Last Weeks in Lausanne

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In an appropriate form of symmetry, I spent my last weeks here like my first weeks. Not since the start of my exchange have I been in Lausanne this consistently. Again, I find myself running around the town fulfilling bureaucratic procedures, including a 20 franc form announcing, “I’M LEAVING.” Just like during the winter, the mountain view from my window is hidden from the seemingly constant ring of clouds. Schoolwork is non-existent and fun abounds. My final exams and projects were both evenly dispersed and unsurprisingly unchallenging. These last weeks in Switzerland have made a gradual sendoff and lovely kickoff to summer.

A few nice days allowed for lakeside BBQs, featuring burgers, beach balls and beautiful sunsets. I played in a beach volleybal tournament and my team got second! (A shock because we were not the second-best team there.) I used muscles I didn’t know my arms had and I had a few epic diving digs. There was an evening cruise (1920s themed) on Lake Geneva organized for the exchange students. While not necessarily a rager on a boat, it was still a good time. I played soccer for 5 hours one day, practicing with a team I had joined for a mini tournament. Unfortunately, the tournament was canceled, but I still balled pretty hard that day. I finally went to the Sauvabelin Forest in northern Lausanne during a nice afternoon. In the forest is a cute pond called a “lake” surrounded by enclosures with cows, goats and sheep. Twice I visited the Art Brut Museum in Lausanne to commence work on the research grant I have for this summer. There were two themed ‘house’ parties–one Aussie, one ‘Merican. The former involved an unplanned dip in Lake Geneva and the latter highlighted my prowess at a certain American “sport.” A sunny Monday allowed for an evening at a carnival by Ouchy, where we went on a 60m high swing ride. After which we all bought ice and an excessive amount of churros. My last Tuesday contained a “field trip” to the Lausanne Cathedral and a revisit to La Barbare for their famous hot chocolate (aka liquid pudding with a scoop of ice cream topped with whipped cream). Afterwards, I got dinner at Holy Cow! which is a popular burger place in Lausanne. Wednesday was the last pubnight at the club where we had the first one. As usual, we stayed on the dancefloor until it got to that point where the music starts to go back in time.  All in all, a good time.

In this short span of time, I’ve gotten to know a handful of people a lot better. I’ve also met a lot of new people these past few weeks and it’s strangely sad to realize that there’s not enough time for a friendship to flourish. It’s a rather romantic idea to think about the people you only met once but who stay ingrained in your memory or remain characters in your anecdotes–and vice versa. But to all those memories both lasting and fleeting, cheers.

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À la Mode

Paired with my confusion over the weather comes my confusion over what to wear. It hasn’t helped that my wardrobe has been limited to one suitcase and one backpack’s worth of clothes and shoes to cover five months and three seasons. Nor does my preconceived notion of what Europeans wear. (Thorough Facebook searching with reveal a certain party theme sophomore year.) Throughout my stay here, I’ve both impressed and bewildered over European fashion. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Believe it or not, snow does not stop fashion. During February when the snow was never ceasing, women did not give their heals a break. While I was sporting big red outdoors snow boots, the ladies of Lausanne would just sling on the pumps and complete whatever trek was needed. Props, ladies.
  • It’s only summer at the beach. A hilarious example of this happened in Paris. blessed with +20˚C weather, my friends and I broke out our summer clothing including shorts, flippy floppies and sunnies. An old woman approached us and asked where are swimsuits were because we looked beach-bound. I misheard the woman though, thought she asked about our bread (pain) not our swimsuits (maillots de bain) and was completely oblivious to her sarcasm.
  • It’s only sunny when it’s summer. People don’t wear sunglasses in the winter because they are a summer item. While there is a direct correlation between hours of sunshine between winter and summer, it can be simultaneously cold and sunny. And as a Californian, it’s practically sacrilegious to leave the house without sunglasses.
  • Legs are not for show. In April, we had a good stretch of nice weather and confusion began about what to where. The Swiss were still walking around like a snow storm was about to hit with parkas, scarves and beanies. I, on the other hand, wanted to wear my cutoffs and tanky toppies. For one of my classes, we were required to write thrice weekly on a forum, practicing French and discussing Swiss and French related topics. Katherine made a post about spring clothing and every European in the class shot her down, one person claiming that wearing dresses and shorts is about showing your legs. Our opinion: actually, it’s about not being uncomfortable in my skinny jeans. Guess we’ll just have to play the cultural card for now.
  • Sweats are reserved for the gym, field and track. Never do you see a Swiss (possibly even European) person in work out clothes. Not even if they are en route to the gym. Nope, you get changed at the gym, field, track. They don’t wear workout attire in public for fear of being judged apparently. Oh and along with this is the occasional man dropping his pants so as to change into his sweats.
  • Here’s what’s à la mode: Longchamps bags, studs on studs on studs, heeled sneakers, American flag scarves, loose fitting pants for women and v-necks for gents.

I wish I could say that my fashion has improved since being around all these well put-together Europeans, but truth be told: I love my plaid, my Columbia rain jacket, my soccer sweats, my cutoffs and my bro tanks. Soon we will all be reunited in a place where it’s socially acceptable for us to be together.

Weather Or Not

Growing up in California has made me very spoiled about seasons. Sure, I’ve spent the last three years in Oregon but that doesn’t mean I’m not confused when April rolls around and it’s not consistently gorgeous weather everyday. Unfortunately for my vitamin D levels, it has been an unusually cold and long winter in Switzerland. Back in February I was talking with a woman who has lived in Lausanne for several years and she told me that typically there is about a week of snow that marks the high season of winter. That cold season extended itself beyond seven days and all the way until the end of March. There are been a few random days and moments of days with sun, some of which I spend on the floor of my room so as to have prime access to the rare rays of sunshine.

The first thing to know about European weather is that it cannot be accurately predicted by weather.com. It’s continually been outrageously wrong. For instance, this past Tuesday it predicted a thunderstorm to roll into Lausanne at 5:00pm, right after I finish my last class of the day. Being strategic, I went on a run earlier in the day to avoid the storm. As I sat in class, I noticed that instead of the sky becoming coated in looming clouds the sky was becoming more and more blue. As the clouds whisked away, so did my motivation. After class, my friend Katherine and I broke in her new ping pong equipment at the table in our courtyard. (Lausanne is littered with ping pong tables.)

That thunderstorm did come eventually though. Katherine and I went to Geneva on Thursday and just wandered around since it was a gorgeous day. Worried about the actual homework we needed to do, we left Geneva in the afternoon. We talked about studying outside and I made a joke that if would be funny if it wasn’t sunny in Lausanne. While on the train, Katherine checked the weather and informed me that a thunderstorm was on it’s way. With some pretty impressive timing, we arrive back to our apartments with about 30 minutes to spare before the thunder and lightening storm came. (FYI: I’ve never experienced a thunderstorm in Oregon. The last storms I remember are (1) the last night of the Sasquatch Music Festival in 2011 during Wilco’s set and (2) one night while I was at my friend’s cabin in Shasta when I was 16.)

Stay tuned for a post on how I attempt to balance comfort with European appropriateness in terms of my “spring” clothing…

Learning Curve

Despite all the traveling I’ve been able to do, I swear that I’m still a good student who goes to class (most of the time). But in the past two weeks, I’ve gone to every single one of my classes! (A pattern soon to be broken.) In honor of the last month of my classes here and my recent avid attendance, here’s a post dedicated to the actual “study” part of “study abroad.”

Coming from a small liberal arts school in Oregon, I’m finding a plethora of differences between there and this large Swiss university. For example, the construction of classes. I’m used to: (4 classes x 3 hours each) = 12 hours total. Here I have all French classes that are: (4 classes x 2 hours each) + (1 class x 4 hours) = 12 hours. My classes are only on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday which is ideal for traveling and for the weekly Wednesday pub nights. Let me elaborate on the definition of “two hours.” There were would be uprisings we were actually were in class for two straight hours. All classes start a quarter past the hour even if the schedule explicitly says the class starts promptly at 10:00. The class schedule also says that classes end after two hours. But only once have I had a professor hold us the full time. We’re always outta there at a quarter til. All in all, (1) it’s hard to keep track of all these classes sometimes, (2) it’s really easy to forget what happens from one class to the next, and (3)  it’s going to quite a surprise when Willamette tells me the credit equivalent of these classes.

Here are some other small things I have noticed:

  • All the classrooms have chalkboards instead of whiteboards and one of my teachers uses an overhead…what grade is this again?
  • Teachers rarely turn the lights on. Sometimes the natural light is enough but sometimes it’s not.
  • The teachers don’t have private offices; instead they share one with several teachers.
  • The teachers don’t care about phones. (At Willamette, I feel like the professors send you death glares if your phone goes off.)
  • My classes have so many people that the professors don’t know (or don’t bother to learn) any names.
  • I have all of my classes in a 5 story building with staircases that remind me of those of Hogwarts aka confusing.
  • You can buy beer at wine at the cafés and eateries on campus.

Yet as these things are becoming more familiar, it will soon be coming to an abrupt halt. Here’s what’s remaining in my scholarly european exchange: ten days of classes, three small assignments, three exams.

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Lausanne Livin’

In the past month, I’ve only spent nine days in Lausanne. That time includes by trip to Budapest, spring break in Italy, a weekend in Paris and two days hiking in the Bernese Oberland. With my time abroad quickly dwindling, I’m trying to squeeze every bit of thrill out of this experience. Unfortunately, I am not constantly traveling, but Lausanne has been stepping up it’s game while I’ve been around.

  • The day I returned from Italy, I went on a run not to waste the sunny weather and was surprised to find that the sun also indicated warmth!
  • That week I got to attend a hockey game, which was on my list of things to do in Switzerland. I got to see Switzerland smash France all within the arena/rink/stadium? in Lausanne. There was also one fight at the very end which was almost more thrilling then the five Switzerland goals. Luckily the venue wasn’t freezing cold, because I am a little bit over the cold weather. 
  • Upon returning from Paris, the weather was once again gorgeous. Dear Europe, sorry I’m not sorry for wearing shorts when the weather is warm. I was definitely the only person I saw in shorts that day, so good thing I didn’t go with one of my signature pair of cutoffs. 
  • The following day was even more gorgeous! And I have Elena visiting as well. We trekked up the hill from Lausanne Gare all the way to the fresh food market in Place de St. François. We then walked along the lake and all the way to UNIL, catching sites of Spring in Switzerland such as cloudless skies and blooming flowers. (It took about two hours for that whole stroll.) We both even got a little pink from all the sunshine! 
  • The University here has busted out the sheep, which are the grass-mowing technology they use here. They make the walk to the library a little more enjoyable. 

Every time I travel, I get incredibly restless and just want to continue on to my next adventure. In the meantime, I’ll sit back and savor the small nuances of Lausanne–41 days left!

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Soccer/Football/Foosball/Futbol

Last week, I went to a semi final soccer game here in Lausanne. My group was from the other canton (Valais) so we were routing for the away team, Sion. The visitors’ section was bumpin’ though! For the entire game, there were at least three guys with megaphones perched in front of the crowd, directing the chants. The number of Lausanne supporters was bismal because apparently this is not the most ecstatic region for soccer fans. We definitely had the better night because we won 2-0! We got a goal in the first half and then nothing happened in the game until the very end when Lausanne gave up a penalty kick and Sion got another goal to seal the deal. We even had fireworks to celebrate. Allez, Sion, allez!

I spent the majority of the game freezing because I was dressed for the pub night afterwards and told my group: “I wish I was kidding when I say that I forgot about socks.” To be fair, I was not expecting to be standing on cement steps for the 90 minutes. (They had me stand on some cardboard to insulate my feet. They also suggested mulled wine, but the stadium ran out of it before the second half.) I also thought that since I survived two nights of Fasnacht and two days of skiing that I was used the cold. Unfortunately I was wrong but luckily I still had a great time.

After the game ended we were walking to the pub night but made a quick stop in a random bar. It was great because we could grab beers and I could begin to feel my toes again. After another bar-related detour, I finally make it to the club to meet up with the exchange students for an evening of dancing. Just another typical Wednesday as an UNIL exchange student.

The game has ignited my love for sports because now I want to see another soccer game or go to a hockey match or play foosball or actually play soccer because it’s been too long! Shout-out to the WU Women’s Club Soccer Team! Miss you all and can’t wait to be back in the fall, even if I’ll be the solo senior!

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A Day in the Life

For those of you who might be fooled by my Facebook photos and think my time in Switzerland is just full of skiing and clubbing, let me give you a rundown of how I started my week.

Lundi 25 fevrier 2013.

10:00–Class, Lecture de textes, d’images. Told the professor my name was spelled J-O-R-D-E-S because apparently after four days of not speaking French I forgot how to pronounce the letter “E.”

12:15–In order to use the sports center here, everyone must attend a ninety-minute session about health, fitness and the body. After that you receive a signed form that you must take to the hidden secretary’s office to pay the 20 francs for a card that allows you access. It is also the first place I have ever been to that doesn’t accept Visa or Mastercard. Only in Switzlerand.

14:00-15:00–Walk through the cold to get to the Swiss bank to withdrawal l’argent liquide so I could pay for a “hip hop funk” dance class.

15:00–Renew my monthly transit pass that apparently expired the day before.

15:30–Bought shoes on sale for 20 CHF.

16:00-17:00–Went grocery shopping where I picked up some fresh bread, birchermüesli and some other quality items.

17:15–Come back to a lovely note left on my refrigerator by the housing management informing my flatmates and me of all the cleaning tasks that need to be done. The housing manager here makes consistent rounds to ensure that the living spaces are kept thing. Just an example of the Swiss liking their control.

18:30-20:00–Turns out that “hip hop funk” actually means “hip hop house.” For an hour an a half, I learned some completely useless moves. One was called “Jack in the Box.” I guess I was expecting a 90 minute dance sesh or to learn some moves I could take to the clubs. All in all, I will not be going back to that.

20:30-23:00–Attend a “Wine and Chocolate” birthday celebration, which also worked as my dinner.

23:30–Return to my room and realize I still have some reading for tomorrow and I have to get up early to talk to the housing management and I should shower. Instead I just eat some brie and bread.