30 JULY 2015
An energising five-day European enrichment trip, taking in highlights of CERN particle physics laboratory and the United Nations in Switzerland, and Imperial College London and the Science Museum in London, UK.
Europe’s home for scientific research
Day one of our adventure began with a trip to CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. It’s home to the world-famous Large Hadron Collider — the world’s largest, highest-energy particle collider, which helped to discover the Higgs Boson particle.
Subodh P. Patil, a Theoretical Physicist at CERN and lecturer at the Department of Theoretical Physics at the University of Geneva joined us on our tour of CERN’s vast facilities and research equipment.
The trip to CERN was a highlight for me. I vividly remember our tour of the underground facilities, and the time spent in a Q&A afterwards with one of the physicists working there.
We learned how physicists and engineers at CERN are probing the fundamental structure of the universe, using the Large Hadron Collider to smash protons together at almost the speed of light. They’re trying to understand the basic ingredients of matter — phenomena like the Higgs Boson particle, an element that gives mass to other particles such as electrons and quarks. Dr Patil concluded our tour with an overview of the CERN International Intern programme. This is where our students learned how they could apply for an internship at CERN, and a chance to be part of one of the largest and most important scientific projects on the planet — trying to understand the mysteries of our universe.
Dr Patil said most of the universe is unknown to science — it made me think how much there is still to discover.
After an awesome and thought-provoking day at CERN, it was back to our hotel to recharge for our day two in Geneva.
A stroll around the UN and Geneva’s Old Town
Day two starts with a walking tour of the European headquarters of the United Nations, the second largest UN centre in the world after New York. The UN is situated on the beautiful grounds of Ariana Park, also home to the iconic Palace of Nations building, with its entrance lined with the 193 flags of each member state.
I loved seeing the UN entrance with all the flags of the nations — hearing how different countries work together to promote peace in the world made me feel hopeful about the future.
As well as touring its impressive grounds and buildings, we learned about the UN’s work and its huge range of activities to maintain world peace, foster international relations, encourage sustainable development and promote democracy and human rights. After our morning at the UN, we took a tram tour of Geneva’s Old Town, winding through its cobbled streets and alleyways as we heard stories from its 2,000 years of history. We saw the beautiful Place de Neuve, its opera house and the Rath Museum, climbing a hill lined with some of Geneva’s most prestigious houses and memorials, before arriving at Geneva’s oldest town square, the Place du Bourg de Four.
Festivities at Switzerland’s biggest festival
Our second to last day in Geneva was also Swiss National Day, coinciding with Les Fêtes de Genève, the city’s most popular festival. We saw the festival parade with musicians in Genevan traditional dress playing fifes, drums and alphorns. There was an unusual exhibition of antique machines and vehicles from Geneva’s Agricultural Museum, with a display by the Swiss Geneva Association of Swiss Mountain Dogs, including a St. Bernard, which was a delight. Then in the evening, we saw a grand fireworks display reflecting over Lake Geneva with a Fire of Joy that set the entire lakefront ablaze — something never seen in Geneva before. It was the perfect end to our last full day in this bright and beautiful city.
Food for thought on our final day in Switzerland
On day four and our final day in Geneva, we spent the morning at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, the perfect setting to learn more about Switzerland’s inspiring history and its unique role in humanitarian aid and activities around the world. We saw Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence’, an exhibition celebrating the life of Mahatma Gandhi, an iconic figure of nonviolent thought and action. Everything we saw at the museum made us think about how humanitarian action affects us all — our values and the hard-won freedoms that many of us take for granted. After the stimulation of our morning museum visit, we went for lunch at Le Gruyérien, a traditional Swiss chalet and fondue house. It was the perfect end to our time in Geneva, setting us up for the second half of the enrichment trip 2015 our visit to London, UK.
Scoping London’s skyline
For day five, we let the students choose the London activities they wanted to do as a group. There were plenty of choices, from the Tower of London and the Imperial War Museum and Buckingham Palace to the Tate Modern, the London Eye and a Thames River cruise. For some scholars, it was their first time in London, so there was much excitement and heated discussion over which activities to choose.
Visiting London was so exciting. Being so close to places like the Tower of London really brought all of its history to life.
After a day of sightseeing, we went for a special evening dinner with Julian Solomon, a 2013 Dart Scholar Alumnus studying for his Bachelor’s degree in Business Management at King’s College London. It was a great opportunity for our High School Scholars to meet Julian, who kindly took time from his hectic academic schedule to talk about the opportunities he’s been able to explore with the Dart Scholar programme.
Ending the trip on a high
Our final day began with a tour of the prestigious Imperial College campus in central London. Ranked among the top 10 best universities in the world, Imperial College is a specialist university known for its excellence in science, engineering, medicine and business, and its employability around the world. Our tour took in all of the world-class facilities the university offers its students, including its state-of-the-art Ethos Sports Centre and Central Library. After our campus tour, we took a walk to visit the home of human ingenuity London’s Science Museum, with its world-class collection of exhibits and iconic objects telling incredible stories of scientific achievement. It’s also home to one of the world’s largest IMAX Theatres, where we saw Robots 3D, a National Geographic film exploring the latest developments in humanoid robotics, and imagining the future of artificial humans. It was our last day in London and our European enrichment trip. As we all sat together for dinner the evening before we flew back home, our students reflected on what a journey it’d been — not just what we’d seen or where we’d travelled — but what we’d experienced and learned.
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