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Michal Till writes about his internship and adventure in Switzerland
Chocolate, Cheese and the Alps
by Micah Till, March 2015
Before this past fall, if you had asked me what comes to mind when someone says “Switzerland,” I would have said chocolate, cheese, and the Alps. While I still think of those things, I think of much more as well.
In August I said goodbye to Tennessee and got on a plane in Chattanooga. About 12 hours later I landed in Zurich and was faced with deciphering the SSB ticket system. While I knew enough High German to ask directions and buy staple foods, I knew almost no Swiss German (comparing the two “Germans” feels like comparing Spanish and Italian). Now I can recite the zones needed to get almost anywhere from Baden, Switzerland by heart, but that day I made an unfortunate attendant spend almost ten minutes explaining the system. However, she ended up selling me a Gleis 7 card so I feel both of us went away happy with the outcome.
View from Niederhorn
When I first arrived at ABB’s research center in Baden-Dättwil, I did not know what to expect. It was my fifth day in Switzerland. I had secured my apartment, food and a new bank account, but my broken High German was strained to the limit and I could not even say “hello” correctly in Swiss German yet. Thankfully, the research center uses English as the official language. It soon became clear that for the engineers and programmers from all over the world, English is the only common language whether the company choses to recognize it as such or not. The sixteen interns in my department represented ten countries. The full-time employees double that number.
Micah Till (1st on left) and the ABB Fall 2014 interns
After work I would return to my studio in Baden or take the train to Zurich. Sometimes in the evenings all the interns from our group would get together for dinner or to explore Switzerland. On the weekends we would visit attractions like Europa Park, Christmas markets, or the Frey Chocolate Factory. At other times we might gather for fondue or hiking.
Micah in front of the Lion of Lucerne
At least every other weekend, I got up before the trains were crowded and went hiking in the Alps. Contrary to my perception of them beforehand, they are not constantly covered in snow – in fact there was only snow on the ground the last month I was there. My Gleis 7 allowed me to ride back home for free after 7:00 p.m. and I took full advantage of it. Almost any weekend I did not visit an Alp, I could be found exploring cities such as Geneva or Bern. Quite a few people felt the need to tell me where “the most beautiful place on earth” could be found, but since everyone told me somewhere different, I found it hard to believe they could all be right. One friend though, told me a story of an Irish monk, St. Beatus, who ventured into a mountain cave and defeated a dragon to convince the people living nearby to convert to Christianity. The town of Beatenberg is named after him and the monastery he built at the cave is open to visitors – oh, and by the way, it’s the most beautiful place on earth. Stories like this, full of history and character, are what I loved about exploring Switzerland.
View from St. Beatus Hohlen
So what comes to mind when someone says “Switzerland?” Still chocolate, cheese and the Alps, but also hardworking men and women who prize efficiency, value life and hold a rich history.
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