Saga University Summer Program 2016

 

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I never expected to fall in love with traveling so easily! This study trip to the countryside of Japan offered not only valuable knowledge that i can use in my study as well as future career, but also unforgettable memories and experiences with strangers who i can now proudly call friends.

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Saga University Summer Program (SUSP 2016), or Creating Innovation for Sustainability in Young Leaders was a short term study program that helped a group of students from various countries understand about a diverse range of contemporary issues. The aim was to develop our leadership skills in tackling sustainability challenges, locally and internationally.

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We started most days with a Japanese language class in the morning. Even though the content was simple and basic due to the limited amount of time, it was enough for us to appreciate some of the intricacies and beauty of Japanese language. Thanks to the classes, our daily lives during the trip were much more convenient, and we also got a good glimpse into the Japanese mindset.

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In the afternoons were excursions to many places, such as Saga historical tour, Institute of Ocean Energy (IOE), Arita Ceramic Museum… We learned so much about Saga and Japanese culture, energy, environment, and technologies through these very hands on case studies. To preserve these heritages, sustain current ways of life and develop solutions for current and future issues, a basic level of understanding of what we have built and achieved is the start. In this regard, the excursions enlightened me and made me become appreciative of what we have accomplished, as well as my responsibilities as the young generation. One particular example was IOE’s innovation on using temperature differences in the ocean to generate energy, which truly impressed me and is something that i would love to work on in the future.

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The learning experience was much more beyond what was planned in the program. We had a lot of time outside the schedule to freely explore, and to try living like the locals. Plans and ideas that us as a group came up allowed us to try amazing cuisines, visit unique locations, and experience lively local events (such as the biggest firework show i have ever seen!). As usual the unexpected also joined in the fun, as we stumbled across a wonderful Sake shop while getting lost in the city at night! More than just being insightful regarding the Japanese way of life, these experiences to us were incredibly exhilarating and brilliant.

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Often, the people you meet matter even more than what you do or see on a trip. Except one unfortunate misunderstanding incident (taken as another learning experience), the local people we met were brilliantly welcoming and friendly. They were accommodating and patient despite our apparent culture gap and language barrier, especially considering a culture so unique such as Japan’s. Finally last but not least, the students from Thailand, Cambodia, Taiwan, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and Vietnam who came together to make a big melting pot of culture. Different backgrounds, different personalities, but somehow we just meshed so well together. We could learn from each other, share our different perspectives, thanks to which every moment was so much more rich and memorable. If i could travel to anywhere in the world with the same people again, it would always be worth it given all the joy and fun we had!

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All the doubts i had before the trip were completely blown away, now replaced with new knowledge and mentality. These experiences have ignited me, as I’m eager to go out there again to challenge myself in a new environment. Returning to the beautiful far east country and seeing the friends i have made again are no doubt high on the priority list though!

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Jaa, mata!

Nghiem Xuan Hieu

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Global Conflict & Diplomacy, Paris- July 2016

Attending a two week course in Paris to study global conflict and diplomacy was definitely not how I envisaged my winter break at the beginning of the year. Yet halfway through the semester, the opportunity arose through BUiLD to spend two weeks immersed in culture, history, long summer days and crepes! 

My pre-departure into Paris was frantic, I had the trip to organise, people to see and final exams to prep for. Yet, departure came swiftly and before I knew it I was on a plane bound for Paris!

All my apprehensions regarding Paris were dissipated within arrival. I spent my first weekend before school started soaking in the rich history of Paris, as well as consuming my body weight in food! 

My experience at the Paris School of Business was unlike one I’ve ever had before. The staff are always kind and willing to help, the friendships and connections you make with people from all around the world are priceless and the content of the course itself is something that can only be understood if experienced firsthand. The courses were intensive, as they were conducted in 4-hour blocks, and were taught by world renowned professors in their field of international relations. Professors included directors of the NGO Doctors Without Borders, a director in the French foreign ministry, a director at UNESCO and many more! However, the French system was unique in that despite the intensive theoretical filled mornings and debates, all afternoons comprised of field trips around Paris that complemented the theory learnt. Over the two weeks, we had guided tours of UNESCO, visited the Opera Garnier, went on a day trip to Reims, visited the Notre Dame cathedral, the Louvre Museum, the Palace of Versailles and the French military museum where Napoleon Bonaparte’s museum is located, to name a few! 

The decision to go to France was one that is unregrettable, as not only did I leave my comfort zone, but my enrolment in the Paris School of Business allowed me to meet so many new and amazing people that I made instantaneous friendships with. The friends I made at the school not only aided me in class, but we also all genuinely enjoyed each other’s company and chose to spend the rest of the day after school together exploring the city as well as during weekends!

French Language – Lausanne July 2016

This July I visited Lausanne, Switzerland, to complete a three week intensive French language course at the local university. This was my first time overseas, and I loved every second of it. People from all around the world came to do this course, so while the purpose of this course was to learn about the French language and culture, we found ourselves learning about countries scattered all over the globe, the homes of our new friends.

Lausanne is a small but picturesque town, right on the shore of Lake Geneva. Our classes were held at the University of Lausanne, and after classes finished at midday we often took trips into the city centre to explore. One afternoon a group of us traveled for two hours to a neighbouring town, where we rode the Rodelbahn – a toboggan that weaves through the mountains, and was so so much fun.

I was lucky enough to live with an amazing Swiss native, who was kind enough to take myself and another housemate to a mountain in Geneva. We climbed to the top (they climbed, I died), and had an incredible panoramic view of Geneva, Nyon, and Lausanne. When we got home he then made us traditional Swiss fondue and we ate and drank and spoke French – I actually consider this one of the best days of my life, with great people and great cheese.

We had so many different experiences in Lausanne; watching an outdoor screening of the semi-final of the Euro Cup, stand-up paddle boarding on the lake, visiting the Olympic museum, and hiring a pedalo. We crammed an incredible amount of fun into those three weeks, and I would do it all in a heartbeat.

I learned more in three weeks than I can even begin to express, and much more than ever thought I would. I went on this trip to improve my French, but came back a different person (with slightly better French), and with entirely new views on the world. The photos I took don’t do this beautiful country justice, so I made a video to better capture the amazing time we all had.

Au revoir, Switzerland.

Steph Chenney
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Innovations in Environmental Sustainability

University of Minnesota (Aim Overseas)

My journey started when I left Sydney to Los Angeles. I stayed in Los Angeles for a week before my course, and it actually enhanced my educational experience. Los Angeles was very busy, with lots of people, traffic, noise, waste and air pollution. I had envisioned that Hollywood would be extremely glamorous, but I found that it was actually the opposite. Hollywood boulevard especially, was full of busy tourists, street performers, people handing out flyers, “free CD” scam artists, a large homeless population, and the occasional celebrity appearances.

The when I finally arrived at Minnesota, I immediately noticed a total difference between Minnesota and California. There was so much greenery, the air felt so clean, there was not nearly as much traffic and the locals were very friendly.

17th Avenue Residence Halls

I stayed at the 17th Avenue Residence Halls of the University of Minnesota, in the city of Minneapolis. This was a new building that has been designed to be very sustainable. The toilet water is recycled from rainwater, all the taps are sensor activated, there are plenty of windows for natural light, and some of the food is locally sourced on campus.

 

The course itself was very educational and eye opening. Most of the learning was done on the field, and away from a traditional classroom setting.In the first week, we had 2 days of orientation to get ourselves accustomed to the campus and the city. Luckily for us, we had a free day on the 4th of July, which is independence day in the USA. We got to experience this huge event, and were especially thrilled by all the fireworks.

4th of July fireworks at the famous Stone Arch Bridge

 

We then learnt about suitability at a local level by visiting many places in Minneapolis including many sustainable restaurants and businesses and a water research center for the Mississippi river.

An environmentally sustainable business. Also delicious.
Izzy’s Ice Cream- A sustainable business. Also delicious.

 

We also spent a day visiting an organic farm, and then comparing it to a visit to a ‘Native American Medicine Garden.’ At that garden, a Native American leader shared his story with us, and it was very eye opening. He described with raw emotion the hardships that his people have been through historically, and what they continue to go through today. He then went on to talk to us about the Native American way of life, and their relationship to the earth. This experience gave me a new outlook on life and sustainability, and helped me to understand the importance of including indigenous perspectives in the world today.

Organic farm

Native American Medicine Garden

Native American leader Francis Bettelyoun (right), giving us an eye opening insight into the Indigenous American history.
Native American leader Francis Bettelyoun (right), giving us an eye opening insight into the Indigenous American history.

 

A wild hawk appears.
A wild hawk appears at the medicine garden.

 

The following week, we travelled to a small town 4 hours north of Minneapolis, Morris, where we stayed the week. During this week, we learnt how sustainability is achieved in a rural small town such as Morris.

Corn ethanol plant in Morris
Corn ethanol plant in Morris
Algal biofuel research at the USDA research lab in Morris
Algal biofuel research at the USDA research lab in Morris
Solar garden in Morris
Solar garden in Morris
The group at the wind turbine at Morris!
The group at the wind turbine in Morris!

 

Another eye opening experience was when we visited an industrial dairy farm at Morris. The treatment of the cattle there was horrific to me and many other students, but I do not regret experiencing this.

New born calves are sent to New Mexico for 2 years, before they are sent back here to live indoors for the next 3 years before they are sold as cheap meat.
New born calves are sent to New Mexico for 2 years, before they are sent back here to live indoors for the next 3 years before they are sold as cheap meat.
A calf that has been separated from its mother immediately after birth, and will possibly never be reunited.
A calf that has been separated from its mother immediately after birth, and will possibly never be reunited.
The machinery used to milk the cows.
The machinery used to milk the cows.

 

Another part of sustainability we explored was ecological diversity, and this was mainly done at our visit to the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science reserve, which is known as the birthplace of our knowledge of ecosystems.

Cedar Creek Ecological Science reserve

In the final week, our main focus was on climate change. There was also a visit to a science museum and more group activities, as we reached the end of our time together at Minnesota.

 The Mall of America- Largest mall in the USA, complete with an indoor theme park!
The Mall of America- Largest mall in the USA, complete with an indoor theme park!

 

The group after a long bike ride to one of Minnesota's 10'000 lakes!
The group after a long bike ride to one of Minnesota’s 10’000 lakes!

 

In conclusion, this was a wonderful experience that I think has helped me with my personal development, as well as giving me different perspectives on sustainability that I will use in my future career as a scientist. I would definitely recommend this to Build winter 2017 travellers!

 

Conrad McDonald

 

 

Study Thai Style

Mid exam period, stressed, procrastinating and staring into a barren fridge already rung dry of its precious sugary resources, I needed something bigger than a few Facebook notifications to get me through this study session. I stumbled upon the UTS Build opportunity to study abroad for two weeks under the new Colombo Plan. That was all I needed. Immediately I signed up, only to wonder what I had gotten myself into once Kingsford Smith was but a spec upon the horizon.
Nervous, plunging into an unfamiliar culture, currency with a different set of royals and humidity that could fill a swimming pool, I psyched myself up for the solo, 1am, 30km public transport route from the airport to my hostel. However all these butterflies were quickly subdued when I met the smiles of all the locals on the bus. What a welcome. I am glad to say that this warmth from the local Thai people was a common theme throughout the trip.
The first day I spent strolling through the massive and varied street markets found in Bangkok’s Chinatown filled with everything you heart desires. Rob and myself bought some used Tuk Tuk radiator caps and finished the day with some wonton soup.
Starting the two week climate engineering and science course at KMUTT we were introduced to our Thai peers who we would study with for the whole course. Known as our Thai buddies we all soon transitioned to becoming close friends. The course was made up of ten lectures focused on energy production technologies, future energy demands and transport. Between lectures we also went on some very interesting field trips that put the theory into a real world context. The trip to the All Green Learning Centre was one of the highlights, it is a camp centred around living at one with nature. The concept is to minimise our impact on the environment by harnessing natural processes to replace more unsustainable technologies. We got our hands dirty creating compressed earth bricks from the local soil and dying fabrics with natural dyes (betel nut, turmeric). I left feeling inspired by the positive work being done by people in Thailand to create awareness about energy conservation.
What made this such a unique trip was we weren’t tourists peering in on Thai culture, we got to live it for two weeks. Living on campus and studying at the university with local students I got a glimpse of what real Thai life was like. The students have profound respect for their position to study at university, upon entering the campus each morning they will bow to the statue of their king and everyday is formal dress. I also found the locals were very proud to show of their wonderful culture, a key part being their local cuisine. Street markets are a big part of their food culture, where many people share meals anytime of the day. There was always something new and delicious to try in the markets whether it was fluorescent blue dumplings, slow cooked pork hock soup, blood broth noodle soup, raw paw paw salad or some deep fried insects. My personal favourite was the Tom Yum Goong soup, a fresh and spicy soup with prawns that will zap your taste buds.
This trip went above and beyond anything I expected, I met amazing people, learn’t about very important topics and ate some fantastic food. However this is not something I will leave behind in Thailand. I have brought back new local and international friendships, a more global perspective on climate change and our responsibility in tackling these issues and a greater understanding of the cultural backgrounds in my wonderfully diverse country of Australia.
Lewis Miles
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Cambodia – EWB Humanitarian Engineering Design Summit, July 2016

For 2 weeks in July 2016 I went to Cambodia as a student engineer and participant in the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Humanitarian Engineering Design Summit.

We were a big cohort of 55 aspiring engineers from all across Australia.

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Upon arrival we split into one of three groups; Ibis, Banana or Turtle. I was a member of Team Turtle, with 20 of the greatest human beings in Australia. Within a matter of hours we became a family.

Team Turtle:

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During the first week of the summit, we spent almost all of our time together as a team, from meals and shopping to workshops and design challenges. As well as sharing cultural experiences and being tourists. Together we ate crickets and tarantulas as a ‘detour’ on our Amazing Race around Phnom Penh and got the opportunity to go dolphin watching along the Mekong River.

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Throughout the summit workshops were run to introduce us to Cambodian culture. In these sessions we learnt to speak and understand a decent amount of Khmer. We also did engineering work on understanding community development and the importance of appropriate technology. Additionally a day was spent learning about the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot Regime – I personally found this to be an extremely emotional and insightful day, regarding the history of Cambodia.

At the start of the second week, team turtle along with a group of translators, travelled a total 7 hours by bus and needle canoe, from Pnomh Penh  to the rural island of Koh Dambang. We stayed here for 4 days and 5 nights, immersing ourselves into the lives of our homestay families in order to empathise with them and gain greater insights into the needs and wants of their community.

Team turtle with our homestay families:

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This meant using squat toilets, no ‘proper’ showers, no beds and hardly any power – so no A/C, fans or lights all through the dehydratingly dangerous heat. All of this was accompanied by a traditional diet of rice, noodles, fish and morning glory.

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On our last day on the island we attended a blessing ceremony, where the village monk showered us with blessed water. At night there was a full moon/rice harvesting party, which was such a great experience, getting to sing and dance with all the locals.

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The community’s livelihood comes from farming and fishing. Activities both done under harsh sun rays. Unfortunately sunscreen is too expensive for them to use to protect their skin. As a result many villagers get heat rashes while working on their farms. The rashes can last up to a month when not treated. Consequently after returning to the mainland, three other members of team turtle and myself decided to tackle this issue of sun protection. We began by building upon the community’s pre-existing resources of Aloe Vera. Followed by educating community members on how to grow and maintain more aloe vera plants and the the medicinal uses of Aloe Vera gel in terms of sun treatment and heat rash.

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After arriving back in Pnomh Penh we had a graduation ceremony followed by a 3 hour karaoke session.

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Being surrounded by such like-minded and amazing future engineers for 2 whole weeks was a truly amazing experience. One that i would highly recommend to anyone who is interested. EWB holds these summits regularly during uni breaks, traveling to Cambodia, Nepal and India.

Our last sunset in Cambodia:

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Nikita Isaac

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My American Semester

Go Green! Go White!

Tour of Spartan Stadium
Tour of Spartan Stadium

 

The Social Media for Business and Digital Marketing program run by Dr. Constantinos K. Coursaris and Dr. Wietske van Osch who are the head of the Telecommunication, Information studies and Media Department at Michigan State University.

The Communication Building
The Communication Building

With the explosion in the use of social media over the past five years, it’s hard to imagine a business/marketing topic that could be more relevant to the modern working world. The entirety of the subject revolved around the concepts of the modern working world and insights I would use in the workplace. At Michigan State from 9am – 1pm Monday through to Friday in the Communication building I developed a social media marketing campaign that included a content strategy, placement strategy, frequency strategy and understanding how it would evolve into an overarching integrated marketing communication strategy that would aim to promote brand/company awareness. In short, I learned a lot of valuable concepts that will apply to my future career.

This being tested in an exam, an individual assessment and a group assignment. A lot to fit in 3 weeks and a few late nights.

The program included a professional site visit. One particular visit was to General Motors Headquarters in Detroit. Where we gained insider knowledge of Social Media Marketing from their department managers. It also included presentations from company staff and a tour of the premises.

This program also included weekend trips to Chicago and the Canadian side of Niagara Falls which were a great way to distract ourselves from our assessments. These weekend trips being apart of the cultural aspects my program offered.

Weekend trip to Chicago!
Weekend trip to Chicago!

 

Niagra Falls!
Niagra Falls!

 

On this program I got a taste for life in the US and US campus culture. Living in an American dorm was such a highlight of my program. You see American college life in movies and to be honest my experience at MSU didn’t disappoint. Every student wears Michigan State merchandise. Students yell out “Go Green!” and they respond “Go White!”. This referring to the the college colours. Also, students at MSU refer to themselves as Spartans. This being their mascot. Nothing can compare to the team attitude of Michigan State.

Graduation
Graduation

 

This program was a priceless experience that developed skills I can take with me throughout my career. Money cannot compare to this life changing experience. As a second year Communications (Digital and Social Media) student this program as an elective was perfect for my degree! Anyone doing a Communications/ Business degree I would highly recommend this course.

I have met and made lifetime friendships with people on my study abroad. I can rave on and on about the program itself. But it was the people who made it a life enriching experience.

Campus
Campus

I look forward to going back to Michigan State University in August of 2017 where I hope to complete a full semester.

Go Green! Go White!

University of Lausanne – experiences at a Swiss University

Going on an UTS Build programme is an opportunity that should not be missed. You gain very good insights of the teaching style of your host university which might be very different to what you’re used to. I found the teaching of the intensive language course to be to be much more informal with the emphasis on ‘lifestyle learning’  e.g. learning the language using social media, social interaction in the foreign language, role-play, listening and singing.

In addition, you learn so much about the host country and its people by simply being in the country.  The people you meet will so often go out of their way to help you and explain and make things easier for you.  I went on an intensive language course to Switzerland for three weeks but there was still time to explore the country on weekends.  However, I learnt much more than language whilst I was there. There are so many intangible skills you learn when you go overseas, such as self- reliance and problem solving and self-confidence, and not least, mixing and interacting with people of a different culture.

Switzerland is a small compact country with friendly people.  In three weeks you can only get a taste of a country but it left me feeling that it’s definitely worth coming back to. It’s a very efficient country, everything is very orderly and punctual and they are very much into minimising environmental  pollution which is understandable given the spectacular scenery. However, it all comes at a price, with the cost of living in Switzerland being very high, especially food. By the way, the food is really good and very fresh and seasonal.

There is a very efficient train system in Switzerland linking up all the towns and cities. From one end of Switzerland to the other it’s hardly three hours. I was impressed that most train ticket collectors could speak four languages and would ask passengers for their tickets either in French, German, Italian or English.  Also, all the trains arrive and depart on time with three minutes late considered very poor service. Punctuality is a must in Switzerland. Never be late for anything! There’s no excuse either because in Switzerland, you don’t need a watch as there are clocks everywhere in the towns.  There can be easily fifty clocks per town which I helps people to be punctual.

All shops shut in Switzerland on a Sunday and Monday to Saturday after 5pm with almost no shops apart from restaurants open. At first, I found this inconvenient but later on I got used to it and actually started to enjoy a more leisurely Sunday. One of my best experiences in Switzerland, apart from the language course, was hiking around in the mountains, enjoying the stunning scenery, good weather and the mountain air.
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Thailand KMUTT trip

Before arriving in Thailand, I had no idea what to expect since this is the first time in Thailand and also first time travelling alone. I was worried whether or not I would be able to find my way around Bangkok, or if I would get into the wrong taxi and end up in a bath tub full of ice with scar wounds where my kidneys should be. Thankfully, I was able to find a few UTS students at the airport and one of the student’s uncle offered me a ride to KMUTT housing.

On my way out of the airport, I was immediately caught off-guard by how hot and humid it was outside (and coming from 10-degree temperature in Sydney, I had layers of clothes on!)

Once I got to the university housing, I quickly changed into clothes that were more appropriate for a 40-degree climate and travelled out to one of Bangkok’s main market place where I had my first authentic Thai meal.

During this trip, we had various lectures which taught us nanotechnology, electrical currents and how to cook “Khao Mahk”. The university also set up activities like Muay Thai classes, where we were able to show off some of our punching and kicking skills.

They also set up a field trip to the country side, where I was able sight see the forests of Thailand. The forest was very calming and I had never felt more Zen in my life. During our time in the country side we visited an elephant sanctuary where we were able to learn the biology of the elephants and we got to see one up close.

With the free time they gave us, I was able to go visit the marketplace, different restaurants and the red light district of Bangkok.

Now that I’m back in Sydney, I am still reminiscing my time in Bangkok and can’t wait to come back and experience everything else Thailand has to offer.

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French Language and Culture Study – Lausanne, Switzerland

Switzerland was well worth the aching behind, having sat on an aeroplane for what felt like a day, I was thankful to be greeted with such a warm welcome. Upon arrival we had
a man help my friend with directions on which bus to take to his student housing, and
a warm welcome from my hostess who came to greet me at Lausanne train station. The
kind gestures always seemed to come my way, my neighbour in my apartment offering
me slices of cake upon my first meeting with her.

I was fortunate to live just 10mins away from Lake Leman, and the view
from my apartment verandah was tremendously beautiful. Unexpectedly,
the summer in Switzerland was very, very humid, unlike anything I would
have expected from what I had assumed was a cold country.This sadly meant
having to take myself to swim in the local pool beside the lake, it was a
tough existence. If I didn’t go swimming, my friends and I would have picnics
in the park at Ouchy Olympique, and often treat ourselves with some tasty
ice-creams. The parks had such a friendly atmosphere, with families setting
up portable BBQs and stereos next to the lake. One afternoon, I happened to
see a group of people swing dancing, something that seemed unlikely to occur
out in public in my parks back home, but seemed to sum up the care-free,
relaxed nature of the Swiss French people during the summer holidays.

The people I met in my language course came from all around the world,
Russia, Syria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Argentina, Italy, Ethiopia, England,
and much more. I was fortunate to befriend a couple of guys who had lived
in Lausanne for some time and took me around the city one day as tour guides.
It was great to witness the Notre Dame Cathedral and visit the natural history
museum. Here is a photo of me posing next to the jaw of a whale, a size I couldn’t
quite believe! Then one of my friends shouted us lunch at the Chinese restaurant
where he works. All the while they speaking very good French, and me trying very
hard to understand them, but very good practice nonetheless.

I couldn’t quite get over the sheer beauty of Switzerland, for anywhere you looked
you would see flowers blooming. It occurred in boxes sitting upon windowsills in apartment blocks, at the railway station or along my walk to the university. The
vineyards, near Pully were particularly spectacular, but tobogganing at Oeschinensee surrounded by the snow-capped mountains was one of my favourite experiences.

Ending my trip trying fondue and raclette, particular cheese delicacies of the Swiss, was the best way to complete my overseas adventure. Delectable, and a few kilos heavier but
a very content soul, I sadly returned to the airport, prepared for the aches, but second time not so bad. Perhaps it was a result of the extra padding!

Pully Apartment Museum of Natural History Vineyards Four cheese fondue