A swan swims in Lake Geneva during the sunset in May. Pepperdine offers the opportunity for students to travel abroad to numerous locations, such as Lausanne. Photos by Mary Elisabeth
A country filled with cheese and chocolate, what more could a person want? When walking around Lausanne, not a shop in sight fails to carry these delicacies along with the occasional cowbell and Swiss Army Knife.
Lausanne is a part of the eastern third of Switzerland that speaks French and houses the world headquarters of the Olympics. Every street you turn onto there are trams and taxis dashing to their next destination, and everyday there are people wandering around just like us abroad students, seeking something new to explore.
While away, it’s easy to forget that you’re there to study, and not just travel — and trust me, I forgot. Thankfully, the professors at the program made the classes and curriculum lively and engaging, while still remaining on track in the short six weeks we had.
One of the best parts of Lausanne is the fact that Lake Geneva is a 20-minute walk from Maison du Lac. Due to this and Lausanne’s warm summers, sailing is offered as a P.E. course. I was fortunate enough to set sail this summer along with eight other classmates, and let me tell you, what happened on that lake — will stay on that lake.
There were days where some of us were sea sick, or simply thought we were going to fly off the boat and into the water. At the end of the day, all of us bonded through our fear and created so many memories that we will never forget. Despite some challenges we faced, we overcame them as a class and experienced something we may have not had the chance to if we hadn’t decided to take sailing, or even get out there and apply to go abroad.
Between balancing time on Lake Geneva and weekend travel, going abroad is chaotic. There were times where we attempted to cut a 20-minute walk into a five-minute run from the house to the train station, hoping to make the last train — along with times where we had to sleep on the floor of the Geneva Airport until 4 a.m. to catch a flight.
However, these are the times I’m most grateful for. These are the times my classmates and I bonded the most — running and laughing through the streets of Lausanne knowing that everything we were experiencing, we were experiencing together. We knew we were not alone in this process and through these small, but sometimes plan-changing hiccups, we were learning and growing together.
Another great thing about Lausanne’s summer is the cities local fair. As we were about to take our finals and get ready to say goodbye to our new and short-lived home, the faculty gave us a night off. We walked down to the lakeside and acted like the kids we are — riding every attraction that creaked and shook, eating too much funnel cake and attempting to make every Swiss Franc count towards rigged games.
Lausanne’s central location made it easy to see the rest of Europe. We could travel to numerous countries in the blink of an eye, while not emptying our bank accounts.
In addition, Switzerland is home to many natural beauties, along with arguably one of the best things you can do while away there — paragliding.
Many were not originally set on the idea of jumping off a cliff and hoping they land safely, but Lausanne faculty told us from day one paragliding in Lauterbrunnen is a must.
Leaving my fear of heights on the mountain, I jumped and put all my trust in my guide and the tiny parachute attached to me. The whole experience happened a day before I had two major finals, and yet I felt at peace. I embraced every curve and every peak the mountains offered me. I simply was one with my surroundings, and I’m so glad to say my air forces have officially caught some air.
As our time came to an end, and our last minute studying on midnight trains paid off, we began to embrace each moment for what it had to offer. At the end of our banquet dinner, when there were only goodbyes left to offer, we gathered around the fire pits and danced as others played sweet melodies on their guitars.
It felt like a scene from a movie, where everything and everyone was just perfect. We all were a family — one unit that has now experienced many highs and lows together. I’m so thankful for the people I met within and outside of the program, as this was not just a time to travel and tick off some GEs. It instead was a time to truly step out of my comfort zone and come home with a life greater than the one I originally landed in the Geneva Airport with.
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Contact Mary Elisabeth via Instagram (@focalfield) or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org