2019 Summer Andrea Sarmiento External Programs SIT Study Abroad Switzerland

No Going Back Now: Studying Abroad in Geneva, Switzerland

Hello! Or should I say “Bonjour!”? My name is Andrea Sarmiento, and I am a rising senior studying Global Studies with a concentration in security, minors in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and Political Science, as well as a certificate in Spanish. This summer I have embarked on one of my biggest adventures yet: three weeks of solo traveling and six weeks of studying abroad in Geneva, Switzerland with students I have never met and in a continent I have never been in before. I remember the amount of nerves flowing through my body upon purchasing my plane tickets. I clicked on the “confirm” button and immediately questioned my decision to go abroad. Nine weeks total on the other side of the world is a very long time away from everything that is familiar to me. After my three weeks of solo travel, I was more than ready to make friends, deeper human connections, and to stay put in a location for more than three days. 

A group selfie with some of the other students in my external program.

Since my sophomore year, I would research different external programs and the schools/companies organizing these programs, which led me to write lists upon lists and compare the price, location, classes offered, etc. until I finally narrowed it down and decided on one. The School of International Training (SIT) offers a variety of locations and programs with numerous concentrations, but the one that I chose is called International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy. Having the ability to have briefings and visits at international organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Environment House was an aspect that I was highly attracted to and knew that I could not get those types of opportunities back in the United States. Additionally, during the program, each student stays with a host family, takes a French course and international studies class, and conducts an independent research project on a topic of our choice. 

The view from my classroom overseeing mountains in France.

I had received an email from my homestay a few days before arriving in Geneva and that alone made me very excited. My host mom began the email by stating that she was much better at speaking English than writing it, and for a non-French speaker, that was good enough for me. My host mom, otherwise known as Catherine, is a retired Swiss woman with a son who is in his 30s. In her email, she had sent pictures of the apartment which looked very clean and had a lovely view in her backyard of the mountains. She mentioned that she also attends dance classes every week as a way for her to stay active. Immediately, I felt very attached to her and knew that we would get along well despite my slight wish that I would be staying with a host family that had pets or a young child to play with. And from that moment onward, I just thought of it as having another roommate except she is retired.

My hope for the end of these six weeks studying abroad is to be confident with my decision of switching from a Film major to Global Studies during my freshman year. I want to be excited and motivated to learn more about international politics this coming fall semester. I want to be able to look back at what I’ve done and feel justified for my last-minute decision to go abroad. I want to be so inspired from my time in Geneva that I have a small revelation about my future career path after years of feeling uncertain of what I want to do.

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