Diogo is back on campus! Read his account of coming back to his second home!
Preparing for any trip can be a daunting task, especially an overseas one. After nearly a month of being home for break, it was time for me to head back to Bluche for my second semester of studies in hospitality management.
Everyone who has traveled abroad knows that packing on the day of your departure isn’t the best situation to be in, but a last minute trip with my family earlier that week left me no other option. Luckily for me, my flight wasn’t until 6 PM, so that left me plenty of time to pack, get a workout in, and spend some well-needed quality time with my dog.
I began my journey back to school at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, the world’s busiest airport. My flight to Paris would provide me with refreshments, dinner, and breakfast, but I thought it would be best to bring my own drink aboard. For long haul flights I like to take a bottle of coconut water with me.
It is best that you sleep during a transcontinental flight, as the jetlag can take a toll on your body. Unfortunately, I have a difficult time falling asleep on anything other than my bed, unless I am riding in my dad’s car listening to the soothing voices of public radio. I passed the time watching the on-demand movies and shows Air France had to offer and made to sure to get up a few times during the flight to stretch my legs.
The rainy Paris morning greeted me with a cool 5° C (41° F), which was still nowhere close to Bluche’s then temperature of -6° C (21.2° F), but cold nonetheless; from here on out, it would only get colder. All passengers had to disembark via airstair and take a bus to arrivals as opposed to the usual jet bridge attached to the terminal. Getting to the gate for my flight to Geneva and boarding the plane was no problem. Unfortunately, takeoff was delayed by nearly an hour due to inclement weather affecting the runway in Geneva International Airport. It wasn’t particularly fun waiting for the plane to take off, but it was also hard to contain my excitement for a snowy welcome in Switzerland. Before I knew it, I was looking out of my window down at the snow-covered fields and rooftops of Geneva.
After disembarking, I grabbed my checked bag and walked to the SBB (Swiss Railway, or Schweizerische Bundesbahnen in German) station for the part of the trip I was most looking forward to. New students at Les Roches are given a complimentary coach bus ride from the airport to the campus, but returning students are expected to find their own means of transportation. For those without a car, the 2-hour train ride from Geneva Airport to Sierre is the fastest and most convenient method. It also has the added benefit of being a beautiful train ride, passing through the canton of Vaud’s lakeside vineyards and Valais canton’s rugged and imposing mountains. I tried to concentrate on reading my book about Portugal’s role as a neutral country in World War II, but even its thrilling narrative couldn’t stop me from taking my eyes off of the beautiful snowfall happening right outside my window.
When I heard the train’s overhead speaker system announce “Prochain arrêt, Sierre…Nächste halt, Siders”, I knew I was almost at my second home. A hot shower and freshly made bed on campus was calling my name, but not before taking one last scenic ride on the Sierre-Montana funicular. A 300-meter (0.18 mile) walk separates the train and funicular stations (0.18 mile); a red line in the pavement conveniently outlines the path between the two stations for those unfamiliar with the city of Sierre. You’re bound to run into a few friends or fellow classmates when taking the funicular, and this trip was no different. Only this time we were joined by the locals and tourists heading up to ski and snowboard the world-famous slopes near Crans-Montana.
The 15-minute funicular ride to the village of Bluche passes through more vineyards and the backyards of some beautiful and cozy chalets. The higher up you go, the better your view of the Alps surrounding you. As someone who has taken the Sierre-Montana funicular since July 2015, it is amazing to see how the scenery changes with the seasons: lush green in the summer, bright oranges and fiery reds in the fall, and the peaceful whites and grays covering the surrounding landscape. I have high expectations for what this coming spring has to offer.
Having grown up near Atlanta, Georgia most of my life, I am not used to seeing more than 5 cm (2 inches) of snow at a time. When I stepped out of the funicular at Bluche, there were piles of snow coming up to waist.
Thankfully I was well equipped for the weather; proper boots, coat, gloves, scarf, and a wool beanie are essentials during this time of year. The walk to the main building from the funicular stop is a short 5-minute one, and I couldn’t help but smile as I walked past the familiar accommodations and restaurants. During check in, the staff members were quick, efficient, and very helpful, which was welcoming despite the jetlag and lack of sleep that was starting to kick in.
Be it traveling by funicular from Sierre up to Bluche, or taking a walk across campus to your next classroom, every corner is always picturesque and nothing short of breathtaking. As I begin my second semester at Les Roches, I realise that I am so proud to be able to call this little part of Switzerland my home away from home.