Geneva on Global Term Abroad

by Christoph Hodel / Oct 21, 2013 / 0 comments

After my sophomore year in high school, I didn’t think I could handle another year of small-town life in Minnesota...spending time with the same people and going to the same places that I’ve been staying with my whole life. I don’t want to give an impression of hating my home, because I love Northfield! I simply needed a break. Someone apparently answered my silent pleas, and my family was chosen to lead the Global Term Abroad program with St. Olaf College. My father teaches music theory at St. Olaf, which is a great connection. My sister, my parents, and I joined fourteen college students on a seven-country journey across the world: India, Switzerland, Turkey, Greece, China, Korea, and Thailand.


Our first stop was Geneva, Switzerland. This city lies right on the border between France and Switzerland. Although the city is technically in Switzerland, about 95 percent of the inhabitants speak French because of its close proximity to France. So, unfortunately, my knowledge of German was often useless.


Geneva is centered around a lake. Lake Geneva is very beautiful, and features a huge fountain that shoots water one hundred and fifty feet straight up into the air. We all took a swim in it at one point, and the water was cloudy and extremely cold. I honestly didn’t care about that because I love swimming, and it’s not every day that I get to swim in a place like Switzerland!


Fountain on Lake Geneva


The streets of Geneva, although often crowded, have countless little shops waiting to be discovered. At one point, I walked into a cute little shop that literally sold nothing but model boats. I’m not a huge boat fanatic, but I found this very intriguing all the same.


In the town square, there is a giant, wooden chair that is about three-stories tall! One leg is missing, and appears to have been ripped off because of the splintered wood. This is because the chair is a monument to protest landmines. It is quite well done, and the chair still stands sturdy despite its splintered leg.


Another very unique aspect of Geneva is the fact that one of the two United Nations headquarters is there (the other one being in New York). In fact, we actually got to visit the place! Security was very tight, and I had forgotten to leave my Swiss army knife at home. I presented it at once to one of the officials and took care to look as worried and innocent as possible as I did so. He smiled at me and told me to simply keep it in my pocket and we were able to proceed through. We received a full tour of the facility, and visited many of the rooms in which debates occurred. Several of those rooms were just gigantic. The guide even pointed out some of the older doors, which still had the League of Nations logo on the handles. One thing I really enjoyed was the fact that we actually had time to explore the entire facility on our own afterward, and even ate lunch in the cafeteria there. The cuisine, like the rest of Geneva, was excellent and had countless options...but no ketchup, apparently.  We saw peacocks in the garden, and the many sculptures there.


UN Geneva


The food in Geneva, although very expensive, is some of the fanciest I’ve ever experienced. The many combined cultures of Switzerland ensured that we ate plenty of pasta, sausages, and some of the best bread I’ve ever tasted. It was difficult to find restaurants that weren’t top notch, and this resulted in a lot of a lot of quality dinners throughout our visit.

We stayed in a cozy little hotel that was located away from the downtown area, so everything was nice and quiet. The lobby was almost always deserted, and you could watch the sunset out of its large windows, or read in its comfy, green chairs.


Sailboats on Lake Geneva


Switzerland is very diverse, and has three official languages: French, Italian, and a unique dialect of German.  If you’re ever looking for a historic, tasty city, I would highly recommend Geneva, Switzerland!





Christoph Hodel is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program


All photos courtesy and copyright Christoph Hodel