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CGIS: Global Health and Development Policy in Switzerland

by Lauren Chapman

Journal 1: February 13th, 2018

    I cannot help but feel a little homesick, but keeping busy is an effective measure against longing for my mom’s cooking and hugs. Today I ventured for the first time out of the Vaud canton, and into Interlaken- home to Murren, Grindelwald, etc. The train rolled past the crystal turquoise lakes the mountains rolled into view. I had never seen an environment so untouched before, the magnitude of the trees alone attested to this. Wandering about the towns, hopping on and off the train, the winter faerie-scape left everyone in high spirits and in awe. As the sun set into the mountains we ventured to a hot spring to soak our worked bodies in between the Swiss Alps, needless to say it was an incredible sight. Aside from day trips around Switzerland, I have been fully immersed in school as well. French has been rough to say the least, I find it isolating not speaking the language as I cannot simply strike up a conversation with the cashier at Migros or to the person I am sitting next to on the train. However, in my experience the train rides are for the most part an individual experience. Moreover, going into Geneva to meet with representatives from MSF, the UN, the WHO, etc. has been enlightening. It has been a wonderful experience to see these organization from an inside perspective and get a feel for the work they are conducting. What is perhaps even more important are the relationships that I am forming with my classmates- I feel like I can really see myself being friends with any of the girls in my program- they are incredibly sweet and passionate about health! I cannot wait to see where this semester takes me.

Journal 2: March 10th, 2018

   Morocco, wow. It is so different that anywhere I have ever been and I love it. After quickly realizing that anything other than pants was not going to be acceptable, I have found that being American and blonde still adopts a degree of attention. Whereas in Europe I blended in with locals as my few french phrases allow me to slip under the radar of being branded as a foreigner, here it is evident that I am American. I do not mind, as everyone I have encountered has been overly kind and hospitable- especially my host family. In my home, the host mom was actually the same age as me! I was a little shocked as she was married with a baby. Our life paths were differing as she had stopped her studies in 5th grade, married at 18 years old, and spent most of her time at home. It was eye-opening to see a different reality for women in other countries, especially in rural regions. The best part of the trip was perhaps the nights though. All night long the skies danced with thousands of stars, most of which I had never seen back home. There was no light pollution in the dessert, which left nights lite by the moon and the milky way galaxy flowing through the black abyss. The locals called the milky way the River, which staring at the sky made sense. Moreover, the food in Morocco made me miss home. I am a spectacularly picky eater so I mostly ate plain couscous for my duration of the stay- I would say that it is still too soon to eat couscous again!! From riding camels to visiting health clinics, I would say that my time in Morocco has been unforgettable!!

Journal 3: May 8th, 2018

    There is an overwhelming feeling of feelings. Part of me is so excited to be with my family and see my friends, but I cannot help but look around and think about the home that I have made in Switzerland. At dinner last night there was this lingering feeling, and my host mom checked that I was packed maybe 14 times; I think she was just trying to spend extra time with me and her company was more than welcomed. So, here I am crying at the airport because thank you just doesn’t begin to express the gratitude I feel. The ladies I have come to call my friends are all embarking on their own journies home, journeys that will leave us miles apart after seeing each other every day for the past 4 months. It is sad, but that also leads me to believe that this feeling signifies that I had an unforgettable experience. All of the weekend trips around Switzerland, stops in the local Migros, and struggle to speak french, made this semester an opportunity to learn not just about the curriculum but also about people. I have learned that even across the pond, there are still parents worrying about their children, neighbors get in tiffs, miming that be extremely effective, and a smile goes a long way. I look ahead to the arms of my family and my friends that are back home, and those that I have made and will see again.