I have just completed my third year of chemistry having originally decided that a year abroad was not for me as it meant an extra year in order to graduate with a masters. However after talking to my friends who were going overseas about the challenges and experiences that faced them I became more interested in the idea. So I went and saw the exchange co-ordinator rather late in the year during exams. He was immediately enthusiastic and supportive, offering me a place in Siberia (which I wasn’t too sure about) closely followed by a university at Lausanne in Switzerland.
I took a while to consider as there were so many reasons why I shouldn’t go. Most of my friends are going to be in their last year and I already had a flat in Edinburgh sorted out. I was also still unsure if chemistry was the career for me and I didn’t even speak French!
Nevertheless, I decided it was a no brainer and these opportunities do not happen very often. Since making this decision I have become ever more excited about the opportunities, swiss chocolate and adventures that await me. I am especially eager to learn French fluently in Lausanne where it is the first language. I did it at school but was never very engaged by the teaching techniques at school, I think it will be far easier actually been surrounded by it.
I will be doing courses of my choice in the first semester which will not count to my overall grade and give me the opportunity to settle in without pressure. In the second semester I will begin a research project, which I am hoping to do in hydrogen fuel cells. This project would be looking at efficient ways to produce hydrogen. It is a fuel which is possibly the future solution to not only the energy crisis but also is a very clean fuel with only water produced as a by-product.
The university I am going to is called Ecole Polytechnique Federal Lausanne which is highly rated. So far all the arrangements for the exchange have been simple and easy with lots of assistance available from Edinburgh University. There are still issues to resolve such as accommodation which is very difficult to find in Lausanne, but EPFL are giving advice on this and I am not too worried yet. Finances are an issue, as Switzerland is very expensive, but the Erasmus grant will go to help a lot and helped made the scheme that much more attractive.
Overall so far I am impressed with the scheme. I know right now it is easy to romanticize and that there will certainly be lows to come as can be only expected with such new and different experiences, but I just can’t wait for what lies ahead!