Way Out

The academic climbs of the past few months, even the past two weeks, have been incredible. I have spoken with people whom I could only have dreamt of meeting. Professors have contacted me through various channels offering all sorts of help.

Yet, this seems permanently overshadowed by problems in Switzerland, not least as time here nears its end. As wonderful as the English Department is, this place too often feels like a nightmare. There are four separate forms to be filled in to leave the country, all of which need delivering to different places. A charge is levied for a leaving certificate.

I had to go to our admin building, Uni Dufour, last week to try and sort out the messy business of matriculation, 12 months after I was reprimanded about my French there. I had never been officially enrolled for reasons nobody could calculate. It turns out there had been a misunderstanding, and the stern headmistress was even less impressed this morning.

Why had I not appeared at her summons last year? Because I had satisfied everything and my registration file should have been complete. Now she is not satisfied that she has seen original documents, even though I went through the painstaking process of getting them here, taking them last year, and she herself offering to copy them. Despite that, everything stalled indefinitely.

As a member of staff at the university, I should not have let myself be intimidated, but could do no more than utter ‘Je les ai apporté’ without assertiveness. I shivered through coat and scarf during the shakings of the head from the other side of the desk. The positive upshot of this – and there is one – is that I should be guaranteed at least student status at Geneva in absentia.

Uni Dufour, University of Geneva
Uni Dufour / Mental Asylum

The process of leaving this country is remarkably testing. How sorely tempting it must be just to forget it all and casually disappear. I headed back to face the stern headmistress today in Dufour, to find that she wasn’t in. A covering gentleman, without saying a word, glanced at my certificates and ripped up the conditions sheet. There is an ugly ruthlessness to this office.

That, unfortunately, was the highlight. My newly acquired student card could not recoup anything I should have been entitled to as a student, either at the bank or in terms of tax. Somehow, rather than leaving here with an extra few thousand francs, in transpires that I’ll actually owe the state money in due course. That really is a microcosm of the experience.

There is a gruelling start to the final week too. The majority of our English students sit exams on Monday. Papers have to be delivered at 8:00am, and then it’s a trip to the Service des Paies (personnel and finance), either at the dreaded Dufour or the State office (or both), as certain documents are only printed on the 26th of the month, and then a dash back for invigilation.

I thought academia allowed all types of character, but I think I’m too timid to thrive at it. I have a complex about using the libraries here because of my track record of setting off the alarms. When my colleague returned from a six-month period of leave and came back to the office last week, my self-motivational quotes were gone from the whiteboard, replaced by some graffiti. I’m soon an irrelevance.

I started this role determined to find optimism. Instead, I question where the fire I had during long commutes to Edinburgh during my master’s year (when a PhD seemed a far-distant option) has gone. Now, I hope that I will cherish the solitude until all these doubts fade away. As it is, every day of this final spell seems to reinforce the sentiments all the more.

This place has broken me.

I’ll sign off a 12-hour day with the words of Jack Bauer: ‘I want my life back, and I want it now’.

I want my life back, and I want it now

2 thoughts on “Way Out

  1. Lemme at ‘er! lemme at ‘er!

    What a load of shit that situation is.. Next time you see her crusty visage, mentally turn your nose up at little miss headmistress for her ugly lack of patience. It’s not hard – surely it cannot be so taxing on her pitiful brain to communicate with someone who cannot speak to same language: fuck knows you tried harder than her stupid arse.

    Phew someone’s aggressive tonight.. I kind of feel emotion on your behalf now as though I’ve lost my patience to put up with all the finiky Swiss details these things entail. I’d have the attitude of “Let’s get this shit out the way so I can get on with my life”.. and not let any old bint patronize me. Rrrrr…

    Let passion fuel you. x

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