The summer of Summer Student – 10 year Reunion!

10 years ago this summer, I arrived for the second time in Geneva for a 12 week internship at CERN. It was without doubt the best summer work placement I did in between leaving school and getting my first ‘proper’ job. Here is a picture of me, 10 years ago taken at about 5am half way up the Jura mountain headed for a sunrise breakfast after partying all night at a “kitchen party”.

Reunion

The real purpose of this post, beyond reminiscences about a great time in my life and the lives of many others, is to encourage all of you who were part of it to come back to CERN this September for our 10 year reunion. Myself and some of the other former summies who are still lucky enough to be in residence are putting together some activities, which will include a tour of some surface buildings, possibly a guest lecture/screening of memorable photos and video messages from anyone unable to attend, a visit to the Kitchen in Building 38 (where the KP’s began) and probably dinner (possibly somewhere slightly more posh than R1) and drinks afterwards.

The date for your diary is Saturday 19th September, afternoon and evening.

Partners, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends and children are all welcome. If you want to attend please drop me a line/facebook/email and I’ll send you the exact details!

There is also a facebook event you can join.

jimmy jura and the sunriseFor those who are unfamiliar with the CERN summer student programme – Official Page,  or haven’t had the pleasure of ever being a summer student the basics are (or at least used to be) as follows:

  • Up to 13 weeks paid internship at the CERN site in Geneva
  • Students selected from member states on the basis of an application form to be submitted in December of the preceding year.
  • Each student is selected for a technical project broadly aligned to his or her field of study, and supervised by a researcher or CERN staff member
  • All students are encouraged to attend a 6 week lecture course, covering all aspects of Physics from the very small (High Energy Particles) to the very big (Astrophysics), as well as many more practical details on how to construct and operate CERN scale particle accelerators, including signal acquisition and computing.
  • This experience is shared with approximately 150 other official summer students and countless more less official summer students who have managed to get to CERN for the summer.

Since I finished the programme I’ve done as much as I can to promote it to university students I’ve run into over the years. However the subject of this post is ALL THE FUN I had during my summer, outside of office hours!

Being in the heart of Europe with 150 other highly educated young people from all across Europe and beyond, all in receipt of a reasonable salary (which at the time was little short of a fortune by our meagre student standards), was a recipe for lots of fun. We had fun in many ways, and I have over 1000 photos in a shoebox at home which testify to the majority of our escapades. Here are some particular highlights, described mostly for the benefit for those who weren’t there or who have forgotten:

Fondue on the Roof

One lunchtime I was sitting in the restaurant with my friend Jakub and we decided to organise an exclusive rooftop fondue on top of one of the accessible roofs on the campus. We invited selected friends, and set off for the roof one evening that week with our sleeping bags, a fondue set, some warm clothes a guitar and a harmonica. And some red wine. It got rather cold at night, and I had a horrendous headache the next day. But it was all worth it.

Swimming in the lake at Annecy

Having lived mostly in London for the preceding 12 years of my life, I wasn’t too accustomed to the pleasures of life ‘in the wild’ such as dipping your toes in rivers and swimming in lakes. One sunny Saturday day I hitched a ride with some of my mostly Danish friends to the Aguile du Midi cable car, returning via Annecy. They had located a tree leaning over the lake with a rope swing. I’ll always remember how the cold the water was when I dropped in off the end of the rope and ended up fully submerged in the lake. Nobody told me to breath in before letting go, fortunately I didn’t swallow that much! Later that evening we had pizza on the lakeside and watched the spectacular annual Annecy Fireworks.

The front of the 2005 Summer Student T-shirt

Kitchen Parades

A hand-me-down term from unknown previous summer students, our weekly (Wednesdays, if I recall correctly…) party session, was referred to as a Kitchen Parade. Presumably this is some corruption of a Kitchen Party by a non-native english speaker, quite probably under the influence of intoxicating liquor. Like many informal aspects of the summer student programme, these parties were spontaneously (and excellently) organised by random groups of students, each taking their turn. Typically a party collection was taken in morning lectures by passing an empty cereal carton along the rows of seated students in the main auditorium, with the ‘fee’ for the party scrawled on one of the box flaps in Swiss Francs and an equivalent in Euros. Someone always managed to find a car and head to the supermarket for the prerequisite large quantities of alcohol. Some of the more memorable party themes were:

  • Bad taste party (come in fancy dress, so long as it’s in poor taste)
  • Toga party
  • Cross dressing party (boys dress as girls, girls dress as boys…)
  • Scotish/Irish party (whiskey drinking obligatory)
  • A delicious dinner cooked for us by the Italian students (more dignified than your typical party)
  • Lots of others I can’t remember.

Field trips

We all took advantage of the weekends to visit major cities nearby, from downtown Geneva, across into Italy, France and also more central Switzerland. I personally enjoyed a great trip to Zurich with quite a few awesome people I’m still in touch with, and a weekend in Milan and Turin that included seeing the breathtaking Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. Visits to the Last Supper are typically booked up years in advance by tour groups and organised parties, however a fellow summer student passed on some truly amazing and invaluable advice (I’m not sure if it still works today… if you are successful please let me know!). When we arrived at the church of Santa Maria we sat on the benches and waited for a tour bus to arrive, before pouncing on the tour leader to ask if they had any spare tickets – as for any given coach party there are always going to be a couple of people who cancel or are ill, so can’t use their tickets. On our second attempt we were successful and purchased three tickets for ourselves at face value from the guide!

The names of all the 2005 summer students. It would be great to hear from as many as possible to find out what you're all doing now!

The names of all the 2005 summer students. It would be great to hear from as many as possible to find out what you’re all doing now!

Reunion

The real purpose of this post, beyond reminiscences about a great time in my life and the lives of many others, is to encourage all of you who were part of it to come back to CERN this September for our 10 year reunion. Myself and some of the other former summies who are still lucky enough to be in residence are putting together some activities, which will include a tour of some surface buildings, possibly a guest lecture/screening of memorable photos and video messages from anyone unable to attend, a visit to the Kitchen in Building 38 (where the KP’s began) and probably dinner (possibly somewhere slightly more posh than R1) and drinks afterwards.

The date for your diary is Saturday 19th September, afternoon and evening.

Partners, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends and children are all welcome. If you want to attend please drop me a line/facebook/email and I’ll send you the exact details!

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