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Ing. Martin Špale, UCT Prague,ročník 5
About the country
Location of the place
Switzerland is a landlocked country situated mostly in the Alps. It has stunningly beautiful nature and also pretty cities with a lot of character.
Basel is in the north-western corner of Switzerland, in the German speaking part right on the border with Germany and France. The main landmark is the river Rhine flowing through the city. It is also known as a center for pharmaceutical and chemical industry because a lot of big global companies have their headquarters there. It has lot of historical sights and museums in the center. The city is quite small, about 170 000 people, and it is a very relaxed and 'quiet' place.
Surroundings (possible trips, ...)
It is all about the Alps! Switzerland is probably the best country in Europe for hiking and mountain sports in general. About 2/3 of the country is in the Alps. There are many opportunities for great trips - cities (Zurich, Bern, Lausanne, Geneva, Lugano...), and for beautiful Alpine sceneries places like Zermatt, Interlaken etc.
Syngenta AG. Syngenta is a major global producer of chemical compounds used in agriculture - pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and plant seeds. They have about 35000 employees worldwide with offices in many countries. It is a Swiss company with their headquarters in Basel where I worked.
I was working in the 'R&D Information Systems' department. The main purpose of this department is to manage all of the software applications which are used by the scientists. My role as a trainee was to act as an 'IT support' and make sure that everything runs smoothly - server and network infrastructure, environments. I did also some development of small proof of concept applications exploring new useful technologies.
Salary (sufficient for local conditions?)
Salary was good enough to live normally in Basel and at the same time travel both in Switzerland and Internationally during the traineeship. Switzerland has a very high income economy so the salaries are quite high, but as a reason of that, everything is extremely expensive there. Eating in restaurants for example is completely unrealistic.
Fluent English is an absolute must. Lot of global cooperation with colleagues from USA or UK. German would be definitely an advantage at work.
Accommodation (price, who provided it)
Accommodation was provided by the local IAESTE office. I got a relatively cheap room in the center of the city (500 CHF). But unfortunately I was living with an owner of the flat which was a senior Swiss woman (62 y.o.) and we didnt really fit together. So i had to deal with some arguments and disputes, but I survived.
Meeting IAESTE members (pick-up at the airport, organized events...)
Nobody picked me up to show me my accommodation or the place, i had to do everything on my own in the beginning. Please if you ever come to Switzerland for a traineeship, do yourself a favor and attend the IAESTE weekend trips! They are absolutely amazing. You meet other trainees from all around Switzerland and see really cool places. On top of that the local IAESTE offices were organizing a trainee meeting every Thursday (going to the pub, or to the river, lake in the summer).
Meeting other foreign students
In all of the 'bigger' cities in Switzerland there is a local IAESTE section with couple of trainees. So there are many other people in the same situation as you. However in Basel we were only a few trainees and we never really did any activities together (shame). On the other hand in Zurich there is a very big trainee community organizing events all the time.
Sport and culture
I didn´t really do any sports in Switzerland regularly, but it is great for sports - Skiing/ Snowboarding in the winter and hiking, cycling in the summer. In Basel you can swim in the river during the summer months and in other cities like Zurich you have a lake to swim.
Food, local specialties
Cheese & Chocolate. Try Fondue, it comes in more variants - cheese fondue, chocolate fondue, meat fondue... And also Raclette - melted cheese with a slice of toast bread and pickles.
Possibilites to communicate with the Czech Republic
Easy - Skype, Whatsapp. Phone calls are very expensive so watch out for that.
Recommendations for students who will go to the same place
Attend all of the trainee events organized by IAESTE Switzerland - weekend trips, Thursday meetings. Travel a lot - get discount cards from the SBB company (Swiss national railway company). There is the "Swisspass" card for about 160 CHF for a year with which you get a 50% discount for all the trains, cable cars and more - also called "Halbtax". Then there is the "Gleis 7" card for people under 25 with which you can travel everywhere for free after 7PM - use that as much as you can! I basically traveled for free most of the time.
What not to forget with you
Money until you get your 1st salary, Switzerland is very exepensive, you may need something like 1500 - 2000 CHF to start with. Bring your car as its the cheapest way of travel around the country and it can save you a lot of money if you buy groceries or anything in Germany.
Benefits of the internship
Professional and personal growth. Experienced a lot during this time period abroad. Would recommend to anyone.
Cooperation with IAESTE in the foreign country
In Basel the local section is not that active as they are a small group, so they don´t really interact much with the trainees which is a pity.
Overall experience with IAESTE
Great experience, i never had any problems with either Czech or Swiss IAESTE, they are cool people and also my friends (well at least some of them).
Other useful links
Do it! Go for an IAESTE traineeship!