Switzerland Does Halloween Better

It’s like I’m allergic to chronology. During mid-February, right after my trip to Munich, I had travelled to Luzern for unorthodoxed reasons. In spirit of Halloween, Luzern Fasnacht definitely put the “international day of all things spooky” to shame. It might have been the oversized masks and loud marching bands, but Switzerland sure knows how to scare people in more than one way! (Have you seen their prices for a pair of Adidas sneakers?)

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Reflections during Luzern Fasnacht.

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Pre-Departure Logistics (Part 1)

Two years ago, around this time, I was applying for exchange. As you might have guessed from the creative title, I’ll be discussing the ins and outs of going abroad. Many of these experiences are directly related to the University of Toronto (UofT) and their Centre for International Experience (CIE). However, similar procedures are in place at different universities and exchange agencies. With that, here is my disclaimer to consult with your sources prior to departure.

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Trading in #viewsfromthe6ix. “Home is where the heart is”, as the saying goes.

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Getting Scandalous in Scandinavia

Let me tell you story about a girl and a boy in Scandinavia. This little tale starts on a Thursday morning, with said girl running out of her management class at ETH Zürich to catch the next train out to Basel. Wait a minute; didn’t this girl already visit Basel? Well yes, she did and now she’s back. To tell you to never travel from your non-home airport! As much as she loved budget airlines and their ability to get people from Point A to B, these airlines could expand their operating airport range. Out of all the Swiss airports, it is most expensive to fly out of Zürich. Thus, the hectic journey to, quite literally, France was necessary to catch a cheaper flight to Copenhagen, Denmark!

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Amalienborg Castle houses the Danish Royal Family. Make sure to catch the daily guard changing ceremony at 12:00.

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Being Politically Correct About Particle Accelerators

Attending ETH Zürich is practically synonymous to attending “nerd school“. The sole reason for visiting Geneva, or Genève if you want to politically accurate, was for CERN. Little did we know that you’d need more than a team of computer scientists and a determined physi(ology)cs student to visit the particle accelerators of the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire. I can still remember my frantic conversations with almost 15 people about forming a group to by-pass the line for individual guided tours. This was at least two weeks before the predicted trip.

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The main facilities at CERN was decorated by a coloured depiction of particle physics. For example, the muon is an elementary particle similar to the electron, with an electric charge of −1 e and a spin of 1/2, but with a much greater mass.

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When Swiss Cities Start to Look the Same

I realize that some of these trips are not in order. If you look at my personal calendar, which predates all the way back to August 2013, I have every major trip, class, test, meeting, and breakdown documented in my files. The previous post talked about Munich, but in reality, I went to Basel the weekend before! Perhaps I’ll start adding actual dates to these entries?

Regardless of my disorganization on this front, Basel was definitely one of the most spontaneous trips I took during my exchange. The night before departure, some of my friends and I wanted to take a day trip just to get out of Zürich. Same night, we were out till 3:00 partying on Langstrasse. So in our less-than-sober selves, Brandon, Will, Zach, and I, simultaneously bought Supersaver tickets to Basel.

Thus, not at the crack of dawn and closer to noontime, the four of us scurried to Zürich HB in spite of our throbbing heads. With little foresight on our activity, we followed our guiding saviour, Zach, and his supreme ability to navigate TripAdvisor, among other things. Stepping out of the main train station, we all concluded that Basel could be mistaken as Zürich 2.0. However, I would come to find my original interpretation of Swiss cities to be incorrect later in my travels. Our expat ignorance assimilated all trams and tramlines to be a defining factor in all Swiss cities. If you looked up on any major street, you’d see the thin wire that acts like a red string of fate, weaving the arteries of the town.

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Tram passing through a square in Basel.

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Casually Crossing Borders

What do you do when your roommates buy your tickets to Germany and tell you 24 hours before the departure time? You pack your bags and go on an adventure!

During our intensive German course, my friends were inspired by the language to plan a weekend trip to Munich. A quick four hour bus ride from Zürich, we left on Friday afternoon and arrived in the evening. When I stepped foot into the station, I realized my first mistake was not bringing any Euros. So early on in this post, the life lesson here is to bring the correct currency to your destination!

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When you realize you’re not in Switzerland anymore.

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Skiing a Decade Later

Is it too early to post a throwback? I promise this one is legitimate and includes embarrassing childhood photos. That’s a yes? Cool.

In 2007, my family and I took a two-week trip around Central Europe. In true summer time fashion, we had packed maximum shorts (think Rome in August) and minimal outerwear (think one hoodie at best). So on the morning prior to travelling up Mount Titlis in Engelberg, 12-year-old Grace layered on ALL of her shirts and a jacket to combat the ominous mountain air. To say the least, it was not enough. Views were totally worth it, chilled appendages were not.

Fast forward to 2017, a decade apart and most definitely wiser about attire choices. Decked out in my trusty old Canada Goose and snowpants to match, I skied the narrow runs down the mountain. It didn’t even occur to me that I had visited the same location 10 years prior. It wasn’t until I saw the very obvious 范冰冰 (Chinese) advertisement at the top of the gondola did I realize I sat in these exact cable cars with my mother and grandparents. All the memories flooded back to me. Look below for evidence!

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Grace in 2007, wearing literally everything in her suitcase for top of Mt. Titlis in August.

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Grace in 2017, wearing literally one t-shirt and a jacket for skiing at Mt. Titlis in February.

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Adventure Is Out There!

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Views from the top of Grossmünster on a beautiful summer’s day in Zürich.

Some would say that I dodged a bullet. I’d say that I bit it.

There is never a better time to write about your experiences than six months after the fact. Like they say, hindsight is 20/20 vision. In all honesty, I thought about keeping a journal throughout my travels, but seeing that many of my counterparts fade into oblivion in a mixture of school, travel, and “discovering yourself”, I simply couldn’t put that kind of stress on my readers. So welcome to my humble adventures, six months late, but here nonetheless.

Is there a point to recollect my hazy memories of romanticized Europe and all of its glory? My answer is yes. I have a knack for recalling even the faintest of events (i.e., my neighbour’s impeccable rendition of “Let It Go” during a heated trade in a game of Catan). I also have the photos to prove it – photos of my adventures, not the karaoke version of Disney songs. So here I am, sitting in my cozy home, across the ocean from the topic of my choice. I hope you’ll stay and read, but I also hope you’ll stay and learn. Cheers to adventures told and to be told!

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