Thursday, July 12, 2012


Painting of the Chapel of the Macchabées in Genève.

So, first of all, I'm in Switzerland. If you follow me on any other social media, you probably know that, and you've probably LONG SINCE given up hope of any updates here.

Here is the rundown:

1. Why am you in Switzerland?

I was asked by my MIT thesis advisor and research supervisor, who now heads a lab at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (in English that's the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne), to do a three-month internship in her lab over the summer. She also asked if I was interested in applying for a Master's of Science program in Energy Management and Sustainability, which would allow me to continue to work with her. I did, and I was accepted in early June.

2. How long will you be in Switzerland?

Probably until May 2014, with occasional trips home.

3. Do you speak French?

No. I am learning. It is awkward. Also at the university a huge percentage of people speak English.

4. But how do you manage in restaurants?

I don't eat out because Switzerland is even MORE expensive that Japan. Otherwise, I point and smile. This is pretty universal.

5. What's Lausanne like?

Very steep. I live near the city center, which is very charmingly medieval and very bad for your ankles. Nothing is open on Sundays except the Coop Pronto. From many places in the city there are gorgeous views out over Lac Leman (or Lake Geneva) to the blue Alps on the other side.

6. Have you done much traveling?

Not so much so far. I went to the Chateau de Chillon, which is on the east end of Lake Geneva, on a boat ride. I went to Fribourg (an attractive Swiss town about 40 minutes north of here) one Sunday, but it was incredibly rainy, so I ended up coming home after about two hours. Last weekend I went to Marseille, which made me remember how exhausting traveling on a tight schedule and a tight budget is. (I also missed every train I planned on catching and usually ended up on a train 3-4 hours later, so that probably contributed to the stress level.) At the end of August I am going to Rome for five days. Before then I plan to go to: Zurich, a castle some of my labmates recommended to me in Switzerland, and probably another weekend in Geneva. (Due to the aforementioned train-missing, I spent the morning in Geneva on Saturday. Sigh.)

7. What do you do in your internship?

I research daylight-interacting technologies (like fiberoptic systems that collect sunlight and use it to light regular fixtures inside a room, for instance) and enter them into a visual database for architects.

8. How are things?

Things are pretty good. I really enjoy having my own space again. I have not yet found a place to live for the fall, but I am actively moving toward that point. I went to an English-language book club. I've read a couple books. I've written a couple stories. My labmates are pretty cool. I went to an English-speaking church. I have my bank account set up. (SWISS BANK ACCOUNT! Except it's with the post office, so that makes it less dramatic.)

In short, I'm starting to craft a life here.