by George Popescu
Switzerland is a lovely country, one that any tourist would call “heaven on Earth”, renowned by its wither sports and top class holiday resorts. Given the natural richness of the small country, Switzerland attracts all sorts of mountain-lovers, from backpackers to Olympic champions. Everyone can enjoy the experience, even if it’s a one-day hiking trip or an adventure holiday.
1. Transportation and sightseeing for PhD students
PhD students, moreover, can take advantage of the half-price card offered to them when they first arrive in Switzerland. Universities such as EPFL offers all newly hired graduate students a “Demi-Tarif” or “Halbpreis” valid for one year. This allows the owners to take advantage of the public transportation in Switzerland at half price, including trains, boats, funiculars, etc. Thus, given that transportation becomes cheaper straight from the moment you join your new Swiss university as a PhD student (or Post-Doc or Intermediate Staff), you can fully take advantage of exploring the natural beauties worth seeing. These include:
- Visit the largest glacier in the Alps - Aletsch
- Explore the famous mountain pictured on all Toblerone chocolate bars - Zermatt,
- Rent a bike and cycle around the many wonderful Swiss lakes (Leman, Neuchatel, Zurich, Luzern)
- Enjoy a breath-taking view of the Rein waterfalls in Schaffhausen.
2. Student organisations for PhD students
And this is just the beginning. After a few weeks in Switzerland, you will get in contact with many fellow students and organize, together, trips and activity weekends. Nevertheless, there are many PhD student organizations which are actively involved in organizing social events every year for incoming students. A few such organizations include:
- ACIDE (EPFL Association of Research Scientists and Lecturers)
- GSA (The I&C Graduate Student Association) from EPFL
- AVETH (Academic Association of Scientific Staff at ETH Zurich) from ETHZ
3. Skiing opportunities for PhD students in Switzerland
Whether it is a ski weekend or a visit in a more distant city, the event is always worth the time and money. Ski weekends are particularly great because you would get large discounts on the skiing courses with instructors. Also, ski-passes, food and one night sleeping in a “chalet” comes without saying. Personally, I remember my first CERN visit just a few weeks after my arrival. I felt speechless in front of the large simulators and huge computational power in the control room. Also seeing some of the most remarkable articles changing the face of physics was amazing. A free guided tour was then offered for our group by the welcome centre of CERN. The tour guide responded to all of our questions – and he was a physics theoretician!
4. Barbecues and festivals in Switzerland
Last but not least, make sure you don’t miss the barbeques. They represent great moments to socialize with peers and find out about great events happening sometimes “just around the corner”: Balelec, the largest student festival in Europe, the Paleo festival in Nyon, the street parade in Zurich and others.
Think in advance so that you will book your time accordingly. Sometimes, the number of events and activities happening per week can be quite overwhelming, especially at the beginning of each semester or after the exams.