Leah Tran, Switzerland, Global & International Studies, University of Geneva – Spring + Summer Internship (Sociology & Global Studies)

  1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

My biggest fear about studying abroad was not meeting friends and being alone, but I made great friends who were in my program who I got along with because we had the same interests, career, and academic goals.

  1. What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

I wish I had looked more into all of the organizations in Geneva because there are hundreds if not thousands of organizations in Geneva. I wish I had packed a variety of clothes because I assumed Geneva was going to be cold but it got really warm in the spring and AC isn’t really a thing over there.

  1. What were your favorite classes abroad? How did they compare to UCSB?

I enjoyed most of the classes abroad for different reasons. My ultimate favorite class was Introduction to the Legal System of the WTO because my professor is a renowned legal counselor at the WTO. Another class that I enjoyed was the Introduction to International Institutional Law. In this class, I learned about the court decisions that shape the international organizations such as the UN. Another class I enjoyed was International Geneva because it gave me the chance to understand the history of the city I was living in, and helped me learn and understand and visit these international organizations.

  1. What is one of your best memories from abroad?

One of my best memories from abroad was that during my first month abroad, I was very stressed out from adapting and figuring out the logistics of being in Geneva. However, I was able to sign up for an event hosted by the Graduate Institute to see Angelina Jolie speak at the UN in honor of Sergio Vieira de Mello, a UN diplomat known for his humanitarian efforts who tragically died during a bombing of the UN office in Iraq.

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  1. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

My biggest challenge abroad was balancing school and traveling. What was nice about the University of Geneva was that we only had exams at the end of the term, which then allowed me to travel on the weekend for the first couple of months. However, when I acquired my internship, it was somewhat difficult to balance work and school, let alone travel. Since it was unfair to my internship if I took a couple Mondays or Fridays off, I had to cancel some of the trips I had booked in advance. I was able to travel again at the end of my program.

  1. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

My favorite part about Switzerland is that there is very much a work and relax balance since mental health is a big issue there. The majority of people were very career oriented and from my experiences, people show up to work on time, take an hour for lunch and never eat at their desks

  1. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.

I interned at the Immigration Centre for Migration Health and Development, which is a World Health Organization-affiliated NGO. I wrote a research paper commissioned by the Italian Ministry of Health and was allowed to publish my name on the paper. Aside from my work, I really enjoyed my internship because we had the opportunity to attend the World Health Assembly and because my boss was an incredible mentor who taught me so much through his experience leading the WHO’s study of breastfeeding and the impact of breast-milk substitutes on infant and maternal health. He was also commissioned to set up WHO Global Programme on AIDS and UN AIDS.

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  1. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

I miss Swiss chocolate the most since it was something I consumed almost every day. Swiss chocolate has ruined American chocolate for me. I also really miss raclette, which is a Swiss dish in which you scrape melted cheese onto potatoes and cornichons ( small pickles).

  1. How have you changed since your time abroad?

I’ve definitely become more independent since I’ve come back and have come to value my alone time more than before. I’ve become more aware of my surroundings and being more considerate of my surroundings. Because I lived in a cosmopolitan and urban city, I’ve become restless living in such a small and quiet city.

  1. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

Get out of your comfort zone and study abroad. You will learn so much about yourself and will mature, change and become independent. It will allow you to experience many different opportunities that are not available here in Santa Barbara.

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