After a long trans-Atlantic plane ride, we finally were in Switzerland!! We landed in Zurich in the morning and took an hour long flight to Geneva, where our Swiss adventures would commence. We immediately noticed in the airport and train station that everything was in the three Swiss official languages—French, German,
Italian, and only some English. Everyone (at least the airport and train
employees) seemed to be trilingual and also spoke English.Also,
customs was super easy to go through. I think customs and security combined
during our layover in Zurich took a total of 15 minutes, and we didn’t even have to
take our shoes off to go through security, which was a pleasant surprise for us.
From the Geneva International Airport, we went to the connecting train station for a connecting train to Lausanne by looking for the SBB CFF FFS sign, which stands for “Swiss Federal Railways” (SBB in German, CFF in French and FFS in Italian). The Swiss pride themselves as Europe’s most punctual railway system and covering almost all of Switzerland. Over the next month, we would experience a very efficient public transporation network since our Swiss Youth Passes covered all public transportation including trains, buses and ferries. We activated our Swiss Youth Passes by asking a very friendly SBB CFF FFS employee.
This is what a typical Swiss Federal Railway train looks like. We would always look for the SBB CFF FFS signs.
Since we were in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, it was really interesting how most signs, announcements and conversations were in French! I could understand most of the French written and spoken but it was the perfect opportunity to practice speaking. After the train ride from Geneva, we
arrived in Lausanne at 11 am or so and our hostel was very conveniently located right next to the train station. We dropped off our packs at the hostel
and decided to explore Lausanne Oldtown by doing a walked tour after lunch. We bought baguettes and a variety pack of Swiss cheese from Co-op, which is one of the most popular grocery chains in Switzerland. The classical Swiss cheeses that we tried were Emmentaler, Gruyere, and Appenzeller. They were all very delicious!
We went to the Cathedral de Francois, which had a very magnificent organ above the door. The Lausanne Cathedral or the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Lausanne was more interesting because of the very intricate and flamboyant Gothic architecture, stained glass windows from the 13th century and a very cool organ above the door. It is apparently Switzerland’s largest Gothic cathedral.The 7000 pipe organ is one of the most expensive instruments in the world and was inaugurated in 2003. It took ten years and 150 000 hours of work to build the organ by the American firm Charles Breton Fisk in Boston. We found out that the Cathedral had a public organ performance the next day at 8pm and made a note to come back.
The Lausanne Cathedral.
Statues and carvings from the 13th century
The very magnificent Fisk organ above the door, which apparently cost millions of dollars.
We were also able to explore the bell tower of the Lausanne Cathedral, by climbing narrow spiralling stairs to the four different levels. The air was very fresh (away from the numerous smokers) and the breeze was nice too. The view was extraordinary from the top of the Tower of the Cathedral because it was overlooking the rooftops of quaint French-style buildings and of the sparkling Lake Geneva waters in the distance.
*Climbing the 153 steps of the narrow spiraling stairs up to the Bell Tower…
The bell tower of Lausanne Cathedral.
During the Middle Ages, many medival cities had a nightwatch who would be stationed to prevent the threat of devestating fires and that no enemies were approaching. In Lausanne, the watchman walks up the 153 stairs to the top of the tower and every hour on the hour from 10pm - 2 am he calls out to the four directions “C’est le guet; il a sonné l’heure(“This is the nightwatch; the hour has struck”). Lausanne is the only city in Europe to continue this age-old tradition!
the bell tower, we ran into some students from Pepperdine University, who were studying at the Pepperdine campus in Lausanne; we recognized each other because our American English stood out from the crowd. We also explored the Lausanne City History Museum (admission was covered by our Swiss Youth Pass) and learned about the city’s history from the 1st century to present day on the city organization, wars, books, life, agriculture, etc. We also visited two chateaus that were now used as the offices for the Swiss Department of the Interior. I thought it was humorous that the Swiss have enough castles to use for government office buildings.We then headed back to our hostel and checked in
and saw our 4-bed dorm, co-ed. We had lockers in the hall, just large
enough for our backpacks.
The cobblestone strees contribute to a quaint feeling that I was walking in a town with a very long and rich history. After walking up and down the very steep hills, my feet were pretty sore!
The narrow cobblestone streets of Lausanne. Most people tend to walk and take public transportation. It’s great exercise to walk everywhere everyday especially uphill!
Carly with the Fountain of Justice in Lausanne. Unless the fountains explicitly state they are not drinkable, the water from these public fountains is potable!
Typical building and architecture style in Lausanne.
decided to go explore Geneva for the evening. After taking the train, we walked around and discovered to our surprise that everything was
closed and the streets were nearly deserted! We found an open kebab place (the
Mexican food of Europe). They didn’t speak English very well, but we gathered
that there was a fete or holiday that is only celebrated in Geneva. Even the Jet d’Eau, which is a large fountain and one of the city’s most famous landmarks, was
Lake Geneva with the Jet d’Eau turned off in celebration of the Fete.
We asked a few others as we walked around but no one seemed to know exactly
what the holiday was about.After walking along the waterfront,we decided to come back to Geneva another day when it was more lively and went back to Lausanne. We both were jetlagged and slept on the 40
minute train-ride back, so we decided to go to bed early. We were very excited for another adventure-filled day!!
Research at Caltech looks different for every student, and can often vary term by term. As a chemistry major, my course requirements are on the lighter side for a Caltech major, and many chemistry majors take advantage of the lighter course load to join research groups. This can be whenever the student wants, but many people join labs during their freshman or sophomore years. Some may work in one lab only, and some may switch between labs during the course of their undergraduate studies, depending on if their interests change.
SURF, short for Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, is a quintessential experience for any Caltech student. It is a widely accessible research fellowship for Caltech students that funds your proposed research for one summer term. While many of my classmates did their first SURF the summer after their freshman year, I sent in my first application to the program as a sophomore. As a CS major, I was trying to chase meaningful work that intersected computation with the field of neuroscience. I ended up doing a SURF at the Stanford School of Medicine that first year, studying hand gestures in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since then, I’ve been working in the research space of applying computational analyses to ASD.
This summer, from the confines of my Brooklyn apartment, you could find me typing away on a tiny 13-inch laptop screen. At times I was looking for answers on countless Stack Exchange pages, editing a Jupyter notebook, or making blood flow measurements on a software called Arterys. This was my 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURF) experience.
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.