STS Swiss Sumer School

STS Swiss Sumer School

By: Scott Bennett, STS Faculty

In July, twenty STS students headed off to Geneva to attend Swiss Summer School in the picturesque mountain town of Gstaad.

After landing in Geneva, the group wasted no time and headed from the airport to the waterfront to see the Jet d’Eau. Then they strolled over to the old town to visit St. Pierre Cathedral and tour the downtown district. Before wrapping up the long day of travel they saw the International Red Cross Museum and the United Nations Palace of Nations buildings, ending with a beautiful drive along Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) towards Lausanne, before heading up into the mountains to their chalet lodgings, where they would spend the next two-weeks. 

Once the students were rested they spent the weekend orienting themselves in their new locale, taking in a walking tour of Gstaad and spending an exciting day watching the women’s final of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships. The Swatch Beach Volleyball Major Gstaad is regarded by top beach players as the best tournament in the world thanks to the stunning Alpine surroundings.

Amidst their regularly scheduled classes each morning, the group was eager to do a bit of sightseeing, so they travelled down the valley via rail to Gruyere to tour the local cheese factory, La Maison du Gruyere, where they sampled local cheeses. Later visiting the medieval town of Gruyere to walk the old cobblestone streets and tour the chateau. They also visited the High Ropes Park in the neighboring town of Zweisimmen, where students spent the afternoon navigating swinging bridges, rope ladders, and zip lines at heights between fifteen to sixty-five feet. Afterward they headed to the Zweisimmen Outdoor Pool just next door to cool off after an adventurous afternoon.

Another exciting day was spent touring the Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory in Broc, where they enjoyed the interactive museum along with a chocolate-making workshop, which included creating their own 3D chocolate, decorating it, and then pouring into a mould where it cooled and settled. The chocolatiers also shared their secret of tempering.

The group carried on with their course studies in the mornings followed by a visit to the Institut Le Rosey campus in the town of Rolle (situated between Geneva and Lausanne on Lac Leman). The Institut Le Rosey is an international private boarding school that was founded in 1880 and has a student body of 420. Students study the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma or French Baccalaureate. The group joined other Rosey summer camp students in a variety of different sports options. Students were able to play basketball or tennis, swim, or do archery, to name a few. They met other students from around the world and had the chance to take a dip at the outdoor pool. The day was complete with a traditional Swiss dinner (raclette) followed by a tour of the campus.

After one morning lesson, during the first week, the group was met by the Alpinzentrum team and were shuttled over to the Hornflue located just above Schonried where the students learned to belay and rock climb, working with experienced guides. The students challenged themselves and supported one another each time they scrambled up the rock face. 

As the first week came to a close, Friday night was spent at the oldest hotel in Gstaad – the Post Hotel Rossli which was built in 1845, followed by a morning train ride to the capital of Switzerland – Bern. The old town of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Students visited the parliament building, toured the Albert Einstein House where he developed his Theory of Relativity and wandered the shops in the area referred to as ‘Lauben’ which is a collection of weather-sheltered shopping promenades. They also stopped in at the Bern Minster Cathedral and walked up the 312 steps in the tower to get a panoramic view of the capital.

Sunday was spent in Grindelwald to see one of the most famous Swiss mountains – the Eiger. They boarded the train and headed to Grindelwald, passing through the town of Interlaken viewing the clear blue waters of Lake Thun. The well-known mountain village of Grindelwald lies in a unique Alpine landscape at the foot of the north face of the Eiger and located in the German-speaking section of the canton of Berne. The mountainscape and the numerous lookout points and activities make Grindelwald one of the most popular and cosmopolitan holiday and excursion destinations in Switzerland, and the largest ski resort in the Jungfrau region. Here the students whizzed along an 800-metre long steel cable followed by trip on the mountain cart along a 3 kilometre long natural road.

The second school week began with classes on the Rosey campus. After class, students met the Alpinzentrum instructors in the neighboring town of Rougement and headed up the La Videmanette cable car. Here the group did a ‘Via Ferrata’ which is Italian for ‘Iron Path’. This course included a variety of fixed ropes secured with iron ladders, pins, and steel cables fixed into the rock face. They completed the route nicknamed ‘Carrot’ and reached the summit.

Boarding a train for the last time the group visited Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) again and took the opportunity to explore the city of Lausanne. They stopped at the interactive Olympic Museum which contains more than 10,000 artifacts and they strolled along the Ouchy waterfront district. 

After consistently high temperatures the students experienced their first bout of rain after crossing over the Col de Pillon to the town of Aigle to take in the Aigle Adventure Park. The park has 11 courses of varying levels where the students swung from tree to tree, crossed rope bridges, and slid along zip-lines. They then attended their scheduled class in the afternoon.

To finish their two-week Swiss Summer School experience the group headed for the Glacier 3000 which is located 30 minutes away from Gstaad, taking a cable car to the top. Students enjoyed riding the Alpine Coaster, which saw them ride at up to 40 kilometres per hour and a 360-degree panoramic view of twenty-four peaks that are over 4,000 metres high. The group also did the Peak Walk by Tissot. This 107 metre long and 80 cm wide bridge offers a stunning view of the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau mountains. The group returned and did some last minute shopping in town before packing up and preparing for their journey home. The final evening was spent having dinner at the Arc en Ciel Pizzeria Restaurant, known for having the best pizza in town.

It was a joy and pleasure working with this group of students and has been a transformative experience for many. Thank you to Ms. Egli and Mr. Saccucci for all their dedication in regards to their respective summer course in addition to supervising the activities and excursions each day. A thank you to Mrs. Grant-Watt as well who supported this international opportunity and was the acting Safety Officer.