On the 10 January, just after the Christmas break, students from the Upper Sixth made our way to Gatwick Airport for 5.30pm on Thursday. We made our way through security and well in time for the flight. A short time later, and an hour further east, at 11pm time we made it to Geneva taking a fast tram to our hotel, a warren of rooms in the Old Town, and we all quickly took a moment to glance at the night time city before resting for the big day.
We woke up to breakfast in bed and by 8.30am we were on the tram again, enjoying free and efficient public transport, to visit the Three-Legged Chair landmine memorial, set up to remind everyone that many countries have not yet banned them. Then we walked to the United Nations and enjoyed a tour around the large Palais des Nations Assembly Hall and the marble halls while feeling like we were walking through a time machine as we visited the exceptionally preserved Art Deco building leading to rooms each with beautiful artwork and steeped in history. After viewing the hallways and of course the gift shop, where we were all gifted with sweets from the hotel provided by Mr Chan (this turned out to be a constant theme during the visit, and we headed to the trams to travel to Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN).
Before splitting into groups for a tour around the facilities, we emulated the resident engineers and scientists, eating lunch in the CERN canteen. Touring 100m below ground at one of the four main detectors, the Compact Muon Synchrotron (CMS) which helped to discover the Higgs boson was a real insight into the extraordinary Engineering as well as the complex Physics involved in detecting the most elusive of particles.
After this we were given a lecture about what happens at CERN and asked questions about the particle accelerators and their discoveries while hearing about the achievements of finding particles, such as the Higgs Boson, and future plans to increase the already (27km diameter) Large Hadron collider perhaps to 100km. After the journey back to the hotel we travelled out again to spend some quality time eating pizza and bowling with variable skill on display and then played in the arcade watching fellow students head to head in tense matches of air hockey and darts. We then all made our way back to the hotel after the tiring but exciting day.
On Saturday morning we awoke realising it was our last day in Switzerland, having our final breakfast in bed and heading off once again on a tram, this time travelling to the Red Cross and Red Crescent museum where we all had a guided tour around the exhibits learning about the rich history and founding of the organisation. We walked about each section listening to the life-size videos of members speaking about their experiences and we definitely enjoyed the interactive group game, mimicking responses to a natural disaster, which all 22 of us, unfortunately, didn’t win. After this, we went back to the main part of Geneva and all had two hours to spend taking in the city sights and having our final lunch. We then grabbed our bags from the hotel and made one final stop before the airport, back to CERN to visit the Universe of Particles exhibition in the CERN globe seeing the development of detectors from the very first cyclotron accelerator that was small enough to hold in one hand. We then posed outside the CERN Globe for a group photo before going to the Microcosm exhibition to pose again in front of the Gargamelle chamber in the Science Garden, which we’d learned about only weeks before we left. We then popped into the souvenir shop and bought a few CERN hard hats before travelling back to the airport. After a long day, we returned home safely.
This was such a memorable trip as we experienced Particle Physics in action and enjoyed the sights of Geneva helping us to understand better what we have been studying in class while having a great time in an international city.
Written by: Upper Sixth Form student, Aanandita