Jun 16 2011

Study Abroad Thus Far

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My name is George Weber (friends call me Dane) and I have been in Europe since May 30/31st for Widener Law’s study abroad in Lausanne. This is my first time blogging.

As I have not posted until now i have a lot to share. I have been keeping a journal since the start of my journey for the purpose of blogging. Here is my journey so far:

May 30/31:

Today/yesterday we took off from Washington/Dulles to London-Heathrow. The plane ride wasn’t bad – although I didn’t get much sleep. I watched “Little Fockers” which was funny but predictable. A few of us flew together. Rebekka, Nina, and Jolee from the Harrisburg program were on my plane. My girlfriend, who decided to come along for a week, had to take a separate plane that actually arrived earlier than mine. Tarin, another person from my program, left from New Jersey and arrived about an hour after we did.

Since none of us got much sleep on the plane we got some food and something that resembled coffee and set off to find out hostle. The hostle was cramped but nice. After about an hour, and getting off on the wrong stop on the tube, we arrived. Some people decided to take naps but myself and a few others decided to truck through. We found info on day passes into London proper and went back to wake everyone up and went into London.

London was very pretty. We got tickets to the London eye, where you can see pretty much the entire city and spotted some places that we would like to go. After this we crossed the river and saw Big Ben/Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Both buildings were closed today so we are going to try to come back tomorrow.

After that we walked to Buckingham Palace through the gardens. When we got there we were able to see the famous palace guards do a timed march (I think they do it on the hour every hour) that was quite something. It was a bit different than I imagined because I always thought that people could get up close to the guards and pose in photographs – something that I was looking forward to doing even though it is quite “touristy” of me. I was also surprised to see the ceremonial guards to be carrying assault rifles. Again, a misconception on my part but I though they held ceremonial rifles but is seems that they are a fully integrated security component to the palace.

After we saw Buckingham Palace we were tired so we came back to the hostle and called it a night – a good call considering we have all been up for nearly 48 hours.

June 1:

Today we went to the Towe of London which used to be the seat of the English Monarchy in the past. There are several museaums on the grounds which take you through the tower and give you a quick lesson on the history of the tower and of the Englich Monarchy – which I find very interesting. Also housed here are the Crown Jewels of the British Empire. I was not able to get any pictures because they are prohibited and they were watching everyone very closely.

From the Tower we went back to Westminster Abby. Today we went inside. I am very glad we did because it was very impressive. In some ways the building was more impressive than some of the churches, cathedrals, and basilicas in Rome – although it is very different from those buildings so it is not a very good comparison. Sufficed to say this is something that everyone should do while in London – make it a priority for sure. While we were in the Abby, we saw the British tomb of the unknown soldier where President Obama had left a wreath just a week before.

Today we rounded out our day by going to Pickadilly Circuis and eating at a very signature English resturant and English pubs – also a necessary experience in my opinion.

June 2:

Today was not a very interesting day. We checked out of our hotel at 12 p.m. and caught a train to Paris. When we arrived in Paris we had to separate, however, because we could not all get a hotel in the same place. To make matters worse, the internet in our hotel was down tonight so we were not able to get in touch with our other group members – hopefully we will be able to get in touch with them tomorrow.

On a positive note I can see the Eiffel Tower from my hotel.

June 3:

We made contract with our group on the other side of town and were able to meet up at the Louvre. Since the Louvre is pretty expensive, 26 Euros to get in — unless you are under 26 and go in after 6 p.m., which pretty much settled the matter.

We walked the main road from the Louvre to the Arch de Triumph. On the way we ate and did some shopping. It was a good thing too because the walk from the Louvre to the Arch is…well it is a long walk. When we go to the Arch we went on top. There is a spectacular view of Paris from the top. This is a must – you can see the Eiffel Tower and many other main attractions from the top of the Arch.

Later in the day we walked back to the Louvre. Our group split up here. My girlfriend and I went to see the Mona Lisa, the Louvre castle ruins (which are really cool – you go through the dungeon!!!), and Napolean’s apartments.

Since it was a pretty long day we decided to go back to the hotel and walk to see the Eiffel Tower. I am sorry to say that we did not have the greatest of experiecnes there. We were sitting down and chatting (which apparently is the thing to do at night as there were probably hundreds of people there) when two teenagers (I think they were teenagers anyway) came up to us and asked us for cigaretts. When we said we did not have any they proceeded to try to take some drinks that we had with us (non-alcoholic drinks). The situation got heated but eventually we just left and everyone was fine. On the bright side of things, the Eiffel Tower was very beautifully lit at night – it sort of glows and actually sparkles at midnight.

June 4:

Today my girlfriend and I went to the Invalid, where Napolean’s tomb is located. The Invalid Palace is very pretty. There is a small chapel where the tombs of several famous French persons are burried. There is also a Frendh Military museum and an Medieval armor exhibit. Napolean’s towb (as you would expect from someone with a height issue) is burried in a huge tomb – one that could probably hold hundreds of Napoleans. It is in the center of the Chappel in the crypt which is visible from the main floor. His tomb is actually the center piece of the chapel. What a grand monument for such a little guy!!

After we visited the Invalid we went to Mommarte, a small village on the top of a hill overlooking the entire city. This is definitely something that everyone visiting Paris should experience. There are local painters and local shops with authentic souvenirs that everyone should have before leaving Paris.

After Mommarte, as always we were very tired so we went back to our hotel and met up with Nina and Tarin. from there we went to probably the best crepery that I have ever been to. I actually don’t like crepes normally but these were delicious – probably because they were authentic Parisian French crepes. Bottom line: get crepes when you are in France.

June 5:

Today was a travel day. Did homework on the train for my summer classes in International Investment Law and Comparative Bioethics. I am really looking forward to my international law classes because I would love to work on the international stage with legal affairs.

We arrived in Lausanne very tired from travel. Finding the dorms was not hard but the room is small and the bed hardly fits me. Oh well, I will sleep when I get back to the States.

June 6:

Today we had our first classes and a reception/orientation.

We toured the University of Lausanne campus and went down to the lake – - – what a view! The mountains surrounding Lake Geneva a very stunnding.

The classes today were very interesting. I think that I am going to really like International Investment because it has to do with treaties. Comparative Bioethics seems very nice as well because of the many approaches to the field in different cultures.

June 7:

Second day of classes today. We got more in depth with the material. The readings for the classes are very time consuming. As a law student I am used to this but I expected the reading to be more on the light side for the summer program. Oh well, less sleep for me I suppose – It is just the life of a law student.

June 8:

Today was a normal day in class I suppose. The Bioethics class seems like it could sturr a lot of debate – ahtought everyone seems to be pretty level headed as of now.

We did not do much after class today.

June 9:

Today I had to take my girlfriend back to Geneva for her flight back to the States. This meant that I had to get up at 6 a.m. I ended up being 15 minutes late to class. Luckily the trains run on time here because it could have been a complete disaster if I missed class all together. Today was our last day in Internaitonal Investment – tomorrow is the quiz – I am not exactly sure how one tests on one week of school work so this should be interesting.

A bunch of us went to Ouchy in Souther Lausanne today after class. We walked around and scoped out prices for renting a boat – which we all agreed we would do next week. We also went to a “beach.” I say “beach” because it was about 100 feet wide and had no sand at all. We stayed there for a while before heading back to the dorms to get ready for our final that we have tomorrow and do homework for Bioethics as well.

June 10:

Today was our final exam in International Investment – this was not an easy exam. Apparently, contrary to what I thought, there is quite a lot that can be tested on for a week’s worth of classes.

After class a buch of the group left for Venice. Tarin and I tried to get last minute tickets to Barcellona but there were none available so we decided to stay on Lake Geneva this weekend and do Munich and Barcellona next break.

Today we wandered Lausanne which, contrary to what I originally thought, has a really big market/shopping district in the old town. It was very nice. We saw the old Notre Dame Cathedral and the town hall. We also discovered that the metro stops on our local line are not far apart from each other. In fact, we walked straight from one to the lower end of town witout realizing it. BUT, going up hill is not easy without the metro – so thankfully there is one or life here would be tough – although I do enjoy all the walking that I have been doing.

Tomorrow: Evion and Vevey!

June 11:

Today Tarin and I bought a two day (5 day discounted) pass for ferry rides and regional trains for 100 CHF. I think we probably got out money’s worth today alone.

Today we went to Evion, France, which is right across the lake from Lausanne. The town was nice but not alltogether that impressive. To get there, we took the ferry. On board we met a New Zealand woman who was a massage therapist going to work with the bike maraton that was starting in Evion. She had been backpacking in western Europe for some time and this was the “hard” part of her trip. In Evion, there was information on self guided tours around the “city” itself but generally there was only a small shopping district that made the trip worth while. This shopping district had a shop where I found the only French decorated German stein (the ones with the decoration on the ouside and the metal caps) so I bought one. Collecting these steins has been a hobby of mine when I travel. My goal is to get one from every country that I visit in Europe. So far, the only country where I have been wholly unable to find one is Great Britain.

We left Evion with a lot of time left in the day. Because of this, we took the train from Lausanne to Vevey in the hopes of finding the wine train. We were unsuccessful in this because we arrived arround 7:00 p.m. so we decided to explore Vevey instead. The town was very nice with great views of the Alps (better than the view from Lausanne for sure). We walked around the lake-front and met some young German Swiss (or at least I think that is the way that you refer to the native German speakers of Switzerland). We talked to them for a while and they gave us great advice on what to do – they said that Interlachen was nice if we could make the trip and that exploring the lake Geneva region was very rewarding. They also gave us advice on which Swiss watch to buy. Apparently Swatch watches are on the lower scale of Swiss watches but “last forever” so I think I will probably make that one of my purchases while I am here. They also gave us information on how to catch the train – the trick is that you have to take the regional train to Vevey and then take the “local train” to get to the wine train – good to know for tomorrow.

After a while of walking around and popping in and out of the local establishments we went home to go to sleep – the overarching trend here is that travel in the Lake Geneva region is brutal (it must be all of the hills).

June 12:

Today we decided to go to Yvorre instead of on the wine train because some of the information that we collected in Evion yesterday seemed to indicate that there is a medieval town in Yvorre. Boy were they right, and what a town!

We took the verry via Nyon (which was a much shorter ride than to Evion) and immediately after docking you see a very well preserved medieval town unfold before you. There was not much information on the actual history of the town that I found but there was a great garden that appealed to all five of the human senses. This is definitely recommended. After the garden there is a shopping district where you can buy local French goods (some made right in the shop in front of you!).

After getting some gelato and waiting an insanely long time for the ferry to arrive (thus causing a severe farmers tan and somewhat or a sunburn) we took the ferry back to Nyon, explored for a bit, then took the train to Montreaux. Montreaux is a cool town as well. There was a festival of some sort going on when I got there where they were selling all sorts of ethnic foods which we sampled and of which some were very tasty.We also learned that the song “Smoke on the Water” is written about the city of Montreaux itself. After taking in the view we headed back home to get some rest so that we could wake up early and catch the wine train.

June 13:

Today Tarin and I took the wine train through the many vineyards on the hillside to the North of Lake Geneva. The station stops that we took I cannot remember as Tarin had planed the whole trip. The wine train was nice because of the great views that it offered of Lake Geneva and the Alps but there was not any wine to taste on the tour itself except for on two days out the year – June 11 and 12 (yesterday and the day before!!!!!). Oh well. We did get a good recommendatoin from a local in the wine area that the wine cellars near the train station offer tastings (be careful because the tastings of the wine is not free (or cheap for that matter). I did buy two bottels, one red, and one white.

After this we were very tired so we decided to do out homework for the class tomorrow and to get some rest for the week. Tomorrow we have a new class to replace International Investment – International and Comparative Health Law – sould be interestering as I already find great interest in Bioethics.

June 14:

Today we had our first International and Comparative Health law. The teacher made me sit up front (along with everyone else that walked in), probably because we walked in late due to missing the tain earler. The front row is useless for me as I feel anxious and unable to function – but I suppose the same is true for all law school classes no matter where you sit.

Our new teacher seems very nice and knowledgeable about the subject and Profesor Goldberg is always a delight.

After class Kristin, Brittney, Tarin, Nina, and I rented a boat and took it out on Lake Geneva (rented from a business near the Ouchy metro stop) for two hours. While out there we swam in the lake, the girls sun bathed, and I had a blast just being at the helm. Before we went into shore we took pictures with my under water camera of us swimming in the lake (which is absolutely freezing by the way) and went in to shore.

This has been my trip up until June 14. I under stand that there was a problem with this post as I tried to post this on June 14th but when I checked it today there was only the portion of the text of this blog that had existed when I saved what I was writing on June 10 – my apologies for this. I will try to post every two or three days from now on to avoid any sort of problems associated with posting.

I will post from June 15 – 17 later in the day on June 17.

Thank you and I hope you enjoy what I have shared.

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Jul 07 2010

Striking a balance

And so we arrive at our last day in Lausanne. The past four weeks have been a whirlwind of culture, classroom, and once in a lifetime opportunities.

For most, today signifies the return to reality while for others, it’s the beginning of an extra couple of weeks around Europe. For all, it means saying “au revoir” to new friends and the end of an unforgettable time in Lausanne. Having been abroad for only a month, it’s odd considering that we’ll all soon be leaving our new “home” for our “real” homes back in the States.

On our last day of class, Professor Ritter asked each of us how studying abroad had impacted not only our personal, but also legal perspective. It was an easy question, but I found it to be increasingly complex after my multiple attempts at formulating a cohesive answer.  In truth, I had no idea how to quantify with precision how my study abroad experience had effected my overall outlook. Of course there were generic answers such as “it opened my eyes to new legal careers” and “I met tons of new people” and while I found those to be true, I didn’t feel as though they sufficiently described my experience while here.  It wasn’t just academic growth, but also personal. So yes, I was introduced to new legal careers, perspectives and opportunities, but I also was thrown into situations outside my comfort zone which spurned personal growth and realization. Personal and legal growth are not mutually exclusive – each are equally as important to a successful legal career. Perhaps this is the whole point of law school – balancing. A successful lawyer isn’t one who just knows the law, but is also able to strike a balance between those competing interests. I think my study abroad experiences reflects this simple, yet sometimes overlooked concept. It WAS the point gain new legal perspectives while abroad, but it was also a time to foster personal growth as well.

In response to Professor Ritter’s question, I don’t think its about choosing what I have gained from the trip. It’s not about whether the classroom interaction or the social perspective takes precedence. It’s a combination of both. Education takes place outside and inside the classroom. The opportunities are not mutually exclusive, and I think that’s the more valuable lesson to take from this experience.

Photo courtesy of A. Grundman

Photo courtesy of A. Grundman

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Jun 28 2010

Wanderlust

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It’s our last week of classes already – What?? Where have the past three weeks gone? We have spent the greater part of the month experiencing so many new and exciting opportunities. Now that the our program is coming to end, I feel it appropriate to write today’s blog in photo format commemorating our last 4 day weekend.

Kelly and I traveled around Switzerland this weekend.

Our first stop, Lucerne:

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A 2 hour train ride from Lausanne, Lucerne is centrally located and a prime tourist destination.

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It’s a city filled with a unique history and culture…

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… and bridges.


… with boats silhouetted against the Swiss Alps.

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… and commemorations of fallen heroes.

We finished our weekend in Interlaken:


The Swiss Alps can be seen from every direction and in perfect clarity.


Our morning was spent traversing rope courses hidden in the forest…


.. trying not to fall.


.. but sometimes, we just hung around.


Our final destination = paragliding


To do so, we had to run off “a grassy knoll.” By American standards, it was a small mountain.


.. but completely worth the view.


.. even from above.


And we survived without incident, thanks to some very skillful instructors.

Our first week we were warned to not have an “American” school of thought for traveling. This is the term for travelers trying to pack sightseeing Europe into one easy weekend package or unrealistically believing that it can be successfully done. Although Switzerland is a efficient springboard for traveling to more prominent European cities, I’m glad we abandoned our initial plans to visit Venice in favor of traveling across Switzerland. I am guilty of having the American school of thought, but I now consider myself a born again traveler.

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Jun 22 2010

Hey, Paris. It’s been real.

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To quote Professor Jules Epstein writing for Widener’s Nairobi blog: “We learn (not too rigorously, but certainly richly) as we travel.”

This weekend, most of the group traveled to Paris for the long weekend. It required us to step outside our familiar Lausanne and orient ourselves with a new and entirely foreign city. It’s remarkable how quickly one begins to associate environments with comfort; perhaps even stranger what triggers that realization.  As much as I enjoyed performing the 3 day whirlwind tour of Paris (Versaille, Tour d’Eiffel, Louvre, etc.), I found myself missing my little French canton of Switzerland.  However, this is certainly not to say that Paris was not an amazing experience. Put simply, Paris is “a different animal.”

Courtesy of RAQ

Courtesy of RAQ

We arrived Friday afternoon and immediately ventured to Versailles. The next day, we woke up early and headed to the Louvre in an effort to escape the crowds. Although Nicholas Cage is able to fully traverse its innards in the span of 20 minutes (think Da Vinci Code), it’s certainly not the case in real life. We contained our visit to specific points of interest and left relatively unscathed by the crowds. Our trip concluded by a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps the best advice we received is to purchase our tickets in advance. By doing so, we were able to bypass a large portion of the crowd.  The view was incredible. Although the crowds we were able to successfully avoid the entire weekend came into full force, Paris lay before us as far as the eye can see. The view from the top was a welcome reprieve from the bustling streets below. While many have tried (as I attempt to do so now) to describe Paris from a birds eye view, I’m certain even the most artful explanation cannot do it justice.

We resumed classes on Monday – instead of returning to the classroom, we were graciously allowed to observe a case at the Palais de Justice. It was certainly a tangible example of the various (and often amorphous) legal systems we have been

Courtesy of RAQ

Courtesy of RAQ

scrutinizing for the past two weeks. The Swiss legal scheme is based upon an inquisitorial system – involving active court participation in investigation and the actual trial.  The proceedings were carried out by a three judge panel. In lieu of a prosecutor (who is present only for more serious offenses), the “professional” judge conducts witness examination with the “non-professional” judges having the ability to ask questions whenever appropriate.  The defendant’s attorney was actually a “lawyer in training”; a practice I suppose comparable to Widener’s various legal clinics.  Following the trial, we were afforded a question and answer period, with the discussion centering mainly around a comparative analysis of the US and Swiss legal systems.  Each judge was gracious in their response and more than willing to explain the legal reasoning that is not transparent to a foreign   It was revealed that Switzerland will upheave their legal scheme to resemble an adversarial system. Many students were perplexed by this, myself included.

Today we begin a new class – WTO law. It will be interesting to see how the subject matter relates to the foundation laid by our previous courses. On another note, the World Cup pandemonium continues. With match play coming to a close, tensions between the various nationalities in Switzerland are becoming even more apparent. I liken it to the Phillies and Yankees relationship during the 2009 World Series. Should I be concerned? I’ll be sure to update if anything interesting happens; until then…

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Jun 17 2010

Wither? Wiedener?

Yesterday was spent in one of my new favorite cities in the entire world: Geneva – or Genève – Switzerland.  Situated where the Rhone River exits Lake Geneva, traveling around the city is like spending the day stuck inside a malfunctioning time machine – the historic buildings of old Geneva stand in stark contrast to the international hubs of the WHO, UN, and Palais de Nations. It’s humbling.

We all scrambled on to a 7:45 train from Lausanne to Geneva. Because our tickets were purchased in bulk, we were entitled to riding in the train car named especially for us:

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Arriving in Geneva at 8:20, we were able to make it to the World Health Organization in time for our 9 o’clock meeting. One of our first, perhaps most important, lesson is that when referring to the World Health Organization, it is never deemed “the WHO,” only “the W-H-O.” We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have three key speakers from the Essential Medicines department speak about their respective projects. Each had their own unique perspective and role, and it was fascinating to see the sheer impact of their work on the international community. We were even lucky enough to have our own room, assigned to the law students of “Wiedienr University.”

Even with the spelling error, it was a moving experience. Being able to learn from such figureheads in the Health Law field and actually become a part of the WHO, even if for a day, is a once in a lifetime experience.  I’m certainly looking forward to my research project with WHO following this trip.

After our visit , our initial plans for a boat ride were abandoned in favor of watching the Switzerland and Spain football game; as you can tell, this seems to be a common theme throughout our trip. Much to our surprise, Switzerland pulled out a 1-0 victory over the heavily favored Spanish team. Even without watching the game, seconds after stoppage stop it became patently obvious that the Swiss team won – car horns, air horns, screams, and yells could be heard from miles away. This is the same method of how I found out the Brazilian team won their match a few days earlier.

We ended our Geneva trip by indulging in some fondue. This has been one of our pivotal goals during our visit to Switzerland and after dinner, it was clearly obvious that it was worth the anticipation. First course included a traditional pot of cheese, complete with crusty french bread, cornichons (mini pickles), and pearl onions. Sighs of delight could be heard up and down the table. Our main courses diverged from steak tartare, spaghetti, salad, and traditional Swiss dishes. I may need to hire a big, burly ex-military type with a great resume and long brutal history of physical activity to whip me back into shape after this meal.

Anyways, I’m finally back in Lausanne.  Tomorrow, we head to Paris and once again t play he role of American tourists. I’m looking forward to experiencing new sights, but I can’t help but feel as though I’ll be missing my little home in Lausanne.

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Jun 13 2010

U-S-A, U-S-A

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It is Saturday, and I’m just returning from a full days worth of classes. Not only is it bizarre having class on the weekend, but even more so that it marks the completion of one class (International Investment Law) and the beginning of another (Comparative and International Health Law). Much to my surprise, the campus was filled with students, who I suppose, were attempting to cram some last minute studying before finals.

Yesterday the world cup began in South Africa. As you can imagine, the people of Lausanne have taken up the call of arms to cheer on the Swiss team to victory. For those who don’t wish to confine themselves to watching the game in their living room, city officials have erected a ginormous TV screen (picture drive-in movie screen size) along the Port D’Ouchy where avid football fans can watch the world cup games streaming live from South Africa. On our way into the city last night, we were dumbfounded by the amount of people gathered in front a screen. Collective cheers and shouts of outrage could be heard from blocks away:

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Photo courtesy of RAQ

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Photo courtesy of RAQ

Out of a probable several thousand people, we were clearly the minority of fans cheering for the United States. Regardless of what anyone can say about the Europeans, they sure are intense about their soccer. We were fortunate enough to be studying abroad during the world cup.

Today is the first day off from class. Kelly and I plan on exploring the St. Francois sector of Lausanne courtesy of several people we met through our travels. Andrew will be studying at the lake, and the weather is a brisk 66 degrees. Although classes begin again tomorrow, we’ll enjoy ourselves by immersing ourselves in the culture of this beautiful city.

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Jun 08 2010

Channeling my 5 year old self; first day jitters.

Yesterday marked the first day of classes.

Surprisingly, the commute getting to the Université de Lausanne (or dubbed, “UNIL”) was relatively painless. Although our explorations have consisted of traversing the Avenue de Rhodanie, we caught the bus heading in the opposite direction of our travels. Like all other Swiss transportation, it arrived promptly and dropped us off a mere three stops later. Even being in Switzerland for a good four days, I still am continually amazed by the efficiency of the transportation system. I fear I’m becoming spoiled.

We arrived at the University a mere 5 minute walk later. Despite the pictures I had googled prior to leaving for Switzerland, I was surprised to find a smaller campus than I imagined. I discovered later that the University had several campuses – this one specializing in law.

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The campus was fairly straightforward, consisting of three simple buildings. Even with my lack of directional sense, the building we were hunting to find was fairly obvious to locate. Perhaps most surprising was the overall capacity and design. Think of any major museum you’ve visited. Then, picture the gothic cathedrals you see in history books. That, combined with the atmosphere of a library resulted in a conglomeration of all the architecture I do not associate with any type of learning institution. And that’s not a bad thing. The classrooms were well marked, no twisty hallways, HIGH lofty ceilings which included an easily accessible cafeteria, library, and bookstore. For someone who gets lost without even trying, it was fantastic.

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Photo courtesy of RAQ

To be honest, I was not quite sure what to expect on the first day of classes. Although one professor from Widener would be teaching International Crim Law, it was unnerving trying to predict what our International Investment Law class would bring. It seemed to be a difficult subject with a UNIL professor who could not be located on ratemyprofessor.com. The reading assignment didn’t inspire much confidence either. Regardless of my interest in the subject, I was here to learn and learn I would. For the good or bad. However, despite my initial misgivings regarding the subject and language barrier, I found the classes to be surprisingly interesting, or at least, tolerable and not much unlike how I am taught at Widener. Perhaps the most distinguishable feature is the lack of socratic method being utilized. Whether this is by virtue of the subject or teaching style, I was thankful I would not be called on to provide answers to questions I was not entirely sure I could answer.

After class, some of us decided to partake in the Swiss version of happy hour. This entailed going to an “Americanized” bar in St. Francois. Now, of all of the cultural locations we could have visited, some may probably wonder why chose a locale that embraces a theme that we left back Stateside. The answer? I’m not entirely positive. As it it turns out, this was the beginning of the night’s festivities.

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Photo courtesy of RAQ

After leaving, we ventured to a bar serving reasonably priced meals. If the other could be compared to the dark, pub-like atmosphere of a hometown American bar, this one could easily be pegged as embracing the modernity and masculinity of a sports bar, complete with “stripper pole” and VIP section. After a reasonably priced meal and a couple of drinks, a game of pool commenced. Although initially uneventful, the peace was soon disturbed by one of the locals – a man apparently named Pierre. Now, as nonchalant I’d like to think I am, I was by no means prepared for Pierre’s attention; his enthusiasm beginning to become unnerving. The situation was not mollified by Andrew and Chris’s instigations. At any rate, we left the bar around 11, and caught the bus home afterwards.

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Jun 06 2010

Jet lag and lake sunsets

Greetings from beautiful Lausanne. Or perhaps, more appropriately, Bonjour!
THIS is what I woke up to this morning:

… A picturesque view of Lac Leman.
Our trip to reach see such a view began after arriving at the Geneva airport.  We (Andrew, Kelly, and myself) experienced relatively few difficulties traveling by air and were continually impressed by the language proficiency of most Europeans. This saved me from having to converse in my passable, yet systematic, french and any possible embarrassment that may have, and probably would have, ensued. Upon disembarking and retrieving our hefty amount of luggage (2 large bags and a book bag per person), we located the Geneva train station connected to the airport. Luckily, we were able to board a train traveling straight to Lausanne for about 25 CHF, leaving us roughly an additional 45 minutes of travel time. The train ride itself went smoothly and uneventful, minus the inconvenience and  struggle of heaving our luggage aboard.  However, once arriving in Lausanne, whatever confidence we had gained from successfully navigating ourself to Switzerland was swiftly lost.  The Lausanne train station was a mess, at least for bewildered tourists such as us. Thankfully, with the help of a Metro map and a friendly Swiss citizen, we were able to make our way to the appropriate subway line and board without any problem. Let me digress for a moment. As a student living in Philadelphia, I have little to zero expectations of any public transportation system. Imagine my reaction to find the trains arriving on-time, well maintained, and easily accessible from multiple points throughout the city… even with our months worth of luggage. I was floored. I assume such efficiency has yet to reach my part of the world, and I have a sinking suspicion that I will be thoroughly spoiled by the Swiss Transportation System when I head back stateside.

After traveling down the M2 line, we arrived on the road that would evidently, lead us to our dormitory. The first sight we see is a busy dock upon which happy people strolled, lunched, or laid down to sunbathe. To the left is a chateau with restaurants, shops, and “newsstands” lining the road way. Despite our best intentions, we could not control our cliche touristy reactions – gaping, pointing, “oohs and aahs” and whipping out our cameras at every opportunity.

Although we were clearly floored by the idyllic storybook beauty before us, we were exhausted from our travels. Although technically standing on Rhodanie (the road where our dorm was located), we had no idea which direction to take. After receiving the general indication by friendly citizens to head right, we set off, two suitcases in hand figuring that it would only be a couple blocks until we reached our destination. Definitely not the case. Many garbled french conversations, attempts to connect to GPS through our cells, and bewildered expressions later, we finally reached our destination.

We were here.  The delay, the long trek to the dormitory, the language barrier, our rumpled travel clothes, or jet lag mattered. We were in Lausanne at last. Given the time of year, it was hard to imagine that our dorms would be filled, but as soon as we arrived, we were greeted by many other students of various backgrounds – the primary communication being French. As someone who bases their french aptitude upon a couple semesters and a brief visit to its home country, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I retained.  By no means does this indicate I am able to carry on a conversation in French discussing the pros and cons of the current political atmosphere in Switzerland, but I knew enough  to fumble my way through conversations. In the same vein as my encounters with other Europeans on this trip, my hallmates all spoke english, both impressing and humbling me. Since that time, I’ve made a vow to improve my French while here.

After unpacking and passing out, the next day was spent exploring Lausanne. Apparently, although the region is itself called “Lausanne” we are actually in if not very close to the town of “Ouchy” (pronounced: Oh-shay).   Short of taking the metro into the actual town of Lausanne (a walk, bus, and metro ride away), most of the restaurants, shops, and grocery stores are to be found in Ouchy. This is also the same place where the metro deposited us on the first day in Lausanne and where we gaped and pointed like the tourists we were. Because we arrived last night, food became a top priority for all of us. Although the exchange rate is still favoring the dollar, it was surprising to discover the high costs of eating out – roughly 20-35 CHF per plate. Having no knowledge of any of the local cuisine, we ended up choosing a quaint, yet busy, Italian restaurant located on the main street of Lausanne. That’s how my love of Swiss gastronomy began. Andrew and Kelly both ordered pizza, which I’m told was delicious, and I was relegated to the best bowl of spaghetti of my life. The long walk back our dormitory seemed extremely appropriate after consuming such a heavy meal.

Kelly and I got up the next morning to run.  Although I’m not one to boast, I couldn’t help but post to my facebook wall our jogging path – right along the coastline of the lake. After we returned, all three of us headed to the beach so we could complete our assignments for our upcoming classes on Monday. Although we all put in a good faith effort, it was hard to concentrate when we were so busy absorbing the atmosphere:


BBQs, soccer games, sunbathers, joggers – it seemed like everyone in Lausanne was at the beach. After realizing the futility of attempting to study in such surroundings, we packed up and headed back to our rooms. With readings still left to complete for class and looking at the window while I write this blog, it’s hard for me to imagine attending school in such a glorious environment. I’m sure reality will set in when we begin classes on Monday.

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Jun 19 2009

Hiking above Montreux

Day Trip – Hiking Above Montreux to Les Rochers de Naye

http://www.swiss-riviera.com/naye/

Prof. Fichter Post: June 14, 2009

            This one can be done by a 60+ out-of-shape law professor, and offers several places for taking the easy way out. No special equipment is needed, but you will be grateful for a water bottle, a snack, a hat and something for wiping sweat, and you mother would want you to wear sunscreen. It gets steep enough so that your hands will be touching the ground more than once. In retrospect, bringing a map would have been smart. Here’s what I did, but I make no promises that this is the best way to do it:

I took the train to Montreux (less than $10 from where I live), passing some of the most beautiful vineyard country I have seen. From the train station in Montreux, I took another train up the mountain to Les Avants (I paid $14, but made the mistake of making it a round-trip ticket, as I ended up taking another train down from Les Rocher de Naye). Les Avants is a too-cute, picture-book Swiss mountain village, from which I headed to Jor by foot. All the directions are well-marked with pedestrian route signs that give you an estimate of the walking time. The road to Jor is paved but narrow, passing through woods and fields (think cows with cow-bells, alpine meadows with dozens of types of mountain flowers, and an occasional cuckoo calling in the distance).

From Jor, follow signs to Col de Jaman. You rise above the tree line, where you find a restaurant where you can stop for refreshments and to reconsider your folly. The path to Les Rochers de Naye takes you behind the restaurant and starts to climb. No more road. We’re not talking ropes and crampons here, but you will be grabbing rock before you get to the top at Col de Jaman. The steepest peak (the impossible looking thing to the right in the second picture on this page: http://www.wanderrouten.ch/jaman.htm) is optional, but definitely worth it. There is a trail, so it is not as hard as it looks in this picture. Your grandmother could do it, if she is in shape. Views of the whole stretch of Lac Leman and snow-capped mountains all around. Just ahead on the path, on the way to La Perche, people are hang-gliding on a good day. (Activity definitely not endorsed by Widener University School of Law.) At Jaman, two more options to take it easy: (i) another restaurant, and (ii) a cog train ($6) to Les Rochers de Naye. Or, you can keep walking.

At Les Roches de Naye, views of everything, reindeer, more refreshments, and a cog train all the way down to Montreux ($36).  You will have hiked for at least 4 hours by this time, so you may well want to take the easy way out here. Anyway, the train has more great views, including a good one of the famous Chateau de Chillon: http://www.chillon.ch/de/.

Rating:  I would do it again.

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Jun 18 2009

Getting Ready For the Geneva Program!

GENEVALausanne, Europe at Your Fingertips
Arguably the most beautiful city in Switzerland, Lausanne is also perfectly situated for travel throughout the rest of Europe. Our host, the venerable University of Lausanne, boasts views of both the Alps and Lake Geneva. Less than an hour away, Geneva will be a resource for both educational and recreational purposes.

An International City
Home to numerous international organizations such as the International Red Cross, the World Health Organization, and the World Trade Organization, Geneva is a center of global business. Chosen as the seat for the League of Nations in 1920, Geneva has maintained a reputation as a cosmopolitan city that welcomes people from all over the world.

Course Work
In conjunction with the Faculty of Law and Criminal Justice of the University of Lausanne, the program will offer four to six two-week courses, with which Widener Law students may earn up to six credits in all. (Please note that the courses offered may vary from year to year.) Courses are designed in a two-week format, each yielding one or two academic credits for Widener students. Students may enroll in courses for one or both of the two-week segments scheduled for Lausanne. If only one segment is chosen, students are free for other undertakings, including enrolling in Widener’s Venice program.

Other Information and Frequently Asked Questions
For more information about housing, or course materials, feel free to browse the site. If you have a specific question that you want answered, try the FAQ, and if you can’t find the answer to your question there, then please contact us. You can also download the student manual or find out how to keep up with the most up-to-date details about the Geneva Study Abroad Program through The West Education Network and your Westlaw homepage.

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