Bringing Zurich to a close

Dear Friends!

Our semester in Zurich is slowly drawing to a close! Lea and I have exams this week and next week, and then I’m leaving next Saturday to go to Amsterdam for a few days, then Brussels, over to Aix-en-Provence, (visiting friends) and then back to Zurich for a couple more exams. I’ll be leaving Zurich for good on June 19th. This semester has gone by incredibly quickly! We are scrambling to find free evenings to invite over, for one last dinner, each of the friends we’ve made here. We will hopefully also have one last Deutsche Potluck!

Factory Planning

Yesterday, Lea and I had our first oral exam, together-Factory Planning! It was quite an experience, since in our engineering studies in Toronto we had only done written exams before. For this exam however, a group of 2-4 students complete it together. Each of the students randomly chose 4 questions written on small slips of paper, and the professor asked each student one by one to read a question aloud, and answer it. Often the questions were quite general, and after giving an overview of the topic, the professor asked us to delve deeper into one angle or another. These exams test quite different skills than a written exam, since it is not enough to know the right answer; one must also be able to not just coherently explain what one knows, but also have the ability to guess what answer the professor is looking for. The depth of knowledge has to be quite deep, since the professor may choose to press any question deeper as he pleases. Since we had the luck of being in a team of 2, i.e., only the 2 of us and the professor in the room, it was quite a fun and funny exam!

A similar electronic implant

I also have to finish my research project in the next couple weeks. I’m working on the Neue Walk project, a project involving several universities across Europe. It is quite fascinating research: the basic goal is to get paraplegics walking again. There are two main approaches: one is to regenerate the neuronal tissue, and the other is to bypass the problematic area of the spinal cord via an electronic implant. The lab I am with is working on the 2nd approach – I have spent the last couple weeks optimizing the printing of tiny electrode arrays, which are being implanted into rats and monkeys. The project looks very promising, based on the successful results with rats. Hopefully, in a few years, human studies will be successful too! This research has whetted my appetite for doing a PhD, but I have no idea yet in what area I would want to do it. There are so many things which interest me! From bioengineering to agriculture, from the progress of developing countries to psychology, from quantum physics to philosophy, there are so many topics which fascinate me, that it’s really difficult to choose!

Life on a boat

On a more mundane note: today we used our Swiss bank accounts for the first time! (Unfortunately, we have to close them when we leave Switzerland.) We made a transfer to the Croatian bank account of the company from whom we are renting a catamaran, for a fantastic sailing trip this summer! I got my Captain’s license 5 years ago, and each year since then, Lea and I invite the 16 most interesting, intelligent, enthusiastic-about-life students whom we meet during our travels, for one incredible week of sailing on the Mediterranean! One of the best things about sailing is that you can pull anchor one day, point to a place on the map, and spend the next night there! There is complete freedom, and thus we never come up with a strict itinerary, basing our trip rather on local advice and the wishes of the crew. We usually try to visit a variety of places, from wonderful snorkeling opportunities in natural reserves, to watching dolphins, to cliff diving, exploring Yugoslavia-era submarine caves, discovering little jewels of Mediterranean towns on the islands, Venetian castles etc..

We are going with students from 10 countries this year. It will be an incredibly interesting week, full of many fascinating debates about life! With this description of a couple of our plans for the summer, I sign off. I hope each of you reading these blogs have been a little inspired, have maybe realized how important it is to travel while you’re young and relatively care-free, and have become a little happier in your outlook on life! Der Friede seid mit euch!

Hanna

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