ETH Zurich is more than just a prestigious educational institution; it's a vibrant cultural melting pot where over 120 countries are represented. This diversity not only enriches the campus but also contributes to the rich talent pool in the Greater Zurich Area, attracting innovative minds and future decision-makers. These talented individuals are drawn to the region not only for its top academic opportunities but also for its exceptional quality of life, making it a preferred destination for those looking to shape the future. In a recent article, ETH Life magazine delves into the personal and emotional journeys of four international members of the ETH community as they navigate life in Switzerland, each bringing their unique perspectives and innovative ideas to the fore. 

Settling in Switzerland: Four stories from ETH Zurich
From left to right: Pulkit Nahata, Medinat Malefakis, Maria Friedrich, and Emily Cross. (Images: Yves Bachmann)


Finding peace in reliability

Pulkit Nahata from India often finds solace amid the hustle and bustle of Zurich’s main train station. "Even if I am feeling out of sorts, the reliability of the trains always fills me with peace and gratitude", Pulkit shares. Moving from the colorful chaos of Rajasthan to the calm of Zurich was a stark transition for him. "The first six months were really hard", he recalls, missing the vibrant life he left behind. But over time, Pulkit has grown to appreciate the Swiss values of punctuality and integrity, finding peace in the order that once challenged him. Now, he proudly calls Switzerland his home.


Seeking connection in Swiss serenity

Medinat Malefakis from Nigeria reflects on the community-centric upbringing of her hometown, contrasting it with the individualistic approach in Switzerland. "“In the town I grew up in, it was completely normal for children to be raised by the entire neighbourhood", she notes, highlighting a missing sense of connectedness in her new environment. Despite this, Medinat feels a profound appreciation for the security and serenity Zurich offers, particularly enjoying the idyllic scenes at Sechseläutenplatz where "you feel as though there is nothing to worry about in the world".

Quality of life in Greater Zurich

Quality of life in Greater Zurich

Do you want a perfect work-life balance? In the Greater Zurich Area you will find a unique quality of life. Here you can bring work, family, recovery, sport and leisure into perfect harmony.

Lake Zug

Balancing spontaneity and structure

Maria Friedrich from Argentina was surprised by the Swiss cultural norms of privacy and meticulous planning, which starkly differed from the spontaneity of her life in Buenos Aires. "In Switzerland, it takes longer for someone to let you into their life. But once you’re in, you’re in forever", Maria observes, appreciating the lasting relationships she's formed. Her journey reflects a gradual but profound adaptation to the Swiss way of life, where she has learned to balance her vibrant Argentine spirit with the structured Swiss environment.


Embracing Swiss efficiency

Emily Cross from the USA finds the Swiss approach to work and life refreshing, especially the efficient and polite administrative support at ETH. "Across all of the institutions I’ve worked in, I’ve never had so much of the administrative work done for me – which leaves me so much more time for research. It’s amazing!" Emily exclaims. The respect for personal and professional boundaries in Switzerland has allowed her more freedom to pursue her passions, making Zurich a place she eagerly anticipates calling home permanently.


The Sechseläutenplatz is Medinat Malefakis' favourite place in Zurich: "When you see people sitting there in the sun eating ice cream, you feel as though there is nothing to worry about in the world." (Image: Zürich Tourism)


These heartfelt stories from the international community at ETH Zurich underscore not only the challenges of cultural adjustment but also the personal growth and unexpected joys of life in Switzerland. Each narrative vividly illustrates how the Greater Zurich Area not only serves as a hub for academic excellence but also as a beacon for ambitious individuals seeking to make a significant impact in their fields. The region's commitment to fostering a supportive environment for innovation attracts the brightest minds who are destined to become tomorrow’s leaders. 


This article is a summarized version of a longer feature originally published in ETH life magazine, April 2024, pages 4-9, written by Anna Maltsev.  

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