Work Hard & Be Nice to People

All of the GPP18 folks were reunited at the Switzerland Embassy in Washington, D.C., along with guests and GPP alumni. This event took place about two weeks after the majority of our group had returned back to the states. Some GPP18-ers even traveled directly from Europe after continuing personal travel once our group meeting had …

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Teacher Training

This trip broadened my knowledge about educational opportunities for working professionals. I am familiar with the practice of working during the day and attending evening classes. However, a different approach was presented at one of the institutions visited. Students can work four days a week and attend class one day a week.

Another interesting […]

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Where do we go from here?

As the 2018 session of the Global Perspectives Program comes to a close, I reflect on my experience. The basic feature of the universities which impressed me the most can be distilled into two basic ideas: respect and support. I intend no sharp dichoto…

The International Expedition: Reflections on Latin Culture

After settling in Zurich for a few days, we moved to Basel then Riva San Vitale. Moving from the predominantly german, french, then italian parts of Switzerland offered many insights. The most striking contrasts were found in Swiss-Italy.The train trip…

Sunday morning musings

Here are five thoughts from my brain: PolyMi was truly an incredible university. The campus had a very industrial feel, which was interesting considering they are equal parts engineering and design. I felt incredibly inspired by the Dean of the graduate school. He gets it. I was blown away by how much financial support PhD …

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Five universities down…

Four more to go? Let’s be real, I haven’t been quite in tune with the iteinary, so I really don’t know how many more institutions we have left to visit. But so far, in three days, we have visited the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, University of Basel, The Basel School or Design, and University …

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The Swiss Universities

The first days of GPP have been a whirlwind. We visited Uni Zurich, ETH, and the Uni of Basel. I’ll divide this post into observations about the universities followed by some personal remarks.

The most incredible feature of these world-class schools are there incredibly low fees and tuition. For example, the universitiy of Zurich charges €480 per semester, total. I know STEM majors at Virginia Tech who pay that much for textbooks. This allows students to pursue education without fear or massive debt. This creates opportunities for risk-taking insofar as students are free to study their passions. While this certainly enhances overall quality of life, it also allows for innovative research. Students can pursue grand ideas and test uncharted hypotheses. Their intellectual possiblilties are not constrained by compounding interest on their student-loans.

Another distinctive feature of the Swiss system is the specialization of the respective schools. The University of Basel does social sciences and humanities scholarship. It is the only school to clearly claim a philosophy faculty (department), for example. Likewise, only U Zurich has abstract STEM disciplines such as Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. The University of Swiss-Italy (Usi) applies these topics to human health and well-being.
I take this feature of the the Swiss system to be a mixed-blessing. On the one hand, it promotes specialization which concentrates the best minds in any given field together, at one university. It is no accident that U Zurich claims 21 Nobel Prize winners and 3 Fields Medalists. One the other hand, this method deprives whole regions and universities of entire disciplines. In effect, it is a hyper-siloing. Elite faculty in one uni do not have any need to be able to communicate their theoretical understanding to others. It deters interdisciplinary work. I speculate that some of the tangible benefits of the research being done in Switzerland are lost in this way. A mathematician may be doing cutting-edge work which could solve current problems,  but only 15 other people in the world can understand that work, much less apply it.

On a personal note, I arrived in Switzerland mentally scattered. Managing my own travels and business while traveling across three countries left me a bit burnt-out. Since starting the program I have lost my pants (don’t ask me how) and my cell-phone. In both cases, Swiss people were incredibly accommodating. I young man waited for 15 mins at the train station for me to return my phone. He refused money when I tried to offer it to him as a reward. After getting 8 hours of sleep, I am collecting myself. I dont intend to lose anything else. We are traveling to Strasbourg in France today. I won’t lose my passport!

The Swiss Universities

The first days of GPP have been a whirlwind. We visited Uni Zurich, ETH, and the Uni of Basel. I’ll divide this post into observations about the universities followed by some personal remarks.

The most incredible feature of these world-class schools are there incredibly low fees and tuition. For example, the universitiy of Zurich charges €480 per semester, total. I know STEM majors at Virginia Tech who pay that much for textbooks. This allows students to pursue education without fear or massive debt. This creates opportunities for risk-taking insofar as students are free to study their passions. While this certainly enhances overall quality of life, it also allows for innovative research. Students can pursue grand ideas and test uncharted hypotheses. Their intellectual possiblilties are not constrained by compounding interest on their student-loans.

Another distinctive feature of the Swiss system is the specialization of the respective schools. The University of Basel does social sciences and humanities scholarship. It is the only school to clearly claim a philosophy faculty (department), for example. Likewise, only U Zurich has abstract STEM disciplines such as Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. The University of Swiss-Italy (Usi) applies these topics to human health and well-being.
I take this feature of the the Swiss system to be a mixed-blessing. On the one hand, it promotes specialization which concentrates the best minds in any given field together, at one university. It is no accident that U Zurich claims 21 Nobel Prize winners and 3 Fields Medalists. One the other hand, this method deprives whole regions and universities of entire disciplines. In effect, it is a hyper-siloing. Elite faculty in one uni do not have any need to be able to communicate their theoretical understanding to others. It deters interdisciplinary work. I speculate that some of the tangible benefits of the research being done in Switzerland are lost in this way. A mathematician may be doing cutting-edge work which could solve current problems,  but only 15 other people in the world can understand that work, much less apply it.

On a personal note, I arrived in Switzerland mentally scattered. Managing my own travels and business while traveling across three countries left me a bit burnt-out. Since starting the program I have lost my pants (don’t ask me how) and my cell-phone. In both cases, Swiss people were incredibly accommodating. I young man waited for 15 mins at the train station for me to return my phone. He refused money when I tried to offer it to him as a reward. After getting 8 hours of sleep, I am collecting myself. I dont intend to lose anything else. We are traveling to Strasbourg in France today. I won’t lose my passport!

Arrival and Initial Impressions – Switzerland

Having arrived in Zurich two days ago, I made many observations pertaining to the universities in the city without a formal introduction to the university system. Public policy and city infrastructure are very conducive to a lively intellectual culture…