In a month’s time I will be jetting off to the land of euthanasia and fancy timepieces. That is, Switzerland. One full (free) academic year at university in Lausanne, by the graceful Lake Léman, to bring my level of French up from precocious six-year-old to actual undergraduate on the ERASMUS exchange programme.
“Why Switzerland?” is the constant refrain, “and not France?” Why not? is my response. So I may end up with (what my French friends regard as) a silly sing-song Swiss accent, and obese from molten cheese and chocolate. So I might return bankrupt, yodelling, and with a new best friend named Heidi. Still, I have yet to hear anything really bad about the place. France is too close; there they are rude and don’t shave their armpits* (stereotypes? Don’t believe in them…). I’ve been there a few times already. I’ve never been to la Suisse before and hey, I can’t think when else I’ll get a chance to live there.
The first thing people mention, without fail, is the cleanliness. Then fondue, skiing, and bank accounts. Well, these are all things I look forward to experiencing, but there is much more to Switzerland. It’s the picturesque home of diplomacy, my hero Carl Jung, the Red Cross, Lindt, St Ives face wash, that giant particle accelerator, Roger Federer, and, with four official languages, is about as international as you can get.
Yet despite its international activity this teeny tiny state is also highly independent and unique. It is not a member of the EU, and the role of “president” rotates yearly between the seven members of the Swiss Federal Council, who retain their role in government. The current president is Micheline Calmy-Rey, head of the foreign office and, yes, a woman. I like this place already!
Not bad for a country less than a third the size of England. It is very advanced, very wealthy (read: expensive, gulp) and very neutral. So I won’t need to worry about getting caught up in strikes or wars while I’m there, but I probably won’t be able to splash out on lavish fondue lunches everyday. Probably for the best.
I also look forward to getting the full Swiss university experience; as I understand it, university life is quite different over there. Apparently rather a lot of stock is placed in this strange concept, something hitherto unknown to English students: studying. And hard, too. Whether there is a student drinking culture to match old Blighty, I have yet to ascertain, but I suppose I’ll found out soon enough.
Yes, all in all I am greatly excited and looking forward to shipping off and being an exchange student in Lausanne. Now if only I could speak French…
*I am, of course, joking. France is a lovely place…but not as lovely as Switzerland.