Mobile Post 2: First Official Day Complete

The first official day of the trip is complete. Technically the trip started at 3pm Sunday with a briefing on University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, and University of Basel. This was followed by a trip to mountain top raclette and fondue. And that was basically the official program of the day. We did a little more though…

First things first, we discovered that most of Zurich is shutdown on Sunday, especially in the morning. None of the grocery stores were open and neither were most restaurants. After failing to get breakfast stuff at the local coop (pronounced co-op apparently), Deb and I dropped our stuff at Hotel St. Josef and went to find some others.

We succeeded in getting Akshay and Patrick for breakfast, and were then joined by Erin, Mike, and Sarah.

This was followed by a checking into the hotel with everyone and a hunt for chocolate. Our original chocolate shop was closed because it was Sunday, but fortunately there was a Bachmann/Lindt across the street. I forgot to take photos here because I was too busy drooling, but the back was just a waterfall of chocolate.

Next we wandered towards the lake and engaged in shenanigans, such as climbing artwork:

(I was too short but Mike managed to get on top)

Bothering the metallic wildlife:

And hoping on a boat:

They had a ton of little shoreline parks which was super cool.

And it was nice to see the town without wandering too much.Then we went back to the hotel and briefed each other on University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, and University of Basel.

These are our first three universities and are the first two are basically the MIT and Harvard of Europe. The are both super well ranked works wide (not that rankings really mean much).

Then after that we went to dinner and I had fondue,


And flan

for the first time in my life. It was awesome and I need more…Then we went home and most people went to bed.

For of us went to a local pub to chit chat though, and boy was that fun. There were a bunch of Finnish people watching the world championships of home between Finland and Canada and I believe Finland won. As you can imagine shit got crazy. They started throwing glasses into the air to shatter on the cobblestone and shouting and what have you. This prompted the pub owner to come out. He got appropriately angry and tried to kick them out of the street but that was a struggle and we thought he was about to kill one guy. We quickly finished our drinks and left. Then it was bed time.

Please let me know if you have questions.

The next post will likely be about University of Zurich and ETH (as a spoiler alert).

Mobile Post: Wandering in the Rain with new friends

So here goes for my first mobile post, so sorry for the typos.

Today Deb and I joined up with Diana, Dan, and Mike for breakfast. It was expensive, but damn I love European coffee.

As we were walking out we ran into Ky, Sara, and Erin (I’ll url link these people eventually…) walking too their hostel. Then we wandered around the city getting lost for a bit. Stopped for some beers at a restaurant!

And then Dean DePauw walks up and joins us (for a cappuccino). After we got to know each other a little we got some Swiss chocolate and wandered to the lake.

Now we are waiting for dinner and such! So far a tremendous say!

Observations of the day:

  • Zurich has good beer

  • Zurich has an absurd number of swans

  • Swiss chocolate is wonderful

  • I love being surrounded by mountains

  • The Swiss are friendlier than the Russians

  • Zurich has great public transportation

Half way to Zurich (~24 hours in)

So, I’m not even in Zurich yet and I already have fun stories to blog about! Let me catch you up on what my day has been like thus far:

Wake up at 5am to pack the car, eat breakfast, etc. A little after 7am, Deb and I run to the store to grab earplugs for sleeping, and to top off the gas tank. From there, we pick up another Global Perspectives Program (GPP) participant, Iris.  Then it is off to  Dulles Airport, an unexciting 4-hour drive from Blacksburg.

The car ride goes fine, as traffic was relatively kind. Deb and I interrogate Iris about cultural differences between Ghana (her home country) and the US. Deb and I are flabbergasted by her 25 siblings back home and her perspective that having noisy neighbors are nice because they remind you that you are not alone.

We arrive at Dulles, shuttle and check in with a little time to spare. Then we meet up with Dan, the fourth GPP person on our flight. Iris realizes that Dan, Deb, and I all have an early Zurich flight so she tries to moves hers up. The flight staff says they’ll put her on standby when we get to Moscow for our connection. We all have to weigh our bags and prove they are carry-on sized. Deb and I are totally a little over the weight limit with our bags, but the flight attendant lets us get away anyway (much to dismay of his boss who is trying to eliminate cabin luggage). Everyone gets on the plane fine, but Deb and I are stuck in the middlest of middle seats between two grumpy looking russians that appear to be aisle-seat lovers.

We pull away from the gate, start to taxi a tad late, and then pull over and sit on the tarmac for not one, not two, but THREE lovely hours. We suspect that this is because of the tornado warning that has been issued for the DC area, but they claim it is a technical issue with the plane and ignore the tornado warning. Our flight was meant to take of at 3:00 pm…it now takes off at 6:00 pm. We had a 2 hour layover in Moscow. Can you see where this is going?

Deb and I slowly loose our minds as the 9.5 hour flight continues. Our Russian friends have zero interest in stretcching thier legs or using the restroom during the 12 hours we are the plane. We try to be the polite passengers as our legs cramp and the people in front of us slam their seats all the way back. We watch a movie and try to relax until Deb’s TV breaks and we decide to try a nap. The 3 babies on board have other ideas. The one a row back is the worst culprit. She cries about every 15 minutes for 15 minutes at a time, THE ENTIRE 12 HOURS! I’m ready to cry along with her because she’s too loud and close for my earplugs to help.

When we finally got to Moscow, we sprinted to the nearest departures board and our flight is missing in action, it probably left 40 minutes prior. Dan, Deb, and I all line up to swap our tickets for a new flight, and end up on Iris’s original flight…which doesn’t leave for another 7 hours or so. Fortunately, I have plenty of down time to blog…but all we want to do is sleep. So here I am, 4 hours of driving, 3 hours of waiting on the tarmac, and 9.5 hours of flying later, waiting in Moscow for a way out.

Ya gotta love flying! I’m excited for the next leg of the journey, but I’m also REALLY tempted to pay for one of the nap pods…

Edit: As a fun fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many blonds in one pace as I’ve seen at the Moscow SVO airport.


On the Eve of Departure

The GPP trip is only a few weeks away and I am so ready to leave! The previous 3 weeks have been chaotic and crazy as the semester wraps up, so I am surprisingly ready to sit on a plane for 8+hours with no ability to do work. Then, of course, Switzerland has to great.

I’m excited to see what other countries are like and how they describe their own systems. I would like to know how they feel about U.S. applications for faculty and such. What are their requirements and how do people address strange things like the inability to get Swiss citizenship. We’ve discussed a lot of these already before leaving, but hearing it from the horse’s mouth is a little different. I’m curious as to how they perceive our funding strategy compared to ours. How stressed out do these professors feel when applying for grants and other funding?

Before writing this, I was enjoying the Chemical Engineering graduate coffee hour with the head of the department, Dr. Cox, and he said some enlightening things about the funding for Virginia Tech and about grants and such. He mentioned that Tech was accepting far more students than previously because Tech is trying to decrease reliance on state funding and rely on tuition dollars instead because a few years ago 40% of the state funding was cut. That just sounds horrific, and I wonder how susceptible other countries are to such budget cuts.  Switzerland sounds very supportive of its education system, but what if the politicians change their minds and remove support?

Again, I’m bouncing off the walls excited to be able to ask this question and others in just a few weeks. This past year has been a rollercoaster of emotions with regard to my thoughts on higher ed and a future career here, and this trip might solidify my resolve o become European faculty, or maybe I’ll abandon all hope of professorship. Either way, I’m excited to see what happens!

For now, I’ll shine my shoes, find a good pair of earplugs, and maybe purchase a book or two for my kindle.