Faculty and students recently returned from a week-long adventure examining the impact of language on daily activities and interactions in Switzerland. The USF Switzerland Linguistic and Cultural Diversity program gives students the opportunity to explore how cultural and linguistic diversity affects aspects of social, professional, and economic life. Switzerland is known as a microcosm of Europe, as it is comprised of various areas that speak French, German, Italian, and Romansh. Below is a first-hand account of the study abroad experience from Samantha Thomas, MA, NIC, associate instructor in the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders (CSD).
Salut! Hallo! Ciao! Faculty from the CSD department just concluded our study abroad trip to Switzerland. Students were able to immerse themselves in the three spoken languages used in the country and engage in cultural analysis. Not to mention partaking in a fair indulgence of cheese and chocolate.
Students started their journey by visiting the United Nations in Geneva (the Swiss-French speaking area of the country). Here they learned about the history of the United Nations, the impact this institution makes on the culture, and met with spoken-language interpreters to get a better understanding of how languages are translated for ambassadors from around the world.
Students visit the United Nations in Geneva.
They then moved to Interlaken to tackle the Alps. Here students were able to see how the German language permeates throughout the countryside and remains strong in smaller villages. They even rode the highest railway in Europe to walk on a mountaintop near the Aletsch Glacier!
After hearing and speaking some French and German, students took a deep dive into the Italian language in Lugano. The first stop on the trip was to visit the only Italian-speaking university in the country with a personal tour from current students. Afterwards, we met with the Swiss Federation of the Deaf to learn about disability rights and how access to interpreting services were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Switzerland. Warm evening strolls near the lake were frequent and eating our weight in gelato was a must.
Students smile for a picture in Lugano, Switzerland.
The trip was filled with many firsts, hours of laughter, and a deeper understanding of the complexities of how language and culture intertwine. We look forward to taking students back in a few years. Next stop for CSD faculty, Belize!