It is hard for me to believe that I have been here in Geneva for the past two weeks now. I had almost lost hope of getting an internship during the summer since I wanted to be back for the fall semester and the visa process is generally long and tedious. That meant I might have to do my internship either in the fall semester or the spring semester delaying my graduation.
Two months had passed after my interview had taken place without a word but Dr. G.K’s and Dr. Wagner’s determination and effort finally landed me the internship of my choice in Geneva. A part of the dream that I had cherished and had expressed in one of my assignments for the course “Interpersonal Dynamics” of how I see myself in the future was realized. Excitement filled our home. To my surprise the Swiss embassy in New York was very efficient and fast. They presented me and my daughter with a Swiss red cap as a gesture of welcome to Switzerland 🙂
I set out on this cross Atlantic Ocean journey with my husband (who would leave after the first week) and my two year old daughter. I have to admit twelve hour journey with a two year old was a total nightmare! Of course she was on my lap the entire plane ride! Tired and exhausted, we landed at Geneva International Airport at 2:00 pm on a Tuesday and since our flight had been delayed, we missed our shuttle to the hotel. The next shuttle would be arriving at 5pm. We made our very first expensive mistake here and I am only going to share the first one in this blog but I made quite a few! We got a cab to our hotel for a $100! Later we figured it was cheaper to rent a car. Obviously the next day we rented a car.
Since my internship was to start the following week on Monday, the first few days upon arrival, I enjoyed as a tourist in a hotel situated in French Territory, half an hour drive just outside of Geneva. This allowed me to make a day trip to Paris where I saw the Eiffel Tower and had the yummiest crepes, pastries and croissants. In Geneva, I explored the famous landmarks: Chillon castle at lake Geneva, the magnificent Jet d’Eau and had the best gelato at a local shop called “Manugelato.”
Before my arrival in Geneva, I was cautioned by PENN students who had worked here last summer, not to sign any apartment lease without first viewing it. So the next few days I searched for a studio apartment located at walking distance from bus stops that I would take to commute to work. Geneva has a very efficient bus and tram system known as TPG meaning Geneva Public Transport.
Everyone who lives in Geneva knows it to be expensive. Since I am on a budget, it was important to make sure I looked for affordable grocery stores around town and I found out that grocery stores located in France were cheaper and a twenty minute bus ride from my new apartment. Now I do all the major grocery shopping over the weekends. Also it was shocking to me that all grocery stores are completely closed on Sundays and most of them close by 7 pm on weekdays. For the first time I felt a great appreciation for the convenient shopping hours back home in the United States. I leave it to your imagination the rush caused due to this early closure for a working family whose work day ends a little after 6pm.
One day walking home from work, to my delight, I discovered a small Indian Shop selling the best sweetest mangoes imported from Pakistan. Now that did make me homesick for they were very expensive, but irresistible, so I gave in to my desire and bought a box of mangoes which I rationed for the next couple of days. I have not had these Pakistani mangoes for the past few years so you could imagine my excitement! In Pakistan you would eat a couple of mangoes for dessert both lunch and dinner during the season. But that’s a forgone luxury now.
The Indian shop turned into a meeting place where I made two great friends from Pakistan who invited me for the most delicious home-cooked food. Knowing that I am new in Switzerland, they offered me assistance. This was a source of comfort for me and truly felt like home away from home.
Now something about the internship I have come to Geneva for! I arrived on my first day at the office at 9 am and I went straight to the head of HR department who then introduced me to people in my neighboring offices. My supervisor and those who had interviewed me were on a mission and would arrive the following week. So after being shown to the desk, I learnt how to navigate through the intranet at work, my email account was set up and learnt how to use the printer associated with my desktop. After a few hours, one of the department manager who I was told was on leave, arrived and greeted me. I was pleasantly surprised. Then she told me that my supervisor had requested her to meet me and since she was going to come to office to sign some important documents, she decided to give me a brief overview of the organization. This gesture stood out to me and I felt warmly welcomed! I took that as an indication that my supervisor who was not present will be great to work with. I set off on a very positive note.
The first week was a bit slow. It gave me a chance to settle down without having to worry about my deliverables. My colleagues were all great. They offered to show me the different options I had for lunch, they advised me of the great places I should visit in Geneva. Also one of them was so sweet, he showed me the bus route that would be convenient for me from where I lived. Everyone was amazing. The first week we also celebrated a colleague’s birthday with pizza for lunch!! That was awesome! Shows how a small office is so well connected. There is always complimentary coffee, tea and swiss chocolates in the office if you need an energy booster.
I met my supervisor the following week and we completely connected. He was appointed a month back and is new to the organization. So we are both learning the ins and outs of the organization and Geneva in general.
He is pleased to have me on board for the summer and is determined to make sure I get the most out of this experience. For the initial two weeks, my task was to create a database of organizations that would be willing to fund our curriculum development work in low income countries. Another assignment which I found very interesting and links directly to the two courses that I took at PENN (Education in Developing Countries with Dr. Wagner and Monitoring and Evaluation with Dr. Thapa) was to understand tools developed by this organization to understand the gaps between the increase in enrollment rates with effective learning and create a draft prospectus for the newer version using systems approach. During this time there was a lot of information overload with words such as online functionality, multi modal input, Epistemic Network Analysis, Complex Adaptive System, etc. A lot of these I am still unclear on and taking them one step at a time! But I can safely say that I am learning a lot.
That’s it for now! I look forward to sharing more details about my work and adventures in Geneva once I have more clarity on my tasks for the upcoming weeks.