Why Geneva? A personal story about life in Geneva as a foreigner
By Ms. Maria Fernanda Martinez Gutierrez, Marketing Communications Intern @GSD
Quite often people have asked me why I chose to come to Geneva. Without any hesitation I must admit that this is a question that is not easy to answer due to the fact that it has multiple nuances. Why would you leave your country, your family or your friends for a faraway destination such as Geneva?
Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I come from Colombia which is a country situated in the northwest of South America, to be more precise I come from Bogota which is a city that against all expectations is not warm, in fact, it’s the opposite, it’s a cold city that finds itself surrounded by the eastern hills of the Andes mountains and which altitude is about 2.640 meters. This is a fun fact because in Colombia we always joke about the altitude by saying that we are so much closer to the stars and even in international flights, as you’re landing it’s quite common to hear the pilot say “We are in Bogota, 2.640 meters closer to the stars”.
About me, I was raised by a very Colombian family, by a mother that was born in Valledupar, situated in the coast of Colombia and by a father born in Ibague, situated in the Andean region. To my parents I owe everything, my education and the love for my roots and culture. Leaving Colombia was neither easy neither hard, you see, I have always been an adventurer, I love the rush you get when you are in a new place, getting to know new people and experiencing everything for the first time. Nevertheless, this was a different kind of trip, I left Colombia to be able to accomplish one of my dreams which is to graduate from my master degree. I am currently a Master’s student of Multilingual Communication Technology at the UNIGE , but returning to our original question, why Geneva?
What I knew about Geneva before I came was what usually everybody knows, that Geneva is an international city since you can find most international organizations here. Nonetheless, what I found was beyond my dreams, Geneva is not only extremely beautiful on an architectural level, it is also quite rich in its culture, I won’t ever forget my first fondue or my first rösti or even my first raclette, the gastronomy is amazing.
Moreover, it was really interesting to be part of a new culture, I remember the first time I witnessed “la fête de l’escalade” where you find yourself surrounded by cauldrons made of chocolate (heaven, right?). This is one of my favorite festivals during the winter, and the reason behind the chocolate cauldrons is really interesting, it turns out
that as the Duke of Savoy’s army tried to surprise-attack Geneva, a lady called Catherine Cheynel was “cooking a soup, and was lucky enough to notice the attackers approaching from below and poured a large cauldron of hot soup on them while they were climbing on the walls. The noise awakened the entire city and its militia successfully defended Geneva from the ‘Duke of Savoy’ army” (Geneva info, 2014) and voilà, there we have it, the reason behind the cauldrons.
Overall, living in Geneva has been an amazing experience but, not everything in the garden is rosy, I have had my share of difficult moments and regarding my experience as a foreign student, I must say that it has been incredible challenging. Studying in Geneva requires you to be really precise and to be as perfect as possible, which at first sight seems quite scary and tough but once you get the hang of it, there is so much you can learn as a person and as a professional. I think in my case, it was particularly arduous because I missed my family and my friends back in Colombia, but fortunately I had the chance to meet wonderful people in Geneva that became close friends and almost like a family to me, and you know what they say, that friends are the family you choose.
Nowadays, I look back and I don’t know what would I possibly have done without the help, love and support from my friends.
Finally, if I had to choose a word that defines my experience in Geneva, that word would be “opportunity”. Indeed, there was a cost of opportunity when I came here because I had to give up everything that I knew and that once felt familiar to me, but at the same time starting a new life in Geneva has been an opportunity to grow as a person and as a professional, an opportunity to seek my dreams and to be able to be surrounded by all these international influence. If I had to put this experience in a scale, I am sure all the good moments would outweigh the bad ones. All in all, I feel so grateful that I have got the chance to meet wonderful people from the most diverse backgrounds whom have shared their vision of the world with me.
I encourage everyone to go and study abroad and to follow your dreams, because it will create new and exciting opportunities for sure!