneva!

Week One: Recap

So in true Alyssa Roberts fashion, I had high hopes for this blog. And in truer fashion, I have waited over a week to write the first post.


But, here I am, in Geneva, Switzerland!

An accidental photo of me, but it's as good as it's going to get for now! This lovely snapshot was taken by a fellow Kent State University-Geneva Semester student. We were on a guided tour of the gorgeous city of Geneva. As this actual picture was being taken, our tour guide was explaining how just by looking at the windows of each layer/level of the building, you can see that Geneva is a city that was built up over different time periods (and thus, different architectural styles).

But as is most logical for a blog of this nature, I should begin at the beginning.

Day One: January 4, 2011
When our plane touched down at Geneva International Airport around 7:25 in the morning, my body felt like it was 1:25 a.m., since that's what time it was back in the States. My first experience with jet lag was more than a little rough. I hadn't been able to sleep on the plane, the "food" was less than spectacular, and the customs officer was grouchy when I handed him my U.S. passport. But when I walked outside and breathed Swiss air for the first time, I felt refreshed and alive. 
Just kidding. We left the airport to find our bus (pictured below) waiting to take me, the 26 other KSU-Geneva students, Dr. Susanne Peters (Program Director for the Geneva Semester), and Tori Nethery (our incredible study abroad advisor) to our hotel/apartment/learning compound in downtown Geneva.

Odd bus, no? It looked just like a caterpillar. And it didn't fit well at all on our tiny Genevan (Genevese?) street.
But we were here. Finally. In Europe. After almost a year of planning, I was 4,182 miles from home.

The rest of that day is a blur now. We settled into our rooms, and thanks to Alexis, one of my incredible roommates, my roommates and I got the biggest room. Thank goodness. Later that evening, after I spent the whole day walking around and exclaiming how "strange" everything in Europe was, our entire group went to a fancy pizzeria. Supposedly the best pizza in Geneva. It was delicious, but feeding a group of 29 took several hours. I discovered a wonderful thing about Europe: desserts with ice cream + liquor.

But speaking of my roommates. I live in a room with Alexis, the rock-paper-scissors master, as well as Ellen, Anya, and our honorary roommate Adrianne. They are lovely ladies :) I'll post a picture of us as soon as I can. But since I'm horrible at remembering to take pictures, that isn't saying a lot..

Also that night, also on zero hours of sleep, the whole gang went together to Mulligan's, our friendly neighborhood Irish pub. It's literally a walk around the corner from our living compound. Here, I had my first legal beer. Something called 1664. Not bad. Tried some Guinness and hated it. Solid evening.

Day Two: January 5, 2011
I had a horrible night of sleep due to an intensification of my already-terrible sleeping habits. But Orientation Week was in full swing, and we had quite an agenda for the day. We had to be up early for a guided tour of the International Red Cross Museum where we learned about the history, the symbols, and the current functions of the Red Cross in the world today.

Additionally, we went on a guided tour of Geneva. Although it was cold, learning about the religious and political history of the city was thoroughly interesting.

That evening, one of the program's professors, Dr. Patrick Low, came to speak with us about the economic implications of the climate change debate. A chief economist at the World Trade Organization, Dr. Low is insanely intelligent and accomplished. Insanely.

Day Three: January 6, 2011
The morning of the 6th, our KSU group got fancied up and went to a briefing at the U.S. Mission. Several Mission employees gave talks about their respective departments and the work they do in Geneva and around the world on behalf of the United States. The speakers were extremely engaging, and the briefing has caused me to give a great deal of thought to being a Foreign Service Officer. I guess that might be a lofty goal, but to be honest I'm pretty sure I could handle that.


So, that day I am pretty sure we also had to go to the OCP. The OCP is this lovely place where we spent the whole afternoon getting our "stay visas" which are evidently necessary in addition to student visas and also another 200 CHF. Messy.

I'm sure something exciting happened that evening as well. I mean, it's GENEVA for crying out loud. And by that I mean we probably went to a bar and ordered a beer tower. Which may or may not look something like this.

Day Four: January 7, 2011
An absolutely incredible and beautiful day. Another early morning start saw us on the caterpillar bus to Lausanne, Switzerland. Oddly enough, I think the bus ride was my favorite part. We drove along Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) with the almost surreal backdrop of the Swiss Alps in the background. Truly breathtaking.

Our first stop was at Le Musée Olympique. Since I absolutely LOVE the Olympics, I was in a bit of shock. Not only was I in Switzerland, but I was surrounded by the actual Olympic Torches used in the actual Olympic Games. It was a little out of this world. London 2012!

Après ça, we went to this massive (wooden) tower where we climbed a ridiculous amount of steps. I felt like my lungs were going to tear by the time I got to the top. But the view looked like this so it was so worth it.

At this point we were STARVING. Luckily we had reservations at a fondue restaurant in Lausanne. That was quite the experience. Before we so much as entered the restaurant, the smell of Gruyère cheese was absolutely everywhere. And if you know anything about Gruyère, you know that it smells like foot. There's no nice way to put it. The meal began with an unusual salad (lettuce + corn + beets?). Then came the cheese. DELICIOUS. Smelly, but delicious. Additionally, the Swiss really enjoy these meat-plate things that consist of oddly-cut ham, tiny sweet pickles, more cheese, sometimes lettuce, strange strange strange. Dessert was a meringue situation, with cream on top and more cream in a dish. Probably about 5,000 or so calories. No big deal. Mmm.

Next we walked outside, up an adorable little street, and there stood a beautiful Gothic cathedral, aptly named the Lausanne Cathedral.

On the way home (home to GENEVA, still can't get over that), we casually stopped by a castle (the Chateaû de Chillon) to check it out. I didn't take any pictures because while it was a cool castle, I was exhausted at this point. Also, it was freezing in the castle so I was pretty cranky. All in all, though, an incredible day.

We probably went home and did some things like eat and hang out and chat. That night I was absolutely dead so I stayed in and shared life stories with a few friends. Saturday was a little more eventful. We all went out and ended up at yet another Irish pub called Spring Brothers. We had been here before and got to know the bartender quite well. Saturday was his last night before going back to London for school, so we hung out with him and all in all had a wonderful time. A few nights previously, we had been at the same bar and I had gotten into a pretty big tiff with this local Swiss/Cuban/Spanish about feminism. Hahahahah what a mistake. So Saturday night he brought roses for all the girls in our group in hopes of gaining forgiveness. Yeah, dude, just keep on bringing flowers to the feminist. Right.

On Sunday, we generally just hung out some more and then went to dinner at a restaurant right around the corner from our place of residence. I began to freak out about the impending doom of classes beginning the next day.. Naturally.

I'll leave with a picture of Lausanne because (despite how much several of us have decided we hate this word), it's so QUAINT.

Until next time, au revoir from Geneva!