By Geerija Aggarwal, Study Abroad
Laying on the sand, tanning by the lake, with a view of the Alps and ice cream in one hand; this was by far one of my best summers.
Over the last 19 years, I have lived in four countries in four different continents. Although difficult at times, it has been very rewarding and cultivating to move across the world. I identify any place that puts a roof above my head as home, but the opportunity of living in different places and immersing myself in different cultures has surely been nothing short of extraordinary. One experience that has been extremely enriching and has provided me with new world perspectives was moving to Geneva, Switzerland.
I was still in freshman year at Northeastern when my parents moved from South Africa to Switzerland. This wasn’t the first time we moved, but relocating to a new country and starting over again is always a challenge. Flying back to my new “home” in the summer of 2017, I was worried about not having friends. With no school, the chances of meeting people diminished even further. But Geneva’s prime location also had me excited about traveling to its neighboring countries.
As summer approached, I spent many days traveling around the country with friends and family that came to visit, and Switzerland lived up to every standard of beauty and culture for which it is known for. Yet while traveling around Switzerland, what I didn’t realize were the treasures that Geneva has stored in its own backyard.
The perfect temperature, incredible ambiance of festivities, and lots of good food and amazing people is what Geneva is all about in the summer. But along with the fun and the relaxed lifestyle, Geneva brings together different cultures in a way that no other city can.
Being such an international city, Geneva offers a much more diverse and international experience than most other European cities. The people here share an attitude to excel both professionally and personally. Additionally, the city has a long history of hosting various international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), making Geneva the hub of international peace and policymaking.
During the summer of 2017, I had the opportunity to attend and work at a conference with the International Labour Organization (ILO). The ILO is a UN organization that brings together 187 member states and deals with labor issues worldwide by establishing labor standards, social protection and work opportunities for all. There, I had the chance to meet and converse with delegates from several countries and to watch resolutions being debated.
The atmosphere I experienced over the summer inspired me to go back to Geneva – this time as a study abroad student at Webster University. As any study abroad student can vouch for, there is nothing like living in a place and truly experiencing the ins and outs of a city, and what’s a better place to do that than being in Geneva as an International Affairs student?
The beauty of Europe, as we already know, lies in its history, culture and languages. After toiling French for two years at high school, Geneva has offered me the perfect environment to work on my language skills simply by allowing me to immerse in the culture.
Students here also have the opportunity to exchange words with expats from over 120 countries. Attending UN conferences and getting involved with local and international NGOs are extremely easy. Not only does this allow one to develop their resume and gain a worldly perspective, it also becomes an everyday affair to be surrounded by people constantly working to achieve international goals.
With people from over 190 countries living in Geneva, the cultural aspect of the city is irreplaceable. Although the upscale expat lifestyle can be costly, the city teaches you to be humble and down to earth, as it brings together people of different race, ethnicities, and religions to a central yet small community of about 500,000 people. This has allowed Geneva to form a culture of its own that is truly unique and hard to find anywhere else in the world.
Having studied internationally for so long, I was always worried that I would never be able to find a place to truly call home, but Geneva’s cultural beauty, pace of life, and the inspiration it offers to the residents have truly been remarkable. As a Swiss resident, I can definitely say that Geneva has become my favorite place in the world over the past two months. It has allowed me to grow and continues to push me every single day, to appreciate the smaller things in life – and that is what makes Geneva the perfect home.