Here we are. After a whole semester of preparing and building up, the 2014 Global Perspective Program (GPP2014) cohort has arrived at our first destination: Zurich, Switzerland. Thus begin our wonderful journey to explore higher education in a global context. Our cohort had already made some interesting initial observation about Zurich, Switzerland, and perhaps Europe. The prevalence and convenience of public transport is definitely one of the first thing we noticed. Some of us also observed that the city seems to be quieter in comparison to other US cities of similar scale. Most of us were shell shocked at how expensive everything was; a regular beer at a bar can cost 10 CHF (about 11 USD)! Combined that with a decent dinner, a couple bar hop with a beer or two at each location, let’s just say that our initial estimate of the amount of cash we would need was grossly inaccurate.
Some cultural differences are immediately obvious, while others can be quite subtle. We’ve already began to continue our discussion about the in-and-outs of Swiss higher education. We’ve noted that Swiss universities obtain most funding from the government (be it federal or cantonal), with maybe a small portion from other external sources. This is exactly the opposite situation in USA. Having a steady supply of funding from a reliable source enables Swiss universities a very different paradigm in how they conduct research work. For example, research activity might be much less publication driven. This may lead to a vastly different graduate education experience. As our fellow GPP member Katy noted, the workload of a Swiss doctoral student can be less demanding when comparing to some US doctoral students, where they might be expected by their advisors to produced 4 to 5 refereed publication by the end of their graduate education career.
We end the night with some casual conversations and amazing food and drinks. Not contended to just have fondue or raclette, WE HAD BOTH. The amount of cheese I consumed is probably not healthy to even THINK about, but it brought me great joy, so I have to believe it was all worth it? IT WAS ALL WORTH IT. Of course, after that came dessert. Glorious dessert.
Tomorrow we will explore and learn about University of Zurich as well as ETH Zurich. Two vastly different institution but in very close proximity. Both, incidentally claim Einstein as their own.