Travel Log 5: “Conversations” by Steven Schnittger Lugano, Switzerland

I chose to do this assignment with Tajay who was the orientation leader for my program when I first got to Franklin. I chose him because he has been going to school here for four years now and has spent more time travelling around to the different parts of Switzerland than anybody else I have met. Another one of the major reasons why I picked Tajay is because he does a great job of explaining what he means in simple and concise terms. He is also very personable and is always eager to help others.

I understand it is important to speak to somebody who has been living here because they are able to give the full insiders perspective. Although over the past three weeks I have gained some insight into the culture surrounding Switzerland, I doubt that, even at the end of my three months here, I will be able to get a complete perspective on what Switzerland is all about. Tajay on the other hand has not only completely immersed himself in the Swiss-Italian culture of Ticino (the canton/state that Lugano is in) he has also travelled to the other parts of Switzerland to experience whatever cultural differences he might find.

So Tajay and I sat down in the dinning hall here at Franklin and like with most of the activities for this course they started out a little awkward so we joked around a little bit to begin with. Once I started asking Tajay questions however I could really hear and see him getting passionate about what he was talking about. He really loves it here in Lugano and he kept reiterating that this feels like home now for him.

Some of the most interesting cultural value sets we talked about was boasting vs. modesty, materialism vs. spirituality, and confrontation vs. avoidance. I especially liked talking about the boasting vs. modesty and materialism vs. spirituality topics because Tajay and I both agreed that the Swiss have a unique perspective when it comes to these values. The Swiss are not boastful at all yet they have real pride in what they buy. Tajay explained to me that a lot of times you will see Ferraris, which are typically a bright red, painted black or grey. This is because the Swiss are happy to own this incredible piece of engineering but they don’t want to be flashy and show off what they have. Tajay broke it down and explained that Swiss people want to have the best working things but they don’t want anybody to know they have them. The topic of confrontation vs. avoidance was also interesting. Many times in the US if you have a problem with your neighbor playing music to loud you might go over there and tell them to turn it down or ignore the problem and hope it goes away. In Switzerland, and especially in Lugano there is no ignoring a problem, but people seldom take care of it themselves. Instead they call the police or the landlord to take care of the problem immediately. Here in Lugano there are 10:00 quiet hours and it is pretty surreal to walk out of the club at 1:00 in the morning and go from blaring music to complete silence. Even the drunk people on the street are hardly talking above a whisper. It is because people know that the moment they get to rowdy the police will get caught and fines will be handed out and nobody wants to deal with that.

One of the parts of the Quinnipiac student life that I rarely consider is Greek life. I see it as something that isn’t necessary because on the surface it seems like just another way to make friends at QU. Thinking more in depth about it now though I can understand that there is a lot of value in having Greek life on campus and I could probably learn a lot from sitting down with one of the active members of a fraternity or sorority and gain some perspective. The fundraising alone that they do must help out loads of organizations, and I think it probably keeps students on campus over the weekends, which is something I see Quinnipiac struggling with. Of course there is value to having these organizations on campus but it was never something I considered.

 

“An individual lives by a conscience that is shaped by the imprint of genetic makeup, the idiosyncrasies of personality, the reinforcement of personal experience, and the consequence of personal choice.” –Studying Abroad/Learning Abroad by J. Daniel Hess

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