Why did you choose this particular country? How did you come up with your research proposal and why does it interest you?
In today’s geopolitical setting, studies and theories regarding instability and failing countries are not lacking. In previous academic research I focused on criteria of stability commonly examined across the Middle East, and while examining unstable countries is important, it is equally important but less common to examine these same criteria in a relatively stable country without a history of violent conflict. I thought that studying a nation well known for its neutrality, sovereignty, stability, and prosperous economy helps isolate these variables to determine causal influence. Insights from a stable country also help identify additional elements harder to recognize when studying only the standard failing states. Perspective is key; peering through a different lens when analyzing a common problem is beneficial. Furthermore, Given recent events that seem to be toppling the sense of security long relished by Western Europe, I found value in expanding my proposed research to consider the quickly evolving and deteriorating security environment that pose risks to Switzerland and wanted to examine this against the backdrop of Switzerland’s current trajectory of radicalization and counterterrorism strategy.
What are two interesting things about the country that the average person does not know?
Travelling all throughout Switzerland, starting in Geneva through Zermatt, Interlaken, Lucerne, to Zurich and Bern and then back down along the French border back to Geneva truly underscored that Swiss culture is truly the intersection of surrounding cultures with some unique overlays. French, German, and Italian culture infused local Swiss culture depending on what border I was nearest to. In fact, in addition to the official language of announcements changing on train rides, there was even a distinct cleavage in personalities, architecture, and cuisine. I really enjoyed this discovery as I navigated through cities small and large. While it does make sense because of Switzerland’s small size and surrounding region, it was fascinating to see this play out in day-to-day life.
One uniting factor that seemed distinctively Swiss is the sense of pride that emanates from individuals and institutions for their country’s global role in and responsibility for improving global dynamic, especially in fixing humanitarian issues. Switzerland’s global role seemed to seep into their own cultural norms. For example while exploring Lucerne I inquired about an impromptu celebration that was being held on a street corner. It was the opening of an installation art exhibit that tied Lucerne’s local history with awareness about the refugee crisis. This was not the only incident where local art or news was meant to raise awareness about the refugee crisis. I was fortunate enough to tour the Palais de Nations, UN Office at Geneva where of many things they highlighted the room that is specifically designated for negotiations regarding refugee issues. I feel like Switzerland’s unique but familiar culture truly made this the trip of a lifetime.