I had previously conducted cancer research over the summer on childhood brain tumors and I wanted to get further experience in cancer biology and the University of Geneva had a project in ovarian cancer I found particularly interesting. When I arrived in Switzerland just about everything surprised me. This was my first time in Europe and the little things surprised me, like how easy it was to go to other countries; in my first week I went from Geneva to France with a co-worker without any hassle.
While I was abroad I tried to travel as much as I could because it was so easy to jump from country to country. I ended up traveling to 8 countries as well as traveling around Switzerland quite a bit. I would have to say my favorite trip was to Stockholm, Sweden with my fellow EuroScholars after the mid-stay program in Helsinki. The weather the entire time was beautiful and we got to see the old city, visit the Nobel Prize museum and eat some fantastic food.
When I was leaving for Geneva, many friends and family kept commenting that it is an international city, and they were right! While I met a good amount of Swiss people while there, a majority of my friends I met through my flat-mates, who were Senegali, German and Chinese. I met someone from just about every continent. There were times at the dinner table where we were all chatting in English, but I was the only one for whom it was my primary language. It astounded me how almost everyone I met could speak at least one additional language.
My research abroad has already helped me immensely. While I was abroad, I applied to numerous graduate PhD programs in the US in the field of biomedical sciences/cancer biology. Once I returned I received interviews from almost all the schools I applied to and in the interviews the first question a majority of my interviewers asked was about my research and time in Switzerland. I have since accepted a position in the cancer biology program at the University of Pennsylvania and strongly believe it was in part due to my experience abroad that made me stand out from the competition.
My advice to anyone thinking about studying abroad would be to do it! It truly is an experience of a lifetime. I have met people from countries I never thought I would meet and have traveled to many countries. Being able to experience different cultures and learning about a different country is amazing. Switzerland is a very interesting place and pretty different from the US in its government and social structure being a country with a smaller population than that of New York City. Also since Switzerland has 4 national languages, it was fun to take the train and get off in a different part of the same country with everyone speaking a different language. Further recommendations for Switzerland: try the traditional food, its delicious! Especially a fondue, raclette and rosti. The chocolate is phenomenal as well!