Thursday, January 13, 2011

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!

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