First Impressions of Switzerland


The six of us who traveled together made it into town on Saturday morning, at about 10:15 AM local time. We are 6 hours ahead of our normal timezone (Eastern) so the fact that we flew overnight helped a little bit because we at least had the opportunity to get in a catnap. (I “slept” somewhat restlessly on the plane for about 3 hours. It was better than nothing!)

We went through customs as a group where we were greeted and passed by a very friendly agent. Afterwards, we found our way to the baggage claim carousels and retrieved our luggage. As per usual when I travel, TSA had been in my pack, but at least this time they didn’t completely scramble my belongings.

We then made our way across from the arrivals/departures drop-off to the train & tram station, where we fumbled around with the ticketing kiosk before we figured out how where we were headed and which ticket we needed. With the aid of a helpful information specialist, we had our tickets in hand and we boarded a train to the main station in Zürich.

Leaving the train station, we basically climbed a mountain to find our B&B for the night: Swiss Star Apartments, a furnished room where we were able to finally get a shower and get a little bit of rest.

Exploring before Bed

Dean DePauw recommended to us that we NOT sleep when we first landed in the country (this was to help cope with the jet lag we were all sure to experience.) So, while some of my peers slept, I used the WiFi to find a local cafe and headed out in search of a proper coffee and to see some of the (non-tourist) sights in the city. What I found was Cafe Bar Meierei and the most delicious espresso I have ever put in my body. It was a critical component to me making it through the evening (because we were meeting the Dean for dinner later)… as I sat down at my cafe table and began to jot down some initial impressions of my experience in the country, my eyes were bleary and I was having trouble focusing on what I was doing. It was a temporary feeling, because not long after I had enjoyed the espresso, I was feeling bright and peppy again and I had the boost necessary to make it to bedtime.

First Impressions

  • Public transit is extremely impressive. Trams, trollies, and trains are everywhere.
  • Automobile traffic pays close attention to the rules of the road (including pedestrians and bikes)
  • Bicycle parking hubs are everywhere. I have seen no less than 5 different ways to store bikes en masse.
  • Dedicated bike lanes, on street parking, traffic calming devices, and designed elements on the street can all fit in a much smaller space than we find it in the U.S.
  • Old & new architecture is blended and every building is unique with its own character and detail
  • Public water fountains are EVERYWHERE. They bring water down from the head water streams in the mountains directly to the city. Every fountain is unique. The water is ice cold even in the heat of the day. It is crispy, fresh, and full of mineral flavor.
  • Swiss people are so friendly and helpful. Pretty much everyone speaks English, so getting around and talking to the people has been extremely easy.
  • Food culture is different here. Grab & Go is around, but it’s not the traditional way to dine. Meals are about connecting with the food, the company, and the atmosphere. (Meals take A LOT longer here than back home. Our first dinner with the Dean took us 4 hours!)


We will be visiting two Swiss universities today. ETH & University of Zürich. They are literally across the street from each other (no rivalry, right?) We will be in seminars all day and I am excited about what we will see, hear, and learn on these university visits.

More to come.

Leave a Comment