Saturday, July 22, 2017

Outdoor adventures

In addition to the many things to do independently or in small groups outside of the MOSAIC program, there are many activities that are included in the program fee that students are welcome to take part in. We had a private instructor teach us how to paddle board, a talented and skilled hiker take us on amazing hikes, and locals who showed us around in the many places we visited.

Paddle Boarding on Lake Lugano

Mountain views at Monte Tamaro
Sometimes we cheated to get to the top

Lugano's culinary culture

Lugano is a lovely city with very unique cuisine. Some of Lugano's most famous dishes are polenta, a corn-based porridge, risotto, an Italian specialty very popular in Lugano, raclette, a cheese that is melted and poured over vegetables, and gelato, which is served everywhere. I had never heard of polenta or raclette before I lived in Lugano. I had had gelato but not the endless variety that Lugano is famous for. I had tried risotto, but it tasted nothing like it does in Lugano, where it is served from a giant cheese wheel and topped with fresh parmesan. I tried these dishes many times in many different settings and was impressed every time. Here are some pictures of Lugano’s famous food: 
Trying raclette for the first time for class

Local cheese and bread

Gorgonzola Polenta - I was slightly afraid of the appearance until I tried it and fell in love

View of the Alps during lunchtime

Fresh fruit and vegetables at an outdoor market in Lugano

If gelato was the only thing in Lugano, I would still go back for the gelato...

Eating freshly-made cheese on a Swiss farm with the class after watching the owners take us through the entire cheese-making process

Beautiful restaurants on the shores of Lake Lugano

Best spot for risotto

Class trip to Geneva

For the Global Governance class, the class took a three-day trip to Geneva. We visited the UN and the ICRC museum, toured the city, tried food traditional to the region, slept in a Swiss University, took a train journey through the Italian, German, and French regions of Switzerland, and were given the option to return with the class or to go and explore for the long weekend that followed on our own. I was able to engage in everything I learned during the trip and the down-time for exploring taught me a lot about Geneva and the different regions of Switzerland. Here is a short picture tour of Geneva as I experienced it:

View of Geneva

Delicious cheese fondue with Casey, a classmate and friend

Flowers are everywhere in Geneva

The tiny streets of the city as the sun goes down

Captivating classes in Lugano

I studied two courses In Switzerland: one upper-level political science course called Home of Global Governance and one course on Swiss culture called Uniquely Swiss. These courses were both hands-on and experienced based in style, and I was impressed by how exciting it was to learn about both subjects as neither was entirely familiar to me. 

Home of Global Governance was taught by two professors who were both active experts in their field and had many ties to Switzerland and, more particularly, to the UN. The students in this class were lucky enough to take a specialized trip to Geneva to visit the UN and speak with people working on the logistics associated with the immigration crisis in Europe. We were also able to visit the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) museum. Both of these experiences were some of the most insightful and inspiring I have had in my educational career. 

Uniquely Swiss was taught by one professor but involved a wide range of guest speakers who helped us understand Swiss culture in ways I would never have imagined could be possible in a single month. We learned about sustainability on Swiss farms, business and effective management on factory tours with translators and business professionals, culinary diversity in a number of restaurants and classes in which we were able to prepare our own Swiss dishes, and so much more. I was so amazed to get such an in-depth glimpse into the complexities and rarities of Swiss culture. 

The network I became a part of also opened up opportunities in Switzerland for graduate school and inspired a great interest in pursuing higher education in Europe. There is so much more I could say on the topic of my education in Switzerland. For all of those who are interested in studying abroad, my educational experience would not be nearly what it is now if I had not taken these courses. Specialized courses like these, I later found, are so unique that they may be tailored for only one year in one location for only a single group of students. It seems that would make it irrelevant, but it was just the opposite. The knowledge I gained in Lugano taught me to be a much more active student and to constantly be inspired to learn about the present and changing conditions of the world. 

ICRC museum - crafted from paper by a POW

Speaking, interactive holograms at the ICRC museum

An amazing mural inside the UN

The UN

A breathtaking view of Geneva

Maryville University

Maryville University works alongside Columbia College to make the MOSAIC program in Lugano possible. For this reason, I interacted with the university staff and students extensively. Working with the people from Maryville was extremely helpful for my experience abroad. The administration was so actively involved in my experience that I was able to meet many of the staff members of the department in Lugano. An assistant professor, Linda Berry, for example helped me learn how to use the bus lines in Lugano. She also assisted me in making sure I was able to take the classes I would be happiest in. Many students from Maryville also take part in the MOSAIC program in Lugano. I shared an apartment with Becky Thompson, a teacher’s assistant who shared tons of useful information and guidance related to class excursions and personal trips out to Italy and to other parts of Switzerland. She also posted on the Lugano group’s Facebook page regularly with updates. It was great to have so much assistance in a foreign country where the native language is not English (it is Italian) and where things are very different from America.

Exploring the Alps with professors and fellow students

Touring nearby cities with Tom, a Maryville student and a lasting friend

On Lake Lugano

Along the shores of Lake Lugano

Choosing from the many beautiful restaurants along Lake Lugano

Class time on a boat

Getting to know the tough scouts of Switzerland with fellow study abroad students 

On a funicular up a tall mountain with students and professors

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Franklin University

Franklin University, the university that hosts the Mosaic study abroad program, was a lovely and fascinating part of my experience in Switzerland. The campus is high in elevation, so it overlooks Lake Lugano, it is spaced out over a large area with pleasant walkways and beautiful scenery in between the classrooms and housing, it is conveniently located within walking distance to the downtown area (about a 15-20 minute walk), and it is located along a line of metro stops and and bus stops.

Dining at Franklin University was completely different from other schools I have attended. In place of a cafeteria, the university has a small restaurant-like dining area called the grotto. It is a stunning spot to have meals at, the university makes excellent use of it with events like the 4th of July BBQ, and the staff members are very hospitable.

The housing in Lugano is simple but very well maintained and safe. My room was the perfect fit for me, with a big window and a view overlooking the mountains and all the necessary amenities (a large desk, a closet, a comfortable bed, and a cupboard). The apartment was relatively large as well, with 4 bathrooms in a six-bedroom apartment, a large kitchen and even larger communal spaces on both floors where we often had 10-20 people over, a small balcony upstairs we would often times watch storms from, and very quick and easy accessibility to both the classrooms, convenient stores, and nightlife.

View from student housing 

Studying at the park 

An outdoor class at the grotto - roughly 80% of class time is spent outdoors

The campus
An outdoor class on Swiss specialties (this is raclette) 

View of Lugano from my hammock

Friday, June 16, 2017

Lugano, Switzerland

Before arriving in Switzerland for the 2016 summer mosaic program, I had preconceptions about what it might be like. I knew what many people know of it's reputation - the snowy, mountainous landscape and wilderness of the Alps, the country's multicultural history, its notability for sustainability, and its neutrality. This reputation drew me to the I program. Upon arriving in Lugano, I found that my preconceptions had some bearing but that the country was much different than I expected. These differences were pleasant surprises that would teach me a lot about just how different life could be from that of American life ways.

After a much anticipated wait to depart for my first trip to Europe, I arrived in Switzerland just before the June start of the 2016 MOSAIC study abroad program. Though I had traveled to a few foreign countries previous to Switzerland, my first impression of the country was enveloped by culture shock. My preconceptions of Switzerland were much different from the way it actually is.

The first image that came to mind when I thought of Switzerland before my arrival were snow-capped mountaintops and wilderness. As I had originally enrolled in the program with the intention of taking a sustainability course, I had imagined I would be involved in a lot of hands-on work in the mountains. As it turned out, there really are breathtaking snow-capped mountains, and the Alps are awe-inspiring. However, I quickly discovered how much more topographically complex Switzerland's landscape is than I had anticipated when I arrived in a Swiss city with palm trees everywhere.

My first impression of Lugano included the Italian flare of southern Switzerland - the busy brick streets and alleyways between pastel-toned architecture that cuts creatively and sharply through a curvy, winding infrastructure that lines a stunning lake Lugano. Gelato stands and shops line the water, boats and paddle boarders move casually over the lake, and historical water fountains available to the public bring fresh water directly from the Alps to the city.

This initial impression of Lugano was only the beginning of a long line of discoveries that would surprise me about Swiss culture.

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