Moving to Switzerland

Hello everyone,

My name is Safiye Jafari and I am working on the FoodSmartphone project “Aptamer-based ligand binding assays for electrochemical detection of aflatoxins on a smartphone” at the Electrochemical Sensing and Surface Functionalization group at CSEM in Landquart, Switzerland. The aim of the project briefly is to develop a portable device integrated into a smartphone that could be used by non-expert citizens to measure aflatoxins in food. I am going to leave the scientific details to scientific publications and here I would like to talk more about my experiences and my work life as an early stage researcher of FoodSmartphone project.

I had always this crave to move abroad and I was never afraid of taking up the challenge. In my view, moving to a different country is full of exciting possibilities as well as learning about a different culture and language or meeting interesting people. Therefore, when CSEM offered to me the position after several interviews, I could not be any happier. I accepted the offer immediately and after a long, difficult visa process, finally last week I was able to start my journey. Since I have just moved here, I had to take care of all necessary paper works with the immigration office, opening a bank account and insurance. Although I still didn’t have enough time to explore the Switzerland properly, my first week here was amazing. Particularly, the culture is completely different from mine, which makes it even more exciting. In order to give you an idea about all the cultural differences, now I will give you a short description of my origin cultures.

Originally, I am from Afghanistan. If you search it on google or if you follow the news, you probably just heard about this endless stupid war there. And even if the country has been burned to the ground, either mine or my people’ heart still belong to it. When my parents or grandparents start to talking about memories of their lost home, I always notice how their eyes sparkle. Although almost everything is being destroyed during 30 years of war, I am going to mention a few must-see places left. The Buddhas of Bamiyan was one of the world’s great monuments prior to their destruction. The existence of these rock-cut Buddha sculptures in the Bamiyan Valley of central Afghanistan points to the importance of the Buddhist faith and the Bamiyan Valley along the silk road during the 4th  and 5th century. Fortunately, there are astonishing and beautiful sights still not destroyed. Band-e Amir is a series of spectacular lakes with incredibly deep blue water. The lakes are situated in the foothills of the Hindu Kush, the second highest mountain range in the world, 80 kilometers from the ancient town of Bamiyan. The other breathtaking sights are the Panjshir Valley (the valley of five lions) and the Blue Mosque (Mazar-i-Sharif). Personally, I have never been to any of these places, but I really hope someday I get to see all of them.

West Buddha surrounded by caves, c. , stone, stucco, paint, 175 feet high, Bamiyan, Afghanistan, destroyed 2001 (photo: © Afghanistan Embassy)
Deep blue lakes of Band e Amir, photo from
Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, photo from
Panjshir Mountains, photo from

I was born and grew up in Iran and I have always considered the country as my second home. Even though we speak the same language and have a similar culture, Afghan immigrants are always treated as outsiders there. That is why even if I never felt to belong there, I have learned how to be integrated and become part of communities, which were very unwilling to accept me. Apart from all that, Iranians are very warm-hearted and friendly and the country has so many tourist attractions that it would take more than a month just to see the best ones. I lived in a number of different cities like Shiraz, Isfahan,  Tehran, and Shiraz is definitely my most loved one. The city is a cultural hub, which locates in the southwest of Iran. The city is well known as the city of poets, gardens, flowers, and nightingale. There are numerous tourist attractions like ancient palaces of Persepolis and Pasargadae; Eram Garden; Tomb of Hafez (my favorite poet); Pink Mosque, Vakil Bazar to name but a few. The people are very friendly and open-hearted and they love outdoor activities. As the country is safe enough, I strongly recommend it as your next destination if you are an avid traveler.

Shiraz tourist attractions

Now that you have a picture of my cultural background, I would like to focus on Switzerland, my new home for the next 3 years. The first thing that I noticed here was the driverless train, which is called the “Sky Metro” and connects the main parts of the airport (super cool). The music on the train, a mixture of natural sounds of waterfall and animals, put an instant smile on my face reminding me of Heidi, the girl of the Alps, which was one my favorite animation growing up. The next was the high price of the train ticket. I knew that everything here is more expensive, but when you start paying, it is really nerve-shattering. The scenery, of course, is spectacular, with green mountains and beautiful lakes, a heaven for nature lovers like me. I officially started to work at CSEM on Monday. My new colleagues are very kind, thoughtful and welcoming. Particularly, Silvia and Davide helped me a lot to settle down in the office. I am sure that you all remember Davide the funny Italian guy from summer school in Netherlands. The most interesting feature of CSEM is its multicultural environment. I have already met people from all around Europe and I can hear many different languages in the office from Italian, German, and Swiss German to French and others. Overall, I got the expression of being part of a great team here and I feel so lucky that I got to participate in 10 years anniversary of CSEM party tonight. We had a walk around Murg Lake and then dinner in the Sagibeiz.

CSEM 10  years anniversary

I found living in Switzerland a bit different from the Heidi animation so far. I am living in a student house in Chur until I find a place. You cannot imagine how hard it is to find accommodation here. I have already started the apartment hunt and I found a dozen of places, but only one was available for viewing. The renting process is complicated too, as you have to apply for the place. I guess there might be an interview as well. Regarding language, almost all young adults can speak English and they are super kind when you ask for help. I didn’t have any problem opening a bank account or at the immigration office since the administrators could speak perfect English.  The city, Chur, is the oldest city of the country, full of beautiful old buildings. I just spent half a day wandering around the old city and it was like being in a movie set in the 13 century. The must-see places in the city are Altstadt (Old Town), Rätisches Museum and Saint Martin’s Church. The weather is rather cold this time of the year compared to my home country. I personally love winter and snow and I am thinking of learning how to ski, so it’s the best place for me. Overall, I had a great start this week and I cannot wait to explore more of Switzerland. Thank you for reading my first post. I am going to tell you more about my work life here in the following posts.


Chur, The old city


20170913_180313 (1)
Chur, Rätisches Museum


Bündner Kunstmuseum


Saint Martin’s Church


The spectacular scenery from my window 






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