Adjusting to Geneva

While I have only recently begun my course in French, my time in Switzerland has already begun to set in fully, owing to my internship (also in Geneva) preceding the SLA Grant period. Upon arriving to Switzerland in the early summer months, I felt as though I’d inched in small steps from day-to-day life in West Africa into a more familiar, distinctly Western context. Following my study abroad semester in Dakar, Senegal, I felt relieved to experience a short transitionary period splitting my time between stays in Senegal and Switzerland due to their polarity in terms of pace of life, social structures, and certain social nuances such as gender relations. Leaving Senegal, I visited friends in both Togo and Morocco, witnessing the socioeconomic distinctions between rural areas of Togo (some of which were geopolitically and culturally reminiscent of certain areas in Senegal) and the urban, equally wildly beautiful cities of Rabat and Tangier, Morocco. As I split from the Francophone world and moved into Spain for several days, I was warmed by linguistic familiarity, the sounds of Spanish spilling into my ears and easing my transition into Europe. Arriving in Switzerland a few days later, I felt ready to return to a Francophone sphere, however different pace of life and economic development would prove to be in the Swiss context.

Within Switzerland, linguistic distinctions comprise the whole of the small country, with four national languages claiming corners of particular regions. Of course, I find myself in Geneva in the Francophone region of the country, though a short weekend hiking trip or bus ride to visit friends across a border line radically changes the composition of language predispositions- I feel at a loss, at times, for my lacking German and Italian skills. As an international center, Geneva hosts the United Nations, a plethora of international organizations, NGOs, corporate entities, and more. Walking along Lac Leman, I pick up on conversational bits in French, Spanish, and on rare occasion, Wolof. Linguistic and national distinctions are too numerous to name, yet a strange homogeneity hangs over Geneva, clad in similarly branded pressed suits and skirts and walking with determination to perfectly scheduled tram arrivals. I am looking forward to continuing my progress through engaging this space, unfolding its complexities, and making its many languages (French in particular) grow in vibrancy and meaning with time.Geneva Landscape

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