Where exactly is St Gallen? Is this going to be an interesting two weeks for me? These are questions that bugged my mind as I found out that I had gotten a scholarship to attend the Summer School in Empirical Research Methods. I had always wanted to visit Switzerland. I had heard so much about the Alps, chocolatiers from this region were highly regarded globally and which watch buff wouldn’t want to visit the renowned capital of precision instruments. Therefore the opportunity to visit presented itself in the form of the summer school. Entering the EU provided an interesting perspective on profiling. The immigration officials at Schipol were quite committed to their jobs especially towards a number of people of like skin. Well maybe it was their brief. Who cares? I wouldn’t be there if didn’t have any purpose.
The train ride from Zurich to St Gallen was smooth allowing me to witness the ambiance and serenity of the Swiss landscape. Switzerland didn’t disappoint with regards its beauty. “Nature presents things in a most ideal manner that man tends to destroys” I thought. The Swiss however have done a good job conserving the environment so I figured they were sorted in that regard. The train whisked past Winthethur, Uzwil and Gossau onto St Gallen. “Here at last” I thought. Let the “fun” begin. Alas I was to wait for an hour before the welcome party arrived. No fault of theirs, I was just that tad bit early.
The first day of the summer school was interesting as there were about 220 scholars from diverse cultures and backgrounds. We were all welcomed by the President of the University of St. Gallen, Prof. Thomas Bieger and then on to the cocktail for a ‘gipfeli’ (I guessed that’s what they called croissants in Switzerland) and coffee. As we say in Nigeria, ‘Levels dey in everything’. The coffee was ‘amazing’. I have NEVER tried anything that BITTER in my entire life. “How can a people who make such lovely chocolates fill their pallets with such? I guess they truly need the kick to wake up”. Anyhow on to the first session in my Qualitative Data Analysis class. I was keen for this course because my research skills have been skewed towards quantitative research. The course proved to be very interesting. I meet new friends, learnt new research skills (although I still tried to place numbers somewhere in my analysis after all I have an engineering background).
The week was quite uneventful as the focus was on research, research and more research except for the big culture shock awaiting me. Never in my life have I seen where almost every business closes daily operations at 5pm. LIKE REALLY 5pm and noise curfew at 10pm. I witnessed firsthand the 10pm curfew when I was at a friend’s and her neighbor came to knock on the door for us to keep the noise level to a minimum. These guys have it ‘great’ but socially boring from my perspective. Then as they say “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” we heading to Jakobsbad in Appenzell on Saturday for some bob run, cable car ride, Rope Park and best of all zip lining. Boy was it fun. At the Marktplatz in St Gallen, there were some rock bands playing… good music “They should get a good label” I thought.
The second week was also interesting. As the Swiss were observing the Ascension day on Monday, June 9th, there were no classes so some friends and I took a trip to Wasserauen in Appenzeller to go hiking and visit a cave church. It is major tourist attraction in the region and people can get married in there apparently… cool. I also got to develop interest in my soon to be started hobby… paragliding. I think I will try it and skydiving when I can.
On Tuesday, we were back to the research methods mode for the second week of classes. I was signed up for the Mixed Method research class but it wasn’t as fun as I would have wanted it to be. The classes were focused towards quantitative research which I have more experience in and mentioned next to nothing on combining the two methods. The lecturer explained that majority of the students wanted that…. I guess I didn’t get the memo. Despite this initial setback, I tried to make the best of the situation and brushed up on my Multivariate analysis. No knowledge lost right.
Overall the two weeks of the summer school was very interesting. I was able to make new friends, gain knowledge, have fun and see nature in its element. I also have found out where St Gallen is. Maybe I will visit again soon. To the GBSN I say Danke! Vielleicht werde ich Schweiz und St. Gallen bald wieder besuchen.
Nnaemeka C Okereke is a PhD student in Management at Lagos Business School of the Pan-Atlantic University currently developing his thesis proposal. He attended SSERM with the intent of strengthening his PhD thesis and develop his research agenda in terms of empirical methodology. Nnaemeka's thesis is a mixed method study incorporating case study analysis and stimulation.