ETH Zürich Reflections

5 February 2019

Georgiana reflects on her first term in Switzerland; her courses at ETH Zürich and the surroundings that offer so much.

Georgina blog 2

One of the things that caught my attention after starting the year abroad was the extraordinary location of ETH Zürich. It is located about 60m higher than the main station, which allows me to take Polybahn (a funicular) to the lectures and observe the surrounding views. The university’s café offers fantastic views of the city that I like to enjoy during my lunch breaks, as a quick coffee stop or for a longer time when I am coding and working on my university projects. It is not hard to get inspiration in a place like this as by just looking outside of the window your eyes are exposed to sights of the mountains, the Lutheran churches with alluring architecture or stylishly cute trams that are never late. 

Traditional Onion Market in Bern

Regarding the study plan for my first semester, one of the most interesting courses was "Security of Wireless Networks“, where I could learn more theoretical security aspects, but also perform practical projects in the lab sessions. Another course that got me very engaged through its projects was called “Smart Energy”. As this course allowed me to gain insight into the energy domain from the computer science perspective - it was a perfect fit with my interest in environmental sustainability. It is definitely interesting to see how my technical skills can be applied into other fields and causes that I deeply care about. For example, my teammates and I created an Android app that calculates the daily carbon footprint of users, based on the means of transportation used throughout the day. It is a practical app that can raise awareness of the way our commuting can impact the environment, ultimately showing public transport, walking or biking as the most environmentally friendly option in order to encourage users to pick it as their main choice instead of driving. 

Even though I live and study in Zurich, I often take the train to Bern since I fell in love with the city and its history. It is a picturesque one hour train ride with a comfortable train which also contains a restaurant car, where I do my work or take time to read books. I like studying in libraries, so one of my favourite spots in the city are the libraries that surround the University of Bern. One of the things that I won’t forget about Bern is Zibelemärit, an old Swiss tradition that takes place in the last Monday of November. For the Bernese people, the day of the Zibelemärit (Onion Market) is a free day and the whole centre of Switzerland’s capital is filled with stands selling onions, cheesecakes or Glühwein. The funniest part is that people are throwing confetti at each other filling the street with joy and laughter. 

Riffelsee (Alpine lake)

When you live in Switzerland for a year, you cannot miss out on the hiking opportunities that the country has to offer. As Switzerland is known in the world for its remarkable nature, it is no a surprise that it has sparked my love for hiking. One of the most memorable trips was the one to Gornergrat, a famous Swiss mountain station. It is particularly amazing for geology fans, as there are various kinds of rocks. There are also glaciers among which Monte Rosa stands out. As Gornergrat offers access to Riffelsee, an alpine lake, I decided to walk there and I wasn’t disappointed. The walk was surreal as I was surrounded by many breathtaking views, with the cold wind being the only thing that made me want to leave the place. If you are a fan of Toblerone, then this is a place worth visiting as the Matterhorn mountain, which is in front of the lake, is on the logo of this world famous chocolate bar. 

When I am not studying, I love visiting museums, spending time on the Einstein terrace or going for walks. Zürich is a very interesting city to live in thanks to the variety of activities taking place - from cultural events to theatre plays, concerts in Hallenstadion or sustainability events. It is nice to see how the country preserves its culture in such an international environment. While attending the Slow food market in November, I could see how the small companies or family businesses promote their original products from all around Switzerland - cheese from various valleys, a traditional sweet bread bear from the canton of Appenzell or homemade biological oil, meat or honey from other cantons. Moreover, in the Landesmuseum in Zürich, one can see the history of Switzerland and how important is for the Swiss people to stay open-minded and to accept the cultural differences between the cantons or to integrate those who come to their country.