Skip to content

By Savita Potarazu

The Independent Study Project (ISP) is a characteristic element of SIT study abroad programs. During the last third of the semester here, students had the opportunity to conduct primary qualitative research on a topic of their choice. To me, this research period was the most rewarding aspect of my time abroad for a few reasons. Primarily, choosing my own topic, selecting and interviewing renowned experts, and having a flexible schedule to conduct this research were the most enabling elements. Given that this project serves as my senior capstone project, I also devoted a great deal of energy to having my topic be comprehensive and specific to my interdisciplinary interests. Because the specific program I pursued is based in the highly international arena of Geneva, I had the opportunity of interviewing experts who work at the United Nations, World Health Organization, the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, and many other highly esteemed institutions based in Switzerland. Making professional connections and building my network were two wonderful outcomes of this research. My favorite interview opportunity came up through a reference from my research advisor. For this one, I was able to travel to a beautiful town called Crans Montana in the middle of a Swiss valley. This was my first time conducting formal interviews for research purposes and I’m pretty sure I set high expectations for future research because of these amazing opportunities to explore. And while there are opportunities to conduct independent research back in the States, there was great balance of structure, guidance, and freedom during the ISP period, not to mention the centrality of expertise in Switzerland. All in all, the opportunities that have emerged this semester for both personal and career development were, at minimum, incredible. There were many challenges along the way including but not limited to non-response and balancing recreational time. Now that I’m on the other side and have presented my research to my peers and advisors, I have important lessons that I will be taking forward into my career as an aspiring physician.

By jkichton

And just like that 3.5 months flew by! Today I write this post in the post-apocalyptic danger zone that is known as my room. I am currently packing up all of my stuff because my program is officially over and tomorrow I leave for Italy! This post will be dedicated to how I spent my last days in Switzerland, a general reflection on the program, and how I am saying goodbye.

This past week has been crazy. On Wednesday one of my best friends in my program and I went to Zermatt, Switzerland to see the Matterhorn! The Matterhorn is Switzerland’s pride and joy. It’s one of the largest mountains in Europe and has many roller coasters named after it. It’s huge. Like. 14,692 ft. Crazy. Anyway, it only took a little more than three hours to get to Zermatt by train. On our way there we passed many a snowy scene in the Swiss countryside. My friend said that it looked as if we were riding through a black and white photograph because the snow contrasted with the darkness of the mountains and darkness of the farms. Once we got to Zermatt, a lovely and quaint mountain village, we walked around. Thank goodness all the shops were closed for their lunch break, or else we would have done some damage to our alredy suffering bank accounts. We then took the Gornergrat train up a mountain so that we could get a better view of the Matterhorn. Problem was, it was snowing! Like an actual blizzard. So we couldn’t see anything when we got up there, at 10,135 ft. It was just a sheet of white! Oh well, my friend had never seen snow before so we got to play in it.

...continue reading "Au Revoir, Suisse!"

By jkichton

The attacks in Paris on November 13th, 2014 leave me speechless. I remember sitting in my bed in Commugny, Switzerland when I got a CNN push notification about a shooting in Paris that left a handful of people either dead or injured. Immediately, I shared it with close friends in my program just in case they were there or they knew someone there. As news updates came and went and the number of killed increased and increased, I could not fathom the kinds of terror and horror that were spreading throughout the same city I had visited just two months ago.

...continue reading "The Paris Attacks"

By jkichton

Hi readers! This week’s post is written while I’m lounging my worries away in my Airbnb host’s guest bed in Wien (Vienna), Austria. I have done a lot of traveling since my last post and because of that I have learned a trick or two. This post will explain the best things to do in order to experience the place you’re traveling around. Auf Wiedersehen!

The first thing I tell people when they come to DC is to go to all of the monuments at night because 1) no tourists will be there to ruin your Instagram worthy picture and 2) they are so, so, so much BETTER at night. Same for monuments in Europe! This also holds true for buildings, and especially cathedrals or churches. Have you ever been to a cathedral at like 8:00pm? Many will not be open, but I had the pleasure of seeing St. Stephen’s on Halloween night and it was awe inspiring. It really brought out the age of the architecture, and the darker side of such a beautiful piece of history.

...continue reading "5 Travel Tips to Embrace the City You’re In"

By jkichton

This week’s blog post will be dedicated to my current thoughts on Switzerland. As I have now been here for a little more than two months, I definitely have a new perspective on it. I have been to Geneva, Bern, Zurich, and Basel; all of the major cities in Switzerland who all have their own idiosyncratic personalities. Additionally, I have written a ten page research paper on xenophobia in Switzerland which has also changed my views. So, this blog will serve as a reflection thus far.

...continue reading "Reflecting on Switzerland"

By jkichton

This week’s blog post will be dedicated to the oddities of the countries that I have spent the most time in thus far. Since there are many obvious differences between the US and Europe, I would like to now discuss the no-so-obvious differences.

...continue reading "Did you know…?"

By jkichton

I write this week’s blog post under two blankets and propped up against three pillows, slouched on my bed in my host mom’s house. This weekend was the first weekend in three weeks that I was actually home! It felt really weird…having no plans, lounging around, and wondering what I should do with my time. Additionally, when I went on Facebook, I saw several other people in my program had gone to the Swiss Alps, or to Italy for the weekend. I thought to myself, “Did I just waste, another weekend here? Should I have gone somewhere, even if it was just for a day trip? I need to make the most of my time here, right?!”

...continue reading ""FOMO" syndrome"

By jkichton

I am typing away at this blog post currently on a train coming home from Zurich, Switzerland. I was there because I had an interview in a nearby city, Baden, and decided, why not? The train ride is three hours long so I figured I should make the most of it. Earlier in the week I had another interview but this one was in Bern, Switzerland. Bern is only 2 hours away, and, if you were wondering, is the capital of Switzerland! Not Geneva. So this week I have finally visited the three main go-to cities in sweet lil’ Switz. The best thing was that I saw them alone and without any real plans. An important distinction, this blog post will be dedicated to the concept of traveling alone.

...continue reading "Where is the u with the two little dots in Microsoft Word?"

By jkichton

I write this post perched on my bed in Commugny, Switzerland with my host mom’s cat, Ronja, purring away by my side. I just returned from Paris three hours ago, and am completely and utterly exhausted. The “study trip” was the perfect length: one week. Just enough time to run around haphazardly doing most of the touristy things but it also allowed for some rest and relaxation. However, that said, I am still tired and wanting to hole up in my room for the next three days straight instead of go anywhere or talk to anyone. Traveling is hard! This post will be dedicated to my very confused and bewildered perception (and reflection) of Paris.

...continue reading "Breadth verses Depth"

I write this blog post on a high speed train headed from Paris to Brussels. The seats are completely pink or red velvet (with no discerning pattern) and I happen to be sitting in a four-seater which includes a table! I am also lucky because no one is sitting across from me and I can monopolize the available leg room. Muwhaha! However, literally 20 minutes ago while waiting for this train in Paris Nord Station, a bird pooped on my suitcase. I was inside too! Of all of the times I have been in huge train/bus stations where pigeons take safe haven during the winter and go to find a tasty snack, here, today, I was finally pooped on.

...continue reading "Luck."