📍Bern, Switzerland – Blog #4

Today’s prompt asked me to reflect on my initial expectations for the program and if they have changed at all during my time abroad. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I really tried to start the experience without any expectations and an open mind. However, we all have predisposed biases that we can’t really control. I guess I expected nurses here to be highly respected and skilled because Switzerland’s health care system is so well known and admired. It really shocked me that they are so far behind with advanced practice nursing education and legal rights. In the U.S., I am proud to say I’m going to be a nurse and am planning on becoming a Nurse Practitioner, eventually. Nursing is also the most trusted profession in the United States for the last 20 years, and the pandemic has only highlighted the importance of nurses. I have dreamed about working abroad in a European country after graduation, and this trip has made me realize that an experience like that would be much different than I previously thought. For such an efficient health care system, there is still a lot of work to be done compared to the U.S. – I also realize, though, that maybe their system works better for the population and does not need to change. As a nurse, I tend to think they have some work to do for our profession, but again, I may be biased! Next week in Geneva, we are having a few visits with international organizations, so I am curious as to how or if nurses play leadership roles because in the U.S. I think they definitely would.

On a personal level, I expected to see a lot more young people out and about in the cities like you would in any major city back home. Students here commute to school from their childhood homes and often live in suburbs, so I suppose that is why we haven’t seen many people our age around. I was hoping to meet college students and learn more about their experiences in the Swiss education system, but hopefully, that will still come with time.

Academically, this experience is a lot more demanding than I expected. Back in Basel, we sat in on lectures from 8:30 until 5 pm one day. While I am quite interested in the topics, we have really long days, especially when we are eager to go out and tour the city afterwards. With only two weeks, though, we have to make the most of it!

Here in Bern, we are staying at a Youth Hostel, which was a change from the hotels in other cities:

Our room here had 6 floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a wooded area and garden.

Our group consists of 18 nursing students from Pitt, a professor, and a program assistant, so we are typically divided into rooms with at 1-2 other roommates. Here at the hostel, some rooms have bunk beds to accommodate 3-4 students. While the accommodations might not be as nice as the previous hotels, this hostel has an outdoor space to eat and spend time with each other right by the Aare River. It is really nice to see families and other youth groups during meal times and at night (pictured below).

Today, we had a guided walking tour of the city, featuring many highlights of the town that have lasted since medieval times. I really admire how walkable each city is and the cleanliness of the streets and parks in each town we have visited. It stands in such contrast to cities in the U.S. People here just seem to have an appreciation for nature and their outdoor spaces. Even in architecture here, they embrace natural light with sky lights, huge windows, and full glass walls.

Some photos from our walking tour:

Rosengarten, a park that overlooks Bern and has a restaurant and public park space.
The Aare River runs through Bern and has crystal clear waters directly from the mountains.
Zytglogge – A clocktower from the Middle Ages still stands in town and chimes with a little show each hour. It’s hard to see in the photo, but there is a Rooster that caws, a Jester that makes noise a few minutes before the hour, and dancing bears.

A statue of Einstein sits near the Rosengarten, overlooking Bern. Einstein lived in Bern, and there are several exhibits and a museum in his old apartment that you can tour.

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