Week 15: I finally go on a hike!

It has been seven days since we’ve returned from spring break and tensions between the physics students are at an all-time high. With 40 internship students moving out this weekend as their study abroad ends, unwanted bits and bobs are being redistributed and left for scavenging. A repository has been set up in one of our study rooms where the departing students can leave various undesired articles such as toiletries, towels, non-perishable food, and clothing. Once in the study room, it’s fair game for those of us who are here for another two months.

The tantalizing promise of ~free things~ has started to turn brother against brother. Already we have engaged in a fierce battle over the surplus rolls of toilet paper, and the frequent kidnapping of our rice cooker from the first floor kitchen is causing suspicions to grow. Even on our own floor, a battle over the soon-to-be-deserted cabinet- and fridge-space is stretching some neighborly relationships to their snapping points. With two months left living together, the 16 of us may devolve to an all-out war-between-the-floors. Stay tuned for reports from the front.

In the meantime, here’s what happened in the last week…a time when there was still peace on our shores…


This week

Monday was my first full day back in Geneva and we physics students were thrown right back into the grind. We stumbled over to CERN in a post-spring-break daze for a 10am tour of the synchrocyclotron, CERN’s first particle accelerator built in 1957. The accelerator stopped operating in 1990 to make way for more advanced accelerators, but today it can be accessed by touring student groups and other visitors.

Our short tour included a very well-produced video explaining CERN’s beginnings and the synchrocylcotron’s development, construction, and use. It may have been the best CERN tour I’ve experienced so far! (Although it’s hard to beat the CMS.)

Mina, Casey, and I all came home from our respective journeys on Sunday night, promptly dumped our luggage on the floor of our room, and chose to ignore the increasing entropy for most of the week. Throughout the next few days our room fluctuated between various states of unpacking.

Here’s a glimpse of how it looked on Monday; in Kavi’s words, “It looks like an earthquake hit.” The picture really doesn’t do it justice though. Our room was a truly glorious mess:


The results of our BU Geneva Spring 2017 photo competition were announced! I was able to snag an honorable mention for my photo of Zach, Mina, and Stef at wine tasting. (Yes, that is me. I know the misspelled name might throw you off.)

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My prize was some Cailler Frigor milk chocolate. (Still working on my ranking of Swiss chocolate, coming soon!)


The funky-looking trees have finally started blooming!

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I decided it was time to figure out exactly what kind of trees these are, and when I typed “knobb” into Google, I found out that I wasn’t the only one wondering:


My search led me to this handy blog post that informed me that these trees are called Platanus, or plane trees, and are a hybrid of different types of sycamores. When summer comes, we’ll see if the sycamore’s characteristic burs make an appearance on our sidewalks!

BU organized a “Farewell Dinner” for the internship students on Thursday, to which we were all invited. The dinner took place at Restaurant Vieux Bois, a beautiful (four dollar-sign!) restaurant close to the United Nations building in Geneva. Since this was an event for the soon-to-be-leaving internship students, their supervisors were invited, but we physics students were only there to bid farewell to our friends and enjoy a free meal. Without bosses or colleagues to entertain, we were exempt from networking and free to enjoy the open bar and fancy hor d’oeuvres.

Photo creds to Matthew, one of the BU Geneva staff.

On Friday, we were given a tour of the CERN Neutrino Platform. One of our physics professors from BU, Professor Carey, was visiting CERN for the weekend and we were invited to come on his tour of the neutrino sites. At building 182 on CERN’s Meyrin campus, we saw a liquid argon time projection chamber prototype. Next we were driven to the Neutrino Platform Research & Development facility in Prévessin, France, where an experiment called ProtoDUNE is being constructed.

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On Saturday, I finally went on a hike! Professor Carey was interested in hiking Mont Salève—the closest mountain to Geneva and perhaps its second most-popular tourist attraction (even though it’s technically in France)—while he was in town. He invited anyone interested to join him.

So at 9:30am on Saturday, a group of 7 of us physics students (Mike, Zach, Mina, Natalie, Dan S, Nate, and myself) took the 8 bus with Professor Carey to Veyrier, France, and began our trek. Scoutmaster Dan, experienced in this neck of the woods (literally—he has done this hike several times), navigated for us as we spent five hours climbing the twisting trails leading to the top of Mont Salève.

I consider myself fairly fit, but this “high difficulty” hike was challenging; at many of the steeper uphill parts of the trail, my legs were burning, my breathing was labored, and my hands were numb. Of course, the latter was due to the chill in the high altitudes. Geneva is suffering a “cold spell” this week with rain and temperatures in the 40-50s and it had snowed on top of Mont Salève. There was a part of the trail that was particularly precarious: it was quite narrow, still covered in snow, and on enough of an incline that one slip could leave you sliding down a fairly steep mountainside. Fortunately, we all made it to the top without issue.

The views from the top of the mountain and from during the hike itself were completely breathtaking. From the somewhat-perilous cliffside portion of the hiking trail, we were afforded spectacular views of Geneva and the French countryside below us. From the viewing point at the very top, we had a stunning panoramic view of the Alps, including the famous Mont Blanc.

There was still snow on the ground when we hiked yesterday, but we could imagine this being the perfect picnic spot for a sunny day in the approaching summer.

Us at the top! Photo creds to the owner of the cute dog who we wanted in our photo. 🙂

We tried to stop at one of the two restaurants up there for lunch, but since it was about 3pm and in between lunch and dinner for the Swiss/French, neither restaurant was serving real food. Instead, we settled for sandwiches from a snack stall close to the cable car. I enjoyed a tasty croque saumon (a sandwich very similar to a croque monsieur but with salmon instead of ham) for 7 Euro!


We took the Téléphérique du Salève (cable car) back down the mountain and bused back home, arriving shortly after 5pm.

A few hours later, Professor Carey joined us at our dorm for a Haribo gummy- and beer-fueled screening of 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven. Once he had gone, we closed out the night with comedian John Mulaney’s The Comeback Kid. (Fun fact: John Mulaney went to my high school!) It was a lovely ending to a lovely day.


Coming up

Room 12 is taking Barcelona! This weekend, Mina, Casey, and I are off to Spain’s beautiful coastal city for three days and three nights of tame, touristy fun. Barcelona recommendations are welcome in the comments!


Other updates

Here’s a status check on my list of places-to-visit from the beginning of the program:

  • Paris, France (Done February 2017)
  • London, England (Probably will be visiting in early June!)
  • Nuremberg, Germany (Done 21-23 April 2017)
  • Kaunas or Vilnius, Lithuania (I doubt this will happen, mostly because my Lithuanian friend won’t be back in Lithuania for the rest of my time here. Plus, of course, I’ve been here already.)
  • Somewhere in Spain (Tenerife! I’m also going to Barcelona this coming weekend.)
  • Vatican City (Done 15-17 April 2017)
  • Padua, Italy (Done 19-20 April 2017)
  • Messina, Italy (I also doubt that this will happen in the next two months. I was hoping to go here during spring break but it’s very far away and there aren’t many tourist attractions.)
  • Kronborg Castle, Denmark (Still a priority! Definitely want to try and make it. Maybe in June?)
  • Finland (Priority is low, probably not this trip.)
  • Sweden (Same as Finland.)

Of course, I’ve seen a dozen or so other amazing places in Europe so I’m not at all disappointed in my travel progress so far.

Speaking of travels…

Blog posts about all of my spring break shenanigans are in the works! Frustratingly, the process of cataloguing 10 days of travel is proving to be a lot more work than I expected. (I can promise you that the Rome post will be out tomorrow!)


Until then, with love,

Maddie 🙂

3 thoughts on “Week 15: I finally go on a hike!

  1. Pingback: Weeks 16 + 17: Various updates – mad world

  2. Pingback: I don’t know about you but I’m feelin’ Week 22 – mad world

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