Unfortunate Growing Pains
The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is an international organization with local chapters for most European Universities that plans heaps of events throughout the semester for exchange students. My first of these events was a clubbing night in downtown Lausanne the eve of the welcome event. As a nerdy Carnegie Mellon University engineer, this was predictably my first clubbing experience and I was not prepared for the chaos and noise. A few days before leaving for Switzerland I replaced my glasses with some stylish silver frames that gave me a sophisticated Euro aesthetic that just dripped intellectualism, and I was excited to rock them at the D-club. As I entered the grungy underground building I felt a nervous anticipation for the hedonistic fervor I would soon be a part of. Feeling the latin beats lift my feat from the ground, I joined the pressing crowd and danced the night away. During one particularly intense drop of the beat as I jumped to the rhythm I felt my glasses slip off my nose and tumble into the war-zone of spilt drinks and pounding feet. My gut dropped as I watched them fall and realized there was exactly zero chance of ever seeing those beautiful frames again. Reflecting on that moment, I think that those glasses being crushed by the feet of countless dancing youth symbolized my escape from an all-encompassing academic responsibility. From that night on I was to prioritize cultural exploration and friends over intellectual pursuits during my study abroad.
Welcome to your new International Family
Everyone told me I would have no trouble finding friends in my new EPFL community, and they couldn’t of been more right. I am certainly an introvert who can let loose given enough familiarity with those around me, but my shyness didn’t stop me from connecting with two fellow electrical engineering students during the welcome day event. During the Aperatif I mingled with the expected German, French, and Italian throngs and was impressed by a number of Canadians all from the University of Waterloo. After the meet and greet I watched the welcome ceremony with the two most interesting people I had just met, a practical Belgian lad and a life-loving Croatian girl (I just couldn’t settle for the ‘normal’ Europeans). These two wonderful people became my first friends at EPFL and tripled my international family in one fell swoop.
The First Week
I registered for 3 courses in French along with my French language class, and my self-taught abilities were put to the first real test during my first week. Fortunately, my Electrical Networks and Energy Conversion professors are very comprehensible, and I find the Italian accent actually makes the French easier to understand! I impressed myself with how much I understood in the first few lectures. It seems my 3 months of French podcast listening over the Summer has really paid off!The third class, a history of transport and energy in Switzerland, is both dull and very difficult to follow given its advanced humanities-based French vocabulary.