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Geneva — Spring 2017

Rebecca Haddaway
English and Global Studies

Switzerland is a fantastically interesting country that is, though about the size of Virginia, home to four different languages and cultures: French, Swiss-German, Italian, and Romansch. Geneva has been the perfect place to study because I am able to practice my French, study hard, and live in a diverse city where good cheese and chocolate abound.
Because I am studying at the University of Geneva through a program called EuroScholars, much of my classwork is done independently. My research includes an in-depth study of the influence of physiology-related literature on the many French realists and romanticists who documented their travels in the Middle East in the 17th-19th centuries. In addition, I am taking two support courses to improve my French speaking and grammar, both of which will help with my research and to complete my French major.
The fact that my coursework is so independent has forced me to become a more intrinsically-motivated student. I spend about thirty hours every week in the libraries, at my desk, and in Geneva’s many beautiful parks, hacking away at monographies and travel literature.

I have also learned to become a more independent person during my stay here. I have earned myself plenty of dirty looks for looking and dressing differently, or for speaking imperfect French. Living in Geneva has forced me through the growing experience of accepting the disapproval of others relying on personal assessment as the source of my confidence.

One of the more humorous cultural challenges that I have experienced here has been “les bises.” As in France, the francophone regions of Switzerland expect two friends, or two people who are introduced to each other in a social setting, to exchange air kisses. As an American, this was incredibly awkward for me at first, and I confused many people with my incorrect and uncomfortable greetings.
Switzerland is an absolutely beautiful and interesting country, and I encourage anyone planning to study in Europe to pay Geneva a visit. Enjoy a pot of fondue and a glass of local wine for me!