Sunday, 13 September 2015

Summer University in Switzerland

Whenever I got chance to travel, I chose other countries but Switzerland because I always had this one on mind for my honeymoon destination. As they say, some things are meant to happen, this was one of those opportunities that I knew I would regret forever if I missed.  

Everyone knows by now that I love travelling. There is no doubt but you know if something is too much, its dangerous as well. By this time, I had travelled every weekend for more than a month and I was exhausted. When it was time to actually go to Switzerland, I wasn't as excited as I was when I received an offer letter. I was exhausted but still I knew I was not going to step back. 

Switzerland is not only popular for its beauty but the gloomy weather too, similar to Manchester. There is a joke that goes around when you are new in Manchester, 'Why did you choose Manchester?, for it's weather?'. It rains all the time there but still for 4 long and beautiful years, I never owned a single brolly. When I think about it now, I can't imagine how I survived. Anyway, those are the gone days. I can talk about Manchester for hours and bore you. So, let me go back to talking about Switzerland.  

The first day, I was in Zurich. I can't even describe how tired I was. I went to Zurich lake and fell asleep by the side. For people there, it looked normal because the weather was so beautiful that everyone was enjoying the sunshine by the lake. I heard Switzerland hardly has a weather like that. They said, 'when an angel travels, the weather becomes nice'. We were just too lucky.

Do you remember when I wrote about Denmark, I said I felt like I was eating money there? Everything was so expensive. Well, wait till you go to Switzerland. I had known it before that it is expensive there but I didn't have a slightest idea that it would be that expensive. Everything is triple of what we pay in Germany. For instance, I wondered how people survive there. Of course, they have higher salary and low tax but still, you got to be kidding me when you say a donner is 10 CHF, which we get the same amount in 3.5 Euro in Germany. Now, since 1 CHF is almost equal to 1 Euro, I felt like I was robbed in every possible way. Looked like the only affordable way to eat in Switzerland is by buying from supermarket if you are not cooking yourself. Still, 'I am in Switzerland' made up for everything. Out of all my travelling, this is one place I hardly saw Asian tourists. There were some like me, who were there because they were in Europe or they came there for work but not typical tourists you commonly see hanging out in group with cameras taking pictures of every possible strange things they see. 

In Zurich, the lake is the most popular destination for everyone. Not only the tourists but also local people go there for a nice stroll and fresh air. The lake itself is so beautiful that I am not even hesitating to say I have never seen this clean and beautiful lake before. 
Popular Zurich Lake
There is a famous street in Zurich called Bahnhofstraße near main station. That place is for people who have too much money and don't know what to do with it. You can literally burn your money there. Most of the people were mainly there for window shopping including me. I was mainly there to see what kind of people do shopping there. Obviously, there was no way I could buy anything but when I come for honeymoon, my husband will have to empty his wallet there :P. 

Next day, I decided that I would like to do some hiking. So, I went to Üetliberg mountain. Its not a kind of snow mountain but more like a hill, but they call it mountain. Whereas coming from Nepal, I always have an impression that its only called a mountain if it has a snow. I remember when I went to China, we had an excursion where they took us to a mountain. I was so excited thinking that we were actually going to snow mountain but it turned out that it was a bamboo forest mountain
Panoroma view of Zurich city from Üetliberg mountain
Here is me with my regular pose overlooking Zurich city
While going up to the mountain, I took train but I hiked while coming down. It was deadly forest but there were more people than expected. It took me about 3 hours to reach city centre from the top. I was exhausted but it was worth it. 
Next day, it was time to go to Falera. Travelling from Zurich to Falera was one long and beautiful ride. The landscape was beautiful. It was like I had always imagined what Switzerland is like.

In Falera, 60 participants from 29 different countries gathered for 2 weeks summer university to study Energy Technology. The course mainly focused on renewable energy, such as solar energy, PV technologies, wind energy and thermal power. In the first lecture, the director of the programme showed us a chart that showed from which part of world people have come from. There was 1 participant from the UK, 1 from Nepal and 12 from Germany. I wondered which category they put me in. If they had put me either in UK or Germany, there should be someone from Nepal. Then I actively started searching for this one Nepali. It didn't take me long to find out that I was actually searching for myself. Yes indeed, I was that sole Nepalese participant. Ok, that was not surprising, but what was more surprising was that some people were surprised that Nepalese people are also interested in renewable energy. Some of them who came across me were like -'Oh, you are the one from Nepal?', 'You are from Nepal? I always wondered who it was'. People from asian countries made a decent guess that I was from Nepal. 'You are from Nepal, right? we have lots of Nepalese worker'- A nice woman from Qatar said. Some of them would talk about Earthquake and some would tell me how they went to Nepal for a honeymoon and in answer to my question 'Would you go there again?', 'I think my wife would prefer to go to developed country'. I was actually tired of people's reaction. Why is it so surprising that a Nepalese is learning a renewable energy? At some point I wanted to scream at everyone 'Yes, Nepalese people learn too'. There were also people who genuinely had nice things to say about Nepal, such as Mount Everest is there, country of Himalaya, Nepal is beautiful etc etc.

In bright side, some people knew Nepal and in dark side, some people knew nothing about Nepal. In the beginning I was bit lonely. I started hanging out with people from Mexico though there was nothing much to talk than Javier Hernandez. Everyone was allocated in a nice house with some other random participants. I was lucky because I didn't have to share house with too many people and the view from my house was magnificent :)
View from my house of two weeks
Ok, honestly, how many of you get a view like this from your home? For two complete weeks, I woke up every morning to see this view. The first week, the weather was very nice but it started getting gloomy in a second week. 

Switzerland has 4 official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Falera itself is really beautiful Romansh speaking small village at 1200 m from sea level. When I say 'village', trust me, it is a village. The nice thing about this place is everyone knows everyone there. It is a place where people don't lock their doors or cars because they trust each other that much.  In the morning when you are going to the class, people would smile at you and say 'Morgen' and that is if you see anyone. Most of the time you don't see anyone and I always wondered where they disappear to. Although there are about 600 inhabitant, it rises up to 5000 in Christmas time as it is a popular place for skiers. For me, this place is perfect if people need some time off from busy week.

Out of all, the most interesting lecture for me was solar thermal power. It's was Chemical Engineering everywhere and I was loving it. I didn't hide my excitement. The lecturer was a Chemical Engineer too from Stuttgart. The course itself was very intensive. We were studying all the time and there was hardly any free time. From morning to half 12, there was a lecture and from 2, a workshop with different experiments. Now when I think about it, I only remember being tired and hungry all the time. There was no internet at home. So the only possibility to use internet was in conference area and that also for limited time. On other hand, I was kind of glad there was no internet at home. Although there was hardly any free time, I used whatever was left up for some peace of mind.

So, towards the end of first week, I started becoming homesick. The weekend was left for us to decide what we wanted to do. By this time, I was alone most of the time because I was extremely homesick. Believe me when I say that is not so me. I don't know what happened to me but this time I really experienced a real home sickness. For some reasons, I couldn't wait to go back to Germany. Long back when my friends used to say they are homesick, I used to laugh at them. Now I understand how they felt. I really want to send nice apology handwritten letters with some compensation to all those friends I laughed at. I didn't once think I would face this one day.

So, on weekend, I dragged one professor and my friend Mousa to go on hiking. It was about 38 degree and we were hiking since 9 am to 6 pm. It was extremely long hiking and I was completely tanned but it was worth it. We were going around Ruinaulta Canyon, commonly known as 'Swiss Grand Canyon', which looked like a landslide but they say it's not. So we just have to stick with it.

Once you reach to the top of the Canyon, dare to look down! This is what you see:
Yes. we walked alongside that river all the way to this top
After Canyon, we went to see Caumasee, the lake that is popular for its beauty. Well, look at the picture and decide yourself.
Caumasee Lake
Next day, everyone decided to join everyone and we went to see the Cassons mountain.
Going up to the Cassons Mountain
It needs a hell lot of energy and determination to reach that mountain
Being registered as UNISCO heritage, this mountain has a strange hole (shown in picture below) in the middle which is 'must see' if you are in Falera. If you see in the picture below, there is a unique line that crosses in the middle, which is also popular among tourists. No one knows what that is and why it is like that but it is something.

Now we are going down
We have to reach that valley
The hiking on weekend was tiring but amazing. Still, in second week, I was more homesick than anyone could ever be in his/her life. The thing is I am not used to living in quiet area like this and besides I am a kind of person who gets bored all the time. In Hannover, even if you walk at 1 o'clock in the morning, you still see people walking in the street, and Manchester itself is a city of students. You see students everywhere. I remember Friday night when there used to be a long queue to get into the club, I was really missing that excitement, not that I am club person or I used to go there but even if you see other people enjoying, you kind of enjoy yourself. Actually sometimes in Manchester and Hannover, I have complained for being too noisy and here in Falera, I complained for being too quiet. I seriously don't know what I want sometimes. On the other hand, studying in Falera was not like studying in China where as you step outside, there are thousands of restaurant to eat at or thousands of places to go. Falera was extremely quiet and I hate to say not really student friendly. Will you believe me when I say a burger and french fries was 19 CHF there? There were lots of 'WTH' moment but obviously I have to remember that I went there to study, not for sight seeing.

Study was good though. We were learning every bits of Energy Technology there. I was loving there but as I said before, I couldn't wait to go back to Germany. When I told this to one of the professors, he told me that its interesting I think Germany as my home already :). I know, right? To other people, I was known as 'The girl from Nepal'. When people talked to me, Nepal Earthquake was the hot topic, then came how easy the hiking must be for me since we have to walk like this everyday in Nepal. Forgive me but I was kind of sick of those remarks. I was like an alien to some of them. Here is another 'WTH' moment.  

Final day, I was overexcited. I couldn't wait to reach Zurich, then I couldn't wait to get on the plane and let me tell you, I have a fear of flying. At that time, nothing else mattered. I just wanted to run away. I was missing home desperately, comfort of my home, my bed, sleeping without anyone snoring, using the clean bathroom that I am used too. Still, there are bright sides too. Its was a great experience, great course, and with so many international friends and great stuff to put in my CV, it was finally time to return home :). How I felt on last day and how I felt when our plane landed in Berlin, I cannot even describe those feelings. I was just thankful to God.

Summer University: ISU Energy
Acknowledgement: Thank you Hannover School for Nanotechnology (HSN) for sponsoring me.  

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