Kathy's Story

This past summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to intern in a nephrology lab at the University of Zürich’s Institute of Physiology.

What immediately struck me was how open and welcoming my lab was. We all gathered to have lunch every day, had frequent brunches, and even did an outing to the Swiss Alps in Interlaken. The conversations I had with my colleagues at the lab also gave me a more global perspective and made me more aware of the importance of having cultural diversity in any setting. While there, I was able to take on a research project alongside other students and faculty from around the world and gained exposure to a plethora of new techniques and technologies. My mentor was supportive and willing to show me the ropes and answer my slew of questions. One of the lab members from our IT group also gave me weekly mini-German lessons, which were quite fun and helped me to integrate into the community.

Overall, everyone’s openness really enhanced the entire research experience, and I feel very appreciative of my lab for allowing me to grow both academically and professionally.

Outside of the lab, I spent my time exploring downtown Zürich, sampling chocolates, and relaxing by the lake during the week. It was great just hopping on a train to Uetliberg and taking in the city views, eating raclette, and chatting with friends by the water after a long day at work.

On the weekends, I bonded with other ThinkSwiss scholars as we travelled around Switzerland and to other European countries. Within the country, we enjoyed hiking around the vineyards of Lausanne, canoeing at Lake Oeschinen, picnicking by the Bachalpsee in Grindelwald, and watching fireworks during Züri Fäscht. Honestly, the whole experience felt surreal; I still miss connecting with all the awardees and cherish the memories we had together.

Read more

Kathy Ding
Nephrology – Institute of Physiology – University of Zürich ∞ University of California, Berkeley

Ananth's Story

The Summer School program at the University of Bern organized by the Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research and the World Trade Institute. Sounds pretty daunting right? I remember being both excited and nervous when I found out that I was one of the 36 participants selected to travel to Bern. Entitled “Confronting Climate Change – from Science to Policy,” the summer school consisted of a series of keynote lectures and workshops on various areas of expertise, culminating in a simulation negotiation. Meeting my fellow participants, who stayed in the same residential building, started off the two weeks on the perfect note. It was incredible to hear from people from countries including Italy, Canada, South Africa, the United States, Germany, and India. I strongly feel I made some friends for life. They made my experience thoroughly enjoyable.

We were split into 9 workshops, with each group assigned to a specific topic according to their area of expertise. Although intense at times, I found myself astonished at how simply the professors explained some complex concepts, some of whom even worked with the World Trade Organization (WTO).  Among the many highlights from the program, the trip to Jungfraujoch was one that will live long in our memories. We were given the chance to visit the research station at an altitude of about 3000 feet, where researchers from around the world conduct experiments and record data. To witness first-hand the impact of climate change on the glaciers there left an impression in our minds that is hard to shake.

The trip up to the glacier was extremely well organized, allowing us to fully take in the magnitude of the glacier itself.

Outside of the lab, I spent my time exploring downtown Zürich, sampling chocolates, and relaxing by the lake during the week. It was great just hopping on a train to Uetliberg and taking in the city views, eating raclette, and chatting with friends by the water after a long day at work.

On the weekends, I bonded with other ThinkSwiss scholars as we travelled around Switzerland and to other European countries. Within the country, we enjoyed hiking around the vineyards of Lausanne, canoeing at Lake Oeschinen, picnicking by the Bachalpsee in Grindelwald, and watching fireworks during Züri Fäscht. Honestly, the whole experience felt surreal; I still miss connecting with all the awardees and cherish the memories we had together.

Outside of the classroom, we were given the freedom to explore the city of Bern and all it has to offer. The river Aare and the immaculate public pools that surround it were one of our favourites. Hours of chatting, sharing stories and swimming in the pools would go by in a flash. I was amazed by how much the city had to offer and made the most of every opportunity. 

The Buskers Music Festival was another highlight. The streets of Bern were filled with people, music, food, and most of all, excitement. We settled on a South African band and danced our hearts out until 12 am. It was a moment every one of us cherished. We even got to take a picture with the band at the end!

All in all, this summer school was unlike any other I’ve experienced previously. It was incredibly well organized, informative, and most of all, enjoyable. There was so much to take away from the lectures and workshops that I can apply to my academic pursuits. These two weeks have impacted my life deeply and I will always be grateful for having been given the opportunity to be a part of this experience.

Read more

Ananth Shankar
Confronting Climate Change – from Science to Policy– University of Bern ∞ University of Massachusetts Amherst

Amanda's Story

This past summer, I had one of the most enriching and memorable experiences living abroad for six weeks in Geneva, Switzerland where I was a guest researcher at the University of Geneva working with the Institute of Environmental Sciences C-CIA lab group. As a visitor to the C-CIA lab group, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Markus Stoffel, Dr. Juan Ballesteros Canovas, and an amazing team of PhD and Master’s students from all across the world. During my visit, I created a meta-database of European paleoflood case studies, which is a direct extension of my thesis research, “Holocene paleofloods and their relevance to flood mitigation, risk assessment, and policy.” This database will be a valuable resource to European hydrologists, policymakers, statisticians and stakeholders in making decisions about flood risk and mitigation in Europe. This data will also greatly improve and expand the Past Global Changes (PAGES) working group database on floods.

In addition to my work, I had the opportunity to enjoy Switzerland’s beautiful landscape, cuisine, and culture. I’ll never forget indulging in my first pot of hot cheese fondue at the Hotel Edelweiss in Geneva. My dinner was accompanied by live folk music played on the accordion and the alphorn, creating a stunning Swiss ambiance.

Over the Swiss National Day holiday weekend, I traveled to Lauterbrunnen, Stechelberg, and Grindelwald to enjoy the breathtaking beauty and topography of the Swiss Alps. This area of Switzerland was like no other part of the world I have ever seen, and I was captivated by the rugged magnificence of the mountain valley. This is easily the most gorgeous place I have ever traveled to. 

In my opinion, Geneva was a very easy city to live and feel comfortable in. The city is small but cosmopolitan, bustling with diversity and unique things to do like visiting the United Nations building, perusing art and history museums, partaking in weekend festivals, and enjoying plenty of food and drink options. There are a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and events happening almost daily in the summer. Plus, it’s hard to beat the scenery offered by the expansive Lake Geneva. Every night, I walked along the lakeside from the city center to my residence in Perle Du Lac, admiring the stillness of the pristine turquoise water filled with white swans and beautiful sailboats. One of the things I valued the most while living in Geneva was how safe I felt walking around exploring the town. Everyone is cordial, friendly, and exceptionally helpful to everyone, including non-French speakers like myself. The public transportation system is also very efficient, making it easy to get around the city.

Overall, I am incredibly happy and grateful I got the chance to embark on such a fruitful international research visit. I can’t express enough gratitude towards the ThinkSwiss program for supporting me financially, allowing me to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I strongly recommend the ThinkSwiss program to anyone looking to expand their own academic interests as well as their personal growth.

Read more

Amanda Hefner
Institute of Environmental Sciences C-CIA Lab - University of Geneva ∞ University of Minnesota

© ThinkSwiss 2019