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.

View of Lugano

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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