This post focuses on the social aspects of life on the CERN Student Summer Programme. Gathering hundreds of 20-somethings from around the globe and plonking them in Switzerland is inevitably going to lead to some shenanigans – right?
CERN has approximately 10,000 people on site each day and a plethora of clubs and societies to cater for their wide ranging interests – from amateur radio to Zumba. The students are also proactive in setting up their own clubs and sharing their special interests. We’ve had student-led salsa, acroyoga, Balfolk dancing, French and Spanish lessons running throughout the programme. I’ve even taught a bit of Capoeira.
At the epicentre of a CERN summer student’s social life are the parties in the Pump Room – a large multi-function room on the Meyrin site. The loud techno music, strobe-lighting, cheap booze and lads dancing topless on a table to YMCA makes the parties feel like the illegitimate lovechild of a German rave and American frat party. The students love’em though.
If you’re into live music then there’s lots to keep you entertained. The Montreax Jazz Festival runs through most of July and attracts some big acts. There are also loads of smaller festivals close by which students come back from looking bleary-eyed on a Monday morning. The Fete du Geneve turns Geneva into party central and concludes with a firework display of epic proportions while the Lake Parade in July is Geneva’s answer to the Rio carnival – although my mate Bruno from Rio wasn’t so impressed.
If the great outdoors is more your thing then Geneva is well situated. The Jura mountain range (from which we get the word ‘Jurassic’) are within cycling distance. I’ve had a few great days hiking in the Jura. If you’re feeling slightly more adventurous then you can hop on a bus to the French Alps to tackle some high peaks including Mont Blanc. There’s also white water rafting, bungee jumping and downhill mountain biking nearby for the adrenalin junkies.
Lots of the students, particularly the non-Europeans, take advantage of Geneva’s central location to see some of Europe with Paris, Nice and Zurich being popular destinations. Closer to home the Swiss towns of Lausanne and Gruyere are popular destinations for a dose of Swiss culture and fondue.
One of my favourite activities has undoubtedly been chilling out at Lake Geneva. You can have a swim, drink a beer and (beautiful) people watch. Then stay put at Perle du Lac to catch a free outdoor film – I saw ‘Shaun of the Dead’ which was accompanied by an obligatory zombie invasion.
However, the undeniable best entertainment to be found in Geneva is in Charly O’Neils Irish Bar on a Thursday night where my mate Cian’s traditional Irish band -The Emigrants – busts out the jigs and reels. Slainte!