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Student Post: Climbing through Switzerland

Scenes from Rachael Cuthbertson's third week in Germany in the study abroad program.

Rachael Cuthbertson is a senior from Port Huron, Michigan, majoring in Chemical Engineering. Her co-op placement is with Durr Systems Inc. Rachael is participating in study abroad this term in Germany and will send periodic updates about her experiences. If you’d like to write a guest blog post, email phayes(at)kettering(dot)edu. 

By Rachael Cuthbertson

October 24, 2014: It’s Friday!! I’m so excited! I got my first assignment today that pertains to the project I will be working on in the next weeks I am here. It is true chemical engineering so it’s pretty exciting. I’ve never done this type of calculation though so I’ll have to spend some time figuring it out! I went out to eat to a “fast food” place with my co workers for lunch. It was fast food in the sense of the time we waited to get our food but it was no McDonalds! The bread for the wrap and the beef was homemade and cooked right in front of you! It was Turkish style food and it was good! It was a wrap with beef, lettuce, tomato, radish, sauerkraut, and a couple different sauces. I had to start my journey to Switzerland tonight. I couldn't find my train though so I was scared I was going to miss it! Luckily a gentleman was able help me and I made it in time! One thing I learned that night - check the train schedule details. I ended up having a "layover" from 1-5 a.m.! It was so cold in the train station since it's not a closed off building ( all the "terminals" lead to the tracks so I was essentially outside). I'll never do that again if I don't have to!!

October 25, 2014: I arrived in Lugano, Switzerland, this morning! I managed to get some sleep on the train and luckily I woke up just in time to see The Alps as the train passed by! The were so incredible! I had to walk through the city to see many of the things I had planned on. There were so many vendors in the street in addition to all the stores! It seemed more like an outdoor mall to me! I found out very quickly how expensive it is in Switzerland. I was looking through the windows and a women's sweater was over 200 Swiss franks!! Yikes! In the city I saw Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, Chiesa di San Carlo, Piazza Riziero Rezzonico, Piazza della Riforma, Parco Civico, and Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli. One thing I was not expecting is everyone and everything is Italian. I guess certain parts of Switzerland speak German, some speak French, and a small part speaks Italian. Even though I was in Switzerland I truly felt like I was in Italy!

Scenes from Rachael Cuthbertson's third week in Germany in the study abroad program.

After I explored the city I took a "funicular" as they call it up to the top of San Salvatore. I have never seen a more picturesque place. It was absolutely breath taking. While I was up there I overheard a couple speaking very fluent English so I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask them to take my picture with the scenery. We started talking, their names are Gerry and Nancy, and they are from Massachusetts. Gerry came here for work (he is a cardiologist) for a week and Saturday was their last day to explore. We rode the funicular back down to the city together and they were kind enough to treat me to some gelato! I got a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of cookie biscotti! It was extremely delicious! They offered to walk with me half way to my hostel since their hotel was in the same direction. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met! They insisted that if I needed anything or didn’t like the hostel that I walk back and I could stay with them. How generous is that?? They just met me a few hours before! I finally found the hostel- it was a challenge though, plus it had started raining and it was getting dark. I checked in and could not get wifi because I didn’t have their “group code”. I also discovered Switzerland does not have the same electrical plug as Germany so I couldn’t charge my phone.

Quite honestly I was just really homesick and overwhelmed. So I called Gerry and Nancy and asked if I could take them up on their offer. Just when I thought they couldn’t be anymore generous, they asked me to join them for dinner (Gerry was meeting with some people he worked with during the week). It was such an amazing experience! We went to a true Italian restaurant and the people we met with were actually from Italy!! I think I learned more Italian this weekend than I have German in the three weeks I have been here! Italian is so much easier for me to pick up, especially since I took Spanish for so many years. For appetizers we had bruschetta, chunks of mozzarella and sliced tomato over lettuce with olive oil, octopus!, and pita bread with tomato sauce. For dinner I ordered pasta with tomato sauce and ham. Our meal was served with a dry red wine from Sicily and it was actually really tasty!! I had lemon sorbet for dessert, it was like a creamy version of American Italian ice. After dessert they brought a round of limoncello (a lemon flavored liqueur).  It was by far the best meal I have had while I’ve been here. I’ve also noticed dinner is not rushed here in Europe. The standard time to be in a restaurant is three hours. They are just so laid back here and they really enjoy themselves. It’s actually really refreshing. After dinner, we returned to the hotel. Gerry let me use his iPad (my phone wasn’t connecting to the wifi). They also reminded me that Daylight Savings time took place that night! There is no way I would have known that if it hadn’t been for them! The view from their hotel room was incredible too, both at night and during the day. They had a terrace so you were able to walk out and see the city. Shortly after we returned, we went to bed because it had been a long day for all of us.

October 26, 2014: This morning I could hardly walk because I was so sore. I didn’t realize how many new muscles you use when climbing through a mountainous city all day! We all woke up and had to catch our trains (they were flying back to the US and I had to start back to Germany). There was breakfast included with their hotel and I don’t think I have ever seen such a big breakfast spread before in my life. There was everything imaginable there! I tried a tiny bit of everything! I had scrambled eggs (did not look or taste like what I’m used to), bacon, ham, sausage, pancakes (different from both my dads and the ones in Germany), a croissant lined with cinnamon on the inside, fruit, this really yummy (cake? had the texture of cheesecake, color of carrot cake and tasted like??), and müesli (a variety of oats mixed with yogurt, milk, and dried fruit. Sort of like oatmeal but more creamy and dairy based, and served cold). It was extremely good! Then we went to the train station where I bought my Swiss chocolate that I had yet to try! I got milk chocolate with honey and almonds and dark chocolate with honey and almonds. The milk chocolate was good but nothing to rave about. The dark chocolate however is a whole different story! Holy cow it was good! We all said our goodbyes and agreed to keep in touch. It’s crazy to think none of this would have happened if I hadn’t asked them to take a picture of me at the top of the mountain!

October 27, 2014: It’s Monday morning! This weekend flew by! My computer randomly decided to switch to German this morning so that was fun trying to figure out why it did that and how to switch it back. I finally got so frustrated I asked the guy sitting next to me and he called IT so we could get it figured out. I had another Swebian dish today for lunch called Spatzle. It was Swebian noodles with lentils and sausage. Very tasty! In addition to eating with Katrin I also ate with Jennifer (DSUS HR). I didn’t know she was coming over here so that was a nice surprise!

October 28, 2014: Today I had gnocchi for lunch in a tomato sauce. The gnocchi didn’t taste anything like the gnocchi I’ve had before but it was still really good. Not too much happened at work today. I had to continue some calculations for my project but that’s about it. I went grocery shopping after work since my food supplies was getting low. I’m was not looking forward to it because it is really cold today!! However I did get some really exciting news after work! Pilar (one of the girls I met in Stuttgart my second weekend here) is going to be studying at Kettering next fall and winter!! What are the odds of that?? It turns out she goes to the University of Ulm, which is one of the German universities Kettering partners with! I’m so excited!

October 29, 2014: I ate breakfast with Jennifer this morning since we were there at the same time. We were talking about all the differences between here and the US and it was just nice to have an American to talk to who understands how different it is here. For lunch I had salmon with this really delicious butter spread over top. And for dessert they had some type of a cake with bits of chocolate in it, topped with a berry sauce and powder sugar :) I tried signing up for Delta SkyMiles tonight and it was so frustrating because it just kept giving me an error. So I finally emailed them and I’m just waiting on a response.

October 30, 2014: The Delta SkyMiles people turned out to be quite helpful! I just explained my problem and they recorded my miles for me! Just from the trip here I earned over 5,000 miles, which means I’ll have over 10,000 when I get back! I decided to try something different as far as planning goes for the weekend. Instead of trying to map out an exact route I just saved each location and printed a map that included all of my sites to see. They are all fairly close so I think this method will work a little better. I had fish again today with some tortellini with ricotta in a creamy sauce. For dessert they had apple cake :) I was curious, so I looked up the distance from Michigan to Bietigheim-Bissingen and it’s 4,139 miles away! Yikes!