My marathon exchange

Publication date
Monday, 20 Mar 2017

My first month living in Zürich and studying at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) has been nothing short of incredible.

As a city, Zürich is absolutely stunning. I am fortunate to live at the ETH Hönggerberg campus which is perched on a mountain overlooking the city, surrounded by forest on either side. This makes it an ideal location to hike, run, play in the snow or spot deer and squirrels. From the campus we have a spectacular view across the city and the Lake of Zürich to the snow-capped mountains on the other side.

Zürich also has the best public transport system of any city I have ever been to—the Swiss are always on time! And the fact that the transport system is well connected to the rest of Switzerland and Europe has allowed me to tick a few things off my exchange bucket-list already. 

My first weekend on exchange took me to Stuttgart, Germany to see the birthplace of the car at the Mercedes Benz Factory and Museum and also to watch VfB Stuttgart football team play. I was fortunate enough to spend a weekend skiing in the Alps at Pizol on the Swiss-Liechtenstein border with some of my housemates and other exchange students where we rented a house right on the slopes that meant you could ski to the door. 

This past weekend I have just returned from Barcelona where I went to watch Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez, Iniesta and the rest of FC Barcelona play at the Camp Nou – something I had dreamed of doing for a long time. I was also able to take in Basilica Sagrada Familia and Basilica Santa Maria del Mar, along with La Rambla, the Picasso Museum and all the Tapas I could eat.

I was lucky to arrive to an awesome bunch of housemates who made me feel at home straight away. Zürich, and the ETH in particular, has a reputation as being extremely diverse and our house reflects that, with Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein, China, Indonesia and Australia represented between the seven members of the house.

This assortment of cultures living under one roof lends itself to an intense exchange of food, ideas and languages—although thankfully for me the official language of our household has been declared as English. There is also an organisation called the Erasmus Student Network which links exchange students across Zürich and the whole of Europe. They have a heap of events and trips every day of the week which also provides a great opportunity to meet other students from across the world who are abroad in Zürich for the semester.

My first day of class for the semester also coincided with my first ever time seeing snow falling. Walking to class with the ground covered in white powder is something I will never forget. 

For the first two weeks I was in Zürich I took an intensive German course along with other exchange students, which was a great opportunity to meet people who were also just here for the semester (including some Aussies!) and to start the process of learning German. 

Now that my semester is underway I have started a research project in the Peter Lab at the ETH Institute of Biochemistry. My research is looking at a drug called Diazaborine, which has potential as an antimicrobial and anti-tumour drug.

I am also taking a course in Clinical Neurosciences with the Medical Faculty at the University of Zürich. This has allowed me to get some hands-on experience with a range of diseases from Multiple Sclerosis to Dementia to Parkinson’s disease.

But it doesn’t end there.

Next month as my research ramps up, I will begin to increase my running training. I will run the Rhylauf half marathon in Oberriet, Switzerland before I head to France in early April for the Paris Marathon. 

For my run in Paris I am raising funds for Operation Smile Australia, an organisation which funds reconstructive facial surgeries for children across the world. You can follow my training and fundraising progress here

Thank you again for the Global Society Foundation’s generous support of my study abroad – here’s to the next month abroad being as good as the first, and I hope I have plenty more exciting stories to tell you about it this time next month!


Subscribe to receive our best science stories every month