A life experience abroad to be remembered – a personal report
24.06.2016 | India Chapter
Von: Nina Zellweger
From my personal experience, leaving to study abroad takes courage. Especially, if we have never been to that destination. A year, three or five, whatever. Leaving your roots can turn out challenging. From an Indian perspective, we can imagine that after having watched 356 Bollywood movies, Swiss landscapes have no more secrets. However, does studying at ETH Zurich look like the scene of the Swiss Alps?
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On the contrary, from a Swiss point of view, I would never have imagined India the way I am currently experiencing it. I was expecting to go to work on an elephant’s back!
Every year, swissnex India is organizing a meet-up for Swiss Universities Alumni students in order to foster and renew the relations with the Swiss network in India. However, the Indian territory being slightly larger, the event was held in 2 cities in the South: Mumbai and Bangalore.
On Friday, 27th May, we were warmly welcomed at the residence of the Consul General of Switzerland in Mumbai, Mr. Martin Bienz. At around 7 pm, the first faces made their appearance. In the beginning everyone seemed a bit shy. Even if the living room had enough space to host us, we remained confined in the corridor. It looked like the Swiss air had already begun to strengthening our ties.
A welcoming drink was offered to us upon our arrival and we had the choice between two kinds of grape juice, accompanied with “canapés”. My Swiss olfactory senses being in hibernation since my arrival in India, I was pleasantly surprised by the immediate awakening of my taste buds, thanks to a delicious Fendant from Switzerland.
The conversations began to reach their peak. Our two present Consuls General informed us about the last achievements from Switzerland to India in addition to the future events which were going to take place in the near future. Then, we all introduced ourselves, and engaged with people to share different experiences that they had in same institutions, at different moments.
Buffet was ready. A mix between Indian flavor and continental appearances, tastes were getting along marvelously. Even the catering Chef did not cheat in attending this alumni event. Indeed, coming from Switzerland, he started his business in India.
Once our stomachs were full and the discussion started to slow down, the living room calmly emptied to give away only to the echoes of plates colliding in the kitchen. It was the end of this beautiful evening, full of sharing in Mumbai.
On Saturday 4th June, at 1:30pm sharp, the shuttle bus was leaving swissnex India office in Bangalore to Soma Vineyards. As the roads on the way to the vineyard were winding, we were not sure to be able to reach the place with our bus. Eventually we made it, and were amazed by the landscape of the area. Personally, it was the first time that I have seen vineyards next to coconut trees.
The area’s owner, a passionate oenologist welcomed us in his beautiful domain. One after the other, we introduced ourselves and our professional background while delighting in a freshly cut coconut. The visit started with a tour through the vineyards accompanied with very informative explanations. Wine not being culturally present in the Indian customs, it really was a good opportunity for most of us to discover that it is a business which is trying to grow in India.
During our gateway, we had a constructive lesson in oenology on how to taste wine, step by step. Although we were all impatient and excited to taste the wine from the vineyard to see if it reflected the beauty of the place, we all listened carefully to tips on how to taste wine like experts. Once our walk was finished, we were all starving. As a promised we did our best to provide the event with Swiss cheese. Unfortunately, finding Swiss cheese in India is as hard as seeing a cow in the middle of a street in the city center of Zurich. We succeeded to find some Emmental and it was thoroughly enjoyed by the participants. With this, they could recall some memories of their stay in Switzerland. Then, starters were offered to us, followed by a lovely buffet.
As I recall from both events, the binding factor is the kindness of everyone. The desire of sharing and exchanging unforgettable memories of our experience abroad, in particular at the beginning where we asked ourselves what kind of crazy idea came up to our mind to want to leave our family, our friend and our home comfort. It is not always easy to find words to describe these life adventures. Simply because most of the time, we were torn by a thousand emotions at once. Something which had never happened before. A mix between sadness, fear, excitement, concern and more. Although there were age gaps, the fact that we shared a similar experience allowed us to find something common of ourselves in each other, and gave us an engagement with people.
To conclude, I am very glad to have organized and participated in these events which connected us and reminded us how Switzerland is a beautiful country from the inside. What touched me the most was to hear how well Indians felt welcomed in Switzerland, as well as how India welcomed me here.
Nina Zellweger is a Junior Project Manager with the Academic Relations & Project team at swissnex India. swissnex India takes an active role in connecting India and Switzerland in education, science and innovation. To know more about us, visit our website: http://www.swissnexindia.org/