Back to School (sort of)

I hadn’t planned to go to Europe this year. However, some months ago, I received an e-mail from a former school colleague, who wants to organise a get-together. This year marks a, let’s just say, round year, a multiple of decades, since we finished school, hence my colleague’s initiative. So I decided to travel to Switzerland this year anyway. We finished and split to go our ways after school when we were 19 or 20 years old, and it will be interesting to see how everyone has fared.

The school is called a gymnasium, from ancient Greek gymnasion, which was a place for both in-depth studies and learning as well as physical exercise. The latter meaning is still used in the English term “gym”, while the former is the focus of the type of school we attended, that is, academic learning as preparation for university (including learning Latin, at least back in my days!). In fact, with the concluding exam and certificate (called Matura), I could attend ETH in Zurich for my Master of Science degree, without any further entry exam. ETH then did a pretty hard-core selection in the first two study years – or at least did during my time, with fewer than 50% or so of the initial students making it to the finish line. I don’t know about today, but the fact that ETH is ranked in the top-ten (give or take, depending on the ranking institution, and some fluctuations over time) universities worldwide probably means they still do. Yes, as a federal university, they also have sound public funding, and with an excellent reputation it’s easier to find industrial partners, which I am sure helps. :) The gymnasiums as well as the universities in Switzerland are public schools. This term does not have the pejorative connotation in Europe often found in Anglo-Saxon countries.

Alas, the class reunion will be in the beginning of November, so I brace myself for some freezing. But I still have a winter coat and warm shoes in storage in Switzerland, so I guess I’ll be OK. Right now, I am in the process of creating my shopping list and making appointments for a contact lens check and stuff. And for seeing family and friends. As it looks, it will be quite a busy time.

I fly with Emirates whenever possible, it’s just the best experience on so many levels. There’s a stopover in Dubai for about three hours, dividing the whole flight into two parts of five to six hours. As there are no direct flights to Zurich from here, the alternative is to fly – with another airline – to Paris, London, or Frankfurt, and from there to Zurich or Geneva, hence you need to change planes anyway, with a looong flight of about eleven hours, and a short one of about one hour. I prefer the two roughly equal segments. And Dubai airport has great lounges.