PHYS6016 - information about the Year Abroad at CERN

This TWiki page has been created by previous PHYS6016 students in order to provide new students of the PHYS6016 course with all the information they need to have a smooth arrival and enjoyable experience at CERN.

If you have any further questions or concerns, you can contact:

Alternatively, you can contact: You should raise issues as they occur, to allow them to be rectified.

There is also a list of previous students at the bottom of this page. I (William) have linked my email address to my name, and suggest that others follow suit, to allow prospective students to make contact if they wish.

WIFI Details. Write these down so you can connect at the flat:

  • SSID: ykg-82917
  • Password: 338k-uwyz-cyxk-3abt (includes the hyphens)

Eduroam is available at CERN, and also at Geneva Airport.

Module Details

Timeline, deadlines, assessment

The link to the official Soton PHYS6016 Particle Physics Research Project page can be found here. In particular, this page presents different component and their percentage contribution to the assessment:
METHOD PERCENTAGE CONTRIBUTION
First Semester Report 10%
Oral examination 20%
Seminar presentation 20%
Final Report 50%

The timeline of the program is: (also available at this link)

Year 3 of study
February (post Sem 1 Exam Board) May 1st week June 1st week after exams finish June/July Post release of results June(late)/July(early) August
Student and School Manager Liaise over ‘housekeeping’ issues RAL/Uos co-ordinators publish esearch projects Students meet with Southampton Programme co-ordinator to discuss the project selection. Proj. Co-ord. signs-off project selection and releases contact details of RAL supervisor to student Student liaises with RAL Supervisor & produces project plan Student departs for CERN
Year 4 of study
September October November – January February February May
Student commences study at CERN By Oct 1 - student & host will have agreed project schedule and e-mailed to Southampton co-ordinator Work on Project - weekly meetings with supervisor 2 week Xmas vacation UoS co-ordinator visits before Xmas End of lst week electronic submission of supervisor interim report Beg/Mid Feb student submits interim reportto Southampton for formal assessment Early May student submits second and final report on the project. Middle of May students return to UoS for Presentations and Viva Examination towards the end of the month.

Actual submission deadlines to be agreed with module lead.

Details of the ssessment

Quoting from the programme specification:

"During this year there are two major assessment points:

The first is at the end of the first semester, when students are required to submit a short ( typically 3000 – 4000 words) progress report. This provides an opportunity to `step back' and review the work to date and the tasks remaining. The progress report is modelled on the `preliminary announcements' of work presented at scientific conferences in order to develop a new skill, namely writing to a strict length limit. This requires careful selection of material in order to include all the essential information while excluding unnecessary detail and still presenting a coherent picture. This first report is due in mid-January, and will be assessed back in Southampton while the student remains abroad. Feedback to the student will be provided within 2 weeks.

The second and final report on the project must be submitted by mid May. This report is typically 10,000 words long and the quality of the final work will be commensurate with M-level study; in most cases it is anticipated that the work will form the basis of subsequent publication in an academic journal jointly authored by you and the RAL scientist. A 60-minute viva on the report will normally take place during the final week of May in Southampton. Prior to the viva the student is required to also make a 20-minute seminar presentation as part of the assessment.

The quality of the final work will be commensurate with M-level study."

Arrival

The first of you to arrive in Switzerland will need to go to CERN first to collect the keys to the flat. These need to be collected from the UKLO (see below). They close at 4:00pm but can arrange for the keys to be left in the lock box outside of their office. If there any issues, contact them to discuss alternative arrangements.

The figure, below, shows the TPG (see Getting Around Geneva) plan of the airport, as found here, with some helpful edits (I linked to the website in French, because the plans are more up-to-date there). You will arrive on the lower ground floor of the main airport building (A). When you go from baggage reclaim through customs, you're immediately in the public part of the airport. Turn left and follow the concourse until you get to the revolving door. Go through the door into building B. For buses, go up an escalator facing in the direction you came in, shortly after the revolving door. Take buses as discussed in the following sections. For trains, continue along the concourse a bit further, and go down the escalator to the platform you want.

Alternatively (for easier but less obvious access to the buses), after customs turn right along the concourse (initially following signs for terminal 2). [Terminal 2 is only very small, and roughly a 10 minute walk off the left of the figure. All arrivals go to terminal 1 (I think). A few departures go from terminal 2 for check-in and security, before being bussed back to terminal 1 for the gates. If you get to terminal 2, you've gone too far for the buses!] The concourse turns into a slightly wavy corridor. Then go through some doors into a covered car park area which probably has a small shuttle bus in it for Rent-A-Car. Follow the weird zebra crossing round to the left and you will meet the Route de l'Aéroport road. Immediately on your left will be the WTC bus stop (that's the name of the bus stop; it's still operated by the TPG company), from which you can get the 23, 28, 57 or Y (as discussed in the following sections) [trolleybus 10 into the city also goes from here]. Do not cross the road; those buses will take you back to the airport (they drive on the right!).
Aeroport-13-12-2015-1.png

From the Airport to CERN

The easiest way to get to CERN from the airport is via the CERN shuttle, details of which can be found here. You want shuttle 4, airport - Meyrin (the main CERN site). The website says if you don't have a CERN pass they should drop you off at the main reception, this is what you want.

Alternatively if there is not a shuttle near when you arrive it is an easy trip on public transport. In the baggage collection area of Geneva airport there is a dispenser that gives out FREE transport tickets for 80 minutes' transport around Geneva (on buses, trams, trains, trolleybuses and boats). Using this you can either get:

  • Bus 23/28/57/Y to Blandonnet then (upstairs) Tram 18 to CERN (end of the line)
  • Bus Y, which stops outside the main CERN site (stop name: CERN)
Buses 23 and 57 terminate at the airport, so you can't get one in the wrong direction. For both of the above options, you want bus Y towards Val-Thoiry. For the first option, you want bus 28 towards Parfumerie.
IMG_3310.JPG
IMG_3311.JPG

If neither of these appeal to you then there is always a taxi but this will cost ~£30, make sure you have the destination written down if you get a taxi as they may not understand where you want to go (apparently the way I pronounce CERN isn't understandable to French taxi drivers (it should be something like "sairn" with "air" as in "hair")).

Once at CERN, you will need to go to the main reception (opposite the big wooden globe) to collect a guest pass, you should either get your supervisor or someone at the UKLO (see UK Liaison Office below) to arrange this. Once you have your guest pass you will either need to meet up with your supervisor or go to the UKLO, either of these options should be prearranged as the people at CERN have quite full schedules so will need warning of your arrival.

Once you have met up with someone at CERN you can arrange getting your keys for the flat from the UKLO and registering as a CERN user.

From the Airport to the Flat

To get to the flat from the airport, you can take:
  • Bus 23/28/57/Y to Blandonnet then (upstairs) Tram 14 to Meyrin-Gravière (end of the line)
  • Bus 57 getting off at Champs-Frèchets or Bugnons. This is probably the simplest and best option
Buses 23 and 57 terminate at the airport, so you can't get one in the wrong direction. For the first option, you want bus 28 towards Parfumerie or bus Y towards Val-Thoiry. The Meyrin-Gravière stop is a 8 min walk from the flat, while the Champs-Frèchets and Bugnons bus stops are on the edge of the Champs-Frèchets site.

To get to the flat once you are at the Champs-Frèchets site, walk to the left hand end of the row of shops/restaurants and proceed down the steps or ramp. Prom. des Champs-Fréchets 26 is then one of the buildings on the right. Walk left, looking at the big numbers on the windows until you reach 26, which is next to the archway through to the athletics pitch.

Of course, this assumes at least one of the other students has arrived before you and gained access.

From the Airport to the TPG Ticket Office

If you're buying a month/year travel pass (see Getting Around Geneva) and you're very prepared, you can use the free ticket from baggage reclaim to get to the TPG office in the city centre. The easiest way is to get a train; the first stop for all trains from Genève Aéroport railway station is Genève railway station. The corresponding bus/tram/trolleybus stop is Gare Cornavin (Cornavin station). You'll need the address of the flat, since they'll give you a temporary travel pass and then post the permanent SwissPass card to you (you'll need to get the UKLO to put your name on the letter box for the flat). All the cashiers speak good English! From Cornavin, you can get tram 18 directly to CERN (end of the line) or tram 14 directly to the flat (Meyrin-Gravière, end of the line).

UK Liaison Office

Known as the UKLO, they organise the accommodation for you and pretty much offer help with any other aspect of your stay at CERN. Their office is in 32/1-B06 (building 32, first floor, corridor B, room 6) and their website is here. The address to contact with most enquiries is UKLO-Team@cernSPAMNOTNOSPAMPLEASE.ch. In emergencies they can be called on +41754111636

Registration at CERN

To get an access card to CERN along with things like a computing account, you need to register at the users office. In order to do this you need a few things (below). Stefano and your RAL supervisor will be able to help you get them, make sure you leave plenty of time to get them over the summer before you leave.

When you arrive simply hand in all the mentioned documents at the users office and they should do the rest/tell you how to complete registration. Also you will have to register with your experiment, to do this simply visit your experiment's secretariat (locations below) and they will tell you how to register.

  • ATLAS - Building 40, floor 4, room D01
  • CMS - Building 40, floor 5, room B01
  • LHCb - Building 2, floor 1, room 045

Pre-Registration Tool

Before you arrive you will need to complete the pre-registration tool found at the users office page. It's possible that your supervisor doesn't know about this tool as it is new, but it needs to be completed before you can register with the users office. The form itself is pretty self explanatory and rather easy to fill out.

  • Some things to note when filling it out:
    • Your institute should be RAL (STFC, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Didcot, OX11 0QX, UK, Tel: +44 (0)1235 445 000), your starting date and position should be on your attestation of employment (see below).
    • Local address will be Prom. des Champs-Fréchets 26, CH-1217, Meyrin
    • The nature of your work is scientific.
    • Use the dates on your attestation of employment (see below) for the period at CERN with an average presence of 100%
    • Put the experiment you have agreed with Stefano
    • Leave the internal address blank until you know where you will be (you will be informed by your supervisor about this)
    • Finally your form needs to be signed both by you and the RAL team leader for your experiment (or deputy) they are:
      • ATLAS - Either Stephen Haywood (RAL ATLAS Group leader) but he is not based at CERN or Steve McMahon(161-1-016)
      • CMS - Claire Shepherd-Themistocleous (not based at CERN) and Dave Cockerill (based at CERN)
      • LHCb - - Fergus Wilson (not based at CERN) or Sajan Easo (2-1-022)

Other Documents

  • Two letters from Southampton University, these were arranged by the faculty office:
    • A letter saying Southampton guarantee sufficient financial support
    • An attestation of employment, which should explicitly state that you will be collaborating with RAL (you will be registered as being employed at RAL on the CERN system as Southampton aren't in the system)
  • Your Home Institution Declaration. For this you should have RAL as your home institution, the dates as beginning of September to mid July, and enrolled as a student at University of Southampton. You will then need to have this sent off to RAL local HR (your supervisor should be able to send it to them).
  • Four colour passport photos. These are for your French ID card, I strongly advise you bring these with you to make things simpler when you arrive. If needed there is a photo machine next to the users office but it costs ≈10CHF.
  • If you're a standard British citizen, you don't need a visa to go to Switzerland (pre-Brexit at least). If you're unsure, contact the UKLO or your experiment/detector's secretariat.

NB: When filling in the form to get your French card, you'll need to know the place(s) of birth of your parents.

Map of CERN

A very useful map can be found here.

When you arrive at the main reception, the person at the security desk can give you a physical map of the CERN sites.

Finance

Student Finance & Tuition Fees

The best way to arrange student finance is to register as being on a study abroad course (if you put placement abroad they hardly give you any money, so make sure it's study abroad). With the study abroad you get a bit extra and can claim back up to 3 return flights plus any transport needed to get from the apartment to CERN. To do this make sure you keep/ask for receipts, confirmation emails and boarding passes etc. The only catch is that you have to pay for the first ≈£303 (check with student finance for exact number as it might be means tested) of the claims. The claim form for this is called "Travel Expenses while Studying Abroad''.

Also note that as a year abroad student at Southampton you only have to pay 15% fees, details can be found in the full fees list on the Southampton website. You qualify as ''fee for students abroad for the year/sandwich years'', make sure that both the university and student finance know about the changed fees as this wasn't automatic for all previous students.

Opportunity Scholarship from the Physics Department

For the 2018/19 year, there was a £500 Opportunity Scholarship provided to help with living costs while in Geneva. Obviously, Switzerland is an expensive place, so down below (and throughout this page) there are some money saving tips.

Getting Swiss Francs

There are a number of ways of getting currency when in Switzerland, previous students have used a variety of methods to do so. I would advise looking at the relevant money saving expert articles to find the current best ways to access money abroad. It is also possible to open a Swiss bank account at the UBS on the CERN site, however there is a fee for having the account open and you will still face expensive exchange costs when transferring money into the account.

Here is what I would advise (Ben Sowden): The advice on websites like the one above often says the best things are credit cards, however most of the credit cards that give good foreign rates require you to have a much larger income and better credit rating than the average student so this is not the best way to go. I would say use either:

  • A prepaid card such as the CaxtonFx Global traveller card which you can top up online and lets you spend money abroad like in the UK without fees for spending withdrawing but puts a fixed percentage commission relative to the inter-bank exchange rate.
  • A debit card which provides a no fee deal, the only one I know of is offered by Metro Bank. This is a UK bank account much like any other but charges no fees on foreign uses and gives you the mastercard exchange rate. Better than any other you are likely to get. Check their website for the locations of their branches, as currently they are only located in a few places in the south east. However, they give you your card and internet banking details etc. on the spot when you open it.

I (Chris Burr) would also advise getting a Metro bank account. I only needed my passport and it took about an hour to set up but this could have been much quicker if you decline the offers of a tour and tea.

I (Misha) took enough cash (CHF and €) to definitely last me until Christmas. When I was in the UK for Christmas, I got more cash (based on my expenditure pre-Christmas).

I (William 2018/19) would strongly recommend a Metro Bank account. You get the best exchange rate and no fees in Europe. Everything at CERN/trams can be purchased with contactless.

Rent

Rent is 850CHF (Swiss francs) a month each . Rent is paid by bank transfer, or in cash to the post office on CERN's main campus. Most UK banks charge large fees for transferring money to a foreign account like this, to find the best methods to do so check out this money saving expert article. Quite a few of the previous students would advise using TransferWise mentioned on that page but choose whichever suits you best. I (William) would also strongly recommend TransferWise.

Living Costs

Geneva is expensive, there's no getting around that, but there is a lot you can do to reduce living costs if you are struggling. Things like cycling or walking rather than taking the tram, taking a packed lunch with you to CERN rather than buying lunch in the restaurant will add up. If you do eat in the restaurant, a 10% student discount has just been introduced so don't forget your student ID. There are a couple of example of what previous students have spent below. Thomas (2010/11) spent 600 CHF/month on food from supermarkets, restaurants, drinking out and other misc living expenses. Jack (2011/12) spent roughly £30/month on travel around Geneva (so excluding flights), £300/month on food and other misc. items and £175/month on social exploits (including the Chamonix skiing trip).

I (Misha) spent ~€125 and ~CHF125 per month including monthly TPG passes and paying for a few visitors (but excluding rent and my 8-day Swiss Travel Pass Flex Youth).

Insurance

You are covered by a couple of different health insurances, firstly there is the NHS. This will be your first port of call if you need to re-claim medical expenses, this is in the form of an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card). Make sure you have an EHIC and always carry it around on you as you will need to present it to a hospital if you need treatment. You might need to fill in a form even if you've already got an EHIC (since you're working abroad, not going on holiday).

Also insurance is provided by Southampton and RAL, in general it's Southampton's insurance that covers you. Neither of these will cover you for Skiing/Snowboarding though, so make sure you either buy insurance at the slope with your Ski passes, or look in to alternative cover for winter sports. I think this has changed as the current policy states "activities such as diving, winter sports, and climbing are automatically included" but check this before Skiing. For details on Southampton's insurance see their website.

Travel

Bringing a car

I (Chris Burr) drove to CERN and kept my car in Switzerland for the year. Most insurance policies won't provide cover after 6 months (normally much less) however EU law states that the minimum level cover must be provided without any time restrictions. I strongly advise looking into this yourself and getting confirmation from your insurance company. When I did this I found that everyone I spoke to was unaware of this rule however the Southampton branch of A-Plan (an insurance broker) pointed me in the direction of the Aviva policy booklet which states the relevant EC Directive in Section 13 (page 26). After asking my insurance company (Endsleigh) about this they had to consult their policy department who told me a week later that they would provide cover.

  • In compliance with EU Directives this policy provides, as a minimum, the necessary cover to comply with the laws on compulsory insurance of motor vehicles in:
    • any country which is a member of the European Union.
    • any country which the Commission of the European Communities is satisfied has made arrangements of Article (8) of EC Directive 2009/103/EC relating to civil liabilities arising from the use of a motor vehicle.
  • Countries include;
    • Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France (including Monaco), Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy (including San Marino and the Vatican City), Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland (including Liechtenstein).
  • Note – The level of cover provided is the minimum level of cover required by law, it is not the same level of cover you receive when driving within the territorial limits under this policy. To find out how to extend your cover, please refer to the ‘Extending your continental use cover’ box at the end of this section.

Getting Around Geneva

TPG (Transports Publics Genevois (Genevan Public Transport)) is the provider for public transport throughout Geneva, and slightly into France). It's a very simple system in essence, and is very quick to get used to. There is also a tram stop a 2 min walk from the flat, Meyrin-Gravière, from which the 14 originates/terminates (and occasionally the 18 during the mornings and evenings).

It's not necessarily cheap, but the prices aren't too bad, and are as follows:

  • 3 Stops (2 CHF) - This ticket allows you to go three stops from the station you get on at. You'll probably never buy it.
  • 1 Hour (3 CHF) - This allows you to travel on any TPG vehicle (trams, buses, water taxis) within the Geneva area (not France) for 1 hour.
  • Day Ticket (10 CHF [8 CHF if purchased after 9am]) - This allows you travel for the entire day (up to 5am of the next day) in the Geneva area.
  • Weekend Day Ticket for 2 People (10 CHF) - Allows two people to travel on 1 ticket for the whole day (on the ticket machines this will appear as a separate option on weekends) in the Geneva area.

Now for a few select routes:

  • 14 Tram - This tram is a 2minute walk from the flat. You can ride it all the way to Gare Cornavin (20-25mins) if you want to head into Geneva (also Bel-Air is a good stop near lots of shops/bars/lake). This line will also stop at Blandonnet and Balexert, which are discussed in the shopping section. You will also get off at Jardin-Alpin-Vivarium if you're taking the tram to CERN.
  • 18 Tram - This tram goes between CERN and Carouge, which is a lovely suburb of Geneva that was built by the Italians, and as such is full of cafés. This tram will also stop at Blandonnet, Balexert, Gare Cornavin, and Bel-Air. Get on the 18 headed to CERN from Jardin-Alpin if you're taking the tram to work.
  • 57 Bus - This bus stops just round the corner from the tram stop outside the flat and will take you to and from the airport.
  • O Bus - This can take you to the Leclerc supermarket across the border in France, does require a more expensive ticket though as you're changing zones.
  • Y Bus - This will take you to St. Genis. It's where the majority of the UK PhD students will live. There's a few bars there, and because it's France they're slightly cheaper.

I keep mentioning the Geneva area, and zones. This is because TPG services further afield as well. For example you can go into France on a TPG bus. Refer to this map for the particular areas (The Geneva area is 10). To get to different zones you just need to pay more, which is all done at the ticket machine (a quick note on which - you can only pay in coins or by card. The machines don't take notes). The machines all have an English option.

If you want more information you can look at the tpg website, or specifically the page with all the routes. There is also an android and iphone app available

Warning! If you are caught without a ticket on the trams you will be fined up to 100 CHF and have your details recorded, so don't travel without a ticket.

Annual Pass

Annual travel cards are available from the TPG (Transports publics genevois, Genevan Public Transport) office in Gare Cornavin. They are currently (2015/16) 400CHF (Or 500CHF if you're over 24, as 'Junior Fare' applies up to and including the age of 24 in Switzerland). To get this you have to queue up for about 30 minutes during office hours (I don't think I ever queued for more than 15 minutes in 2016/17; maybe they've improved). There is also a monthly pass for 45CHF (70CHF if over 24), which requires the same initial queuing at Gare Cornavin, but after that you can 'top it up' from machines at the station. In the 9 months you're likely to be in Switzerland the cost of the monthly passes would come to 405CHF, so it's a bit cheaper to just get the year pass, and you don't have to worry about topping it up every month. Depending on when you arrive and leave, and whether you go home for Christmas, you'll probably only need 8 months (or maybe even 7).

Places To Visit (Geneva)

There are lots of nice places to visit in the city and canton of Geneva. The Geneva Canton (~County) is almost completely surrounded by French mountains and TPG offer many routes out to the French border (and some beyond it). Geneva Canton is covered by TPG's zone 10 (Tout Genève (All Geneva)); if you leave the Canton, you'll need a ticket for the zone you're going into. If you don't have a week/month/year pass, you can buy a "regional pass"; if you do, buy a (cheaper) "connection ticket" (for both options, type in the name of your destination at the ticket machine and it'll tell you which zone(s) you're going through).

Some places to visit in the city: the Jet d'Eau, the broken chair at the UN, la Jonction (where the Arve meets the Rhône), the Botanical Garden, the Old Town, the suburb(?) of Carouge and giant chess and draughts boards in the Parc de Bastions.

Further afield: the lovely Hermance village and the Téléphérique du Salève (a cable car up Mont Salève with a great view over the city and the lake (get a discount with a TPG month/year ticket). From the top of the cable car, there's a ~15 minute uphill walk to the Panorama du Mont Blanc which, on a clear day, has a spectacular view over the Alps.

There are also lots of nice places to walk. Walking maps of Switzerland are provided by SwitzerlandMobility. You can view their maps online and download their app for free. For CHF 20, you can create an account which lets you draw routes on the map and download maps for use offline. While you could just take screenshots of the map, having it downloaded is useful, since then you can use GPS to check you're on the right path. The map's coverage is limited outside Switzerland (and many of the mountains around Geneva are in France). Its coverage is suffucient for the first two walks suggested below. Walking maps of France are provided by IGN. I think they offer similar services for GBP 30, though I only used their maps once (for the third walk, below) and got some screenshots from here. Google Maps had enough features on the (downloaded) map that I could use GPS on there when I took a wrong turn, but it's not got enough for proper navigation on foot.

Some nice walks:

  • from Soral or Avusy, follow the French border west. After a surprise suspension bridge and many steep steps, you'll get to the Rhône and the most westerly point of Switzerland. You can then get a bus back from Chancy-Douane (Chancy customs).
  • from Thoiry-Mairie, walk via Le Tiocan and Curson up to the highest point of the Jura mountains (the Crêt de la Neige (Crest of the Snow)). Then walk along the ridge to the more impressive Le Reculet with its iron cross, and back down via Narderant. [Between Le Reculet and Narderant, there are two paths marked on the map: one goes along the base of the cliff and down a steep scree slope, the other goes lower down in the valley. Take the lower path. The scree slope is very steep and difficult to walk down, and there's a sign at the bottom saying not to enter because it's dangerous.]
  • from Chancy-Douane, walk over the bridge and along the road to Farges. The climb then begins, going up via the Refuge Pré Bouillet, Col du Sac and Chalet du Sac to the Crêt de la Goutte (the highest point of Le Grand Crêt d'Eau, which you can see by looking ~straight out from the balcony at the flat). At the top, there's a cross and an orientation table. Go back down via Chalet Bizot, Collonges, Les Isles and Pougny to Chancy-Douane.

I found that, especially in France, you could be walking along a reasonably well-established path in woodland (as marked on the map) and the path would come to a rather abrupt end (especially in autumn). Continuing in the right general direction (with the help of GPS) usually brought me to a path eventually, but you should factor extra time for this in any walks you're planning.

Around Switzerland

The SBB app is quite a good app for times etc, while out. It will also include local transport into the journey.

Half Price and Gleis (Track) 7 Card

For 290 CHF you can get a combined card that will give you half price fares on all trips and then free travel after 7pm. This saved me A LOT of money, and it's really worth it if you plan on visiting a lot of places. You can buy the half price separate for 165 CHF. Track 7 Website. The half price card also gives you slightly smaller reductions (I think about 30%) on all local transport throughout the country.

Swiss Travel Pass (Flex)

The Swiss Travel Pass gives you x consecutive days of travel within the area of validity. The Swiss Travel Pass Flex gives you travel on any x days in one month within the area of validity. For both, x is 3, 4, 8 or 15. The map of validity is very comprehensive, as is the validity of the ticket itself. All of the solid red, white, yellow and black lines are included, whilst the dotted lines show where you can buy a discounted ticket. [NB: grey lines are not included and dashed lines just show the longer tunnels.] The red and white dots shows the cities, towns and villages where the ticket allows you to use their public transport for free too. The vast majority of Swiss trains do not require a seat reservation. However, some trains (especially the panoramic ones) require a seat reservation in addition to a ticket. If you look up train times on the SBB/CFF/FFS website/app, it will tell you if a train requires a reservation. [NB: there are non-panoramic trains which run along the same lines as the panoramic ones, so you can still get the views without having to pay extra for a seat reservation (though you might have to make more changes).]

Even with the youth prices these sound quite expensive at first, but if you look at the price per day and compare to what you'd get in the UK for the same price, you realise it's actually quite good value (and their railways are better than ours in every way imaginable). The price per day will probably work out similar to the price for a return from Southampton to London, yet you can travel as much as you like, wherever you like, for a whole day, including many mountain trains, cable cars and boats!

The website says these are only for people who aren't domiciled in Switzerland or Liechtenstein. Whilst this is probably the case, it's probably best not to mention the flat in Switzerland.

I (Misha) would recommend the 8-day Swiss Travel Pass Flex Youth. I think 8 days is a good amount of time to see a large part of the country. I think it's worth paying extra for the Flex so that you can get an early night the day before you travel, allowing you to get up early and have a full day exploring.

Places to Visit (Switzerland)

Most trips you can do in a day if you don't mind (sometimes quite a bit of) train travel. And if you leave after 7pm with the card mentioned above, it's pretty cheap. Some ideas of places to visit: Lausanne, Montreux, Neuchâtel, Bern, Zurich, Basel, the imaginatively named Interlaken (Schynige Platte), Luzern (Pilatus), Fribourg, Zermatt, Aarburg-Oftringen (the church above the river), and Lugano (Monte San Salvatore).

If you don't have a shattered glass table to clear up, you can get an early night and wake up early for the long journey to Tirano. There's a panoramic train (the Glacier Express) that runs part of the route to Tirano with far fewer changes, but you have to pay quite a bit for that. If you're willing to make some changes, you can take the same route without seat reservations. For the journey to Tirano, I took the scenic route using some slow mountain-climbing trains, changing at Brig, Andermatt, Disentis/Mustér, Reichenau-Tamins, St Moritz and Poschiavo. Don't be put off by short changing times on this route; the vast majority of Swiss trains are very punctual and, when one of these trains was delayed, the next one along this line waited for it (though I doubt that would happen on the main lines). I stayed the night in Tirano, before taking some faster trains for the journey back via Linthal (for Braunwald) and St Gallen with its ornate library-cathedral thing (from which there's a direct train back to Geneva (the Swiss-German for Geneva is "Genf" (pronounced how you'd expect))).

Events

  • L'Escalade - Geneva - In mid December Geneva celebrates repelling a French army which massively outnumbered their own via the use of cauldrons full of hot soup, as legend has it. Chocolate cauldron's (marmites) are sold in chocolate shope and various events happen over the weekend, including people in traditional dress parading through the city.
  • Chocolate Festival - Versoix - At the beginning of April there is a chocolate festival in Versoix which is just up the lake. In fact you can get there via the train on the monthly Geneva pass. Worth a visit for the free samples. Chocolate Festival Website
  • International Hot Air Balloon Festival - Chateau d'Oex - You'll see it advertised around but in late January they have a hot air balloon festival in the small town of Chateau d'Oex up in the mountains. You get the train to Montreux and then go on the Goldenpass line to the town, so the half price fare card helps. Sometimes they do have problems getting the balloons up in the air (I ended up going both days of a weekend, as Sat they didn't fly), there is a fee that applies at the weekend, but only if they fly, there are a few other shows but the balloons are the main thing. They finish the week with the night glow - lit up balloons with a firework show. They have some nice Swiss traditional things on this evening as well. href{http://www.ballonchateaudoex.ch/en/ Balloon Festival Website
  • Bonfire - Jims's British market - Early in November there is a Bonfire at Jim's British market which is a good excuse to see all the overpriced items you miss.

Flat while at CERN

As mentioned earlier, the house is organised through the UKLO. You will need to get in touch with them to arrange a moving in date etc. For the past few years, the Southampton students have always stayed together in a flat in Meyrin, this is what we talk about for the rest of the section. You should verify with the UKLO that you are still in this flat to know if this information is still relevant.

The UKLO will issue a monthly invoice to each tenant, in the amount of 850CHF, for payment of rent. Previously students have each decided to pay the full rent in turn every fourth month to save on transfer fees. This works for the UKLO, but just let them know that you will be doing this.

If you have any problems with the flat, tell the UKLO and they'll be very happy to help you.

Address

Prom. des Champs-Fréchets 26

CH-1217

Meyrin

Switzerland

The flat is on the 1st floor, to your right as you come up the short flight of stairs or exit the lift.

Photos of the Flat

Living Room:
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Toilet and Shower:
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Kitchen:
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Bedroom:
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Balcony:
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Getting to CERN

To get to CERN you can either take the tram (15-20 mins), walk (30 mins) or cycle (10-15 mins). We would recommend hiring a CERN bike or buying your own (see Bikes section), as cycling is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way of getting to CERN.
  • Taking the tram: Take any tram from Meyrin-Gravière (they all should be no. 14 trams to P+R Bernex, and leave roughly every 10 minutes) and get off at Jardin-Alpin-Vivarium. Then take a no. 18 tram in the opposite direction heading to CERN, which is the last stop.

Power

Switzerland does not have the standard European plug. Trust me it's true, sometimes they fit but they are usually housed in a hexagonal shape. I recommend before coming you get a couple of cheap UK power strips and rewiring them to a Swiss plug on arrival. You can then just buy the plugs for about 1 CHF from Migros, but there are already a few lying around in the flat. I would also recommend bringing at least one traditional adaptor so you have power from the day you arrive. The world power adaptors widely sold work in the Swiss sockets and will be useful for all future travel.

I used to think that toothbrush chargers fitted in European sockets -- they don't! Bring an adapter for that too.

Cooking Utensils, Bed Linen etc.

The flat is fully furnished and equipped with all the kitchen equipment (pans, plates, cutlery, glasses etc.) that you should need, as well as bed linen and towels so we would advise you not to bring any of these to save precious luggage space! If you do find there is something missing there is an IKEA a short tram trip away (by the Blandonnet stop on the way to Geneva), or it's not too difficult to ship things over from the UK if you can find a helpful parent/friend. If for some reason you do want to bring bed linen, the beds in the flat are doubles. UKLO should provide you with an inventory, so you can see roughly what there is on there, but some things are missing on that and it's not 100% accurate.

Heating

There is no central thermostat in the apartment to turn on the heating, it's automatic, you may only control the heating at the radiators.

Groceries

This is probably where you will spend most of your money, especially on meat as that seems to be quite expensive in Switzerland. The best ways to save money here are to shop in either Leclerc in France, or to shop at Denner in Switzerland, which are discussed a little below.

There are two main places you will most likely venture to to do your shopping -- MeyrinCentre and Leclerc.

MeyrinCentre is the closest of the two, and is home to a small selection of shops (clothes, electronics, hairdresser, dry cleaners, pharmacy), as well as a Denner, Coop (No relation to the UK one), and a Migros. Denner is the cheapest of the three, being much like Aldi/Lidl, however its food selection is a bit bare. This is where we normally buy the toilet paper and kitchen towel as it's the cheapest, I also get my shower gels from here for the same reason. Coop apparently has the reputation of being the more expensive of the remaining two, I however find that Migros is more expensive, but the Migros is the larger of the two so has a bit more choice. However, out of respect to the morals of its founder, Migros does not stock any form of alcohol there, so for your weekly beer requirements you'll need to head to Coop or Denner. To give an idea of the price of each store, here's a comparison of the cost of 1L of milk: Denner - 1.15, Coop - 1.50, Migros - 1.70.

Leclerc is a bit farther afield, located just over the border in France, next to the LHCb pit (CERN Point 8). It's possible to walk, takes about 20-25 minutes, and is actually quite a nice walk if the weather is good. I (William) would strongly recommend walking to Leclerc to save money. There is also the hourly O bus you can catch from near the tram stop, or you can drive if one of you has a car (definitely the easiest option). Leclerc is quite a reasonably sized supermarket, roughly equivalent to the Sainsburys in Southampton. You should be able to find most of what you want here, the only problem we have found is that no one in charge of the supermarket has ever asked whether or not the layout of where they place food items is sensible or not. Food here is quite considerably cheaper than in Switzerland (1L milk ≈1euro), avoid paying in Swiss Francs here though as they'll give a terrible exchange rate, the easiest thing to do is pay by card.

There is also a large Coop at Blandonnet, and a large Migros in Balexert (both on the 14 line).

If, like me, you enjoy doing your shop after 9pm when no one else is around, then the opening times of the stores will leave a lot to be desired:

  • Meyrincentre
    • Monday - Wednesday: 08:30 - 19:00
    • Thursday/Friday: 08:30 - 19:30
    • Saturday: 08:30 - 18:30
  • Leclerc
    • Monday - Friday: 08:30 - 20:30
    • Saturday: 08:30 - 20:00

It is also best to avoid Leclerc on Saturdays and Swiss public holidays as half of Geneva descends onto Leclerc to do their shopping. All of the shops are shut on a Sunday, with the exceptions of the Migros at the airport train station (open till 9pm everyday) and at Gare Cornavin (open till 10pm everyday), and a small arcade of shops adjacent to Avenue de Vaudagne near the apartment.

There is also a Carrefour in Ferney-Voltaire that opens on Sunday mornings till midday, and a different (larger) Carrefour in Ferney-Voltaire that opens on Sundays in December.

Beware the random Swiss/French bank holidays, especially before venturing on the long walk to Leclerc.

Phone & Internet

The internet is all sorted and you don't have to worry about it at all. The password for the wifi is at the top of this page, the dashes are part of the password. We did have a few issues with the internet cutting out. Restarting then turning on/off the router using the button on the back (you'll need a pencil/thin object to push it) should fix it. If not contact the UKLO, who will probably tell you to ring Swisscom.

Cleaner

A cleaner will visit fortnightly and the UKLO will notify you of the cleaner's schedule and ask that you do not leave personal belongings in the public areas of the flat so that they can clean.

Rubbish

There is a set of bins over the road from the apartment, where you can take paper/cardboard recycling, PET (type of plastic - look for 'PET' or a recycling triangle with the number 1 in it), aluminium (cans) and glass. There are also bins here for general rubbish.

Swiss Mobile

I (William) used my phone as normal (with Three) the whole time I was out in Geneva with no problems, as they allow free usage in Europe.

Other options:

It's probably a good idea to get a cheap SIM card to use while you live in Geneva. Thomas and Adam purely wanted one for internet access, for this we recommend getting a Sunrise prepay SIM (there is a dealer in Forum Meyrin that sells them, they will need your address and ID, your Swiss card is fine for this). At the time the deal was that for 7.50 CHF a month you get 250 MB of data, the 7.50 CHF is taken from your balance every month, ie. you top up. I (Jack) was able to get a similar deal for £10 per month on top of my normal Vodafone contract in the UK to get data across Europe (inc. Switzerland). Calls and texts were 1 CHF a day for as many as you want (not international), but we rarely used this. Instead just buy Skype credit and use the data to use skype to text abroad. Or of course smart phone messengers. If you need a microsim just cut it down.

Three offer no roaming charges while in Europe (look up their Feel At Home), however that is set a time limit of a maximum of 2 months in any rolling 12 month period! This is useful for your first 2 months there, but if you plan to continue to use mobile data you should look into getting a local sim. (On iOS 9 at least, you can turn on wifi when Aeroplane Mode is switched on. I used this, in conjunction with Three, only turning Aeroplane Mode off when I needed to use my phone and was away from wifi; the 60 days were more than sufficient.)

*NOTE: Switzerland is NOT included in the recent EU legislation on reducing roaming charges.* Most (if not all) UK mobile operators now offer "Roam Like Home", which allows you to use your UK contract all around the EU. I (Tristan) am doing this with EE and it is working fine.

However, I (Sean) managed perfectly well using only the abundance of free WiFi around town for Facebook/WhatsApp/etc and barely used texts or calls. So if you want to save money you could just replace your UK contract with a pay as you go SIM until you move back.

To save on data, you can download custom areas (e.g. Geneva) in the Google Maps app for use when you're offline.

Language

One of you may know French, which is great. However if none of you do don't worry about it. You can easily live in Geneva knowing very little French. It's such an international city that mostly everyone knows English, (local Meyrin residents a little less so). A little French obviously helps, but it is not essential. All major things like TPG, SBB; their agents will speak English. CERN is all in English, nothing to worry about there. If you're interested in learning, Migros Ecole do French courses for beginners at around 300 CHF, but 9 months may not really be worth it. Michael Thomas audio books are pretty good, which equip you with some important stuff quickly. Also I find you just pick up French as you go around. A smart phone with google translate also helps a lot. Thomas also used pimsleur to learn a bit of French, this is a set of audio book things where you repeat after they do. You can find this available for download certain websites. There are also apps such as Duolingo or Memrise which help you learn.

CERN & Work

CERN is a very a relaxed place about working hours, turn up when you want, leave when you want, wear what you want, much like uni except no lectures. smile If you want some time off it's fine just to take it off after mentioning it to your supervisor, who will undoubtedly agree. However CERN can be stressful too, there will days in which you do nothing. There will be days which you spend looking for a semi-colon. Despite this it's great fun.

Meetings & Talks

This does depend on your area of work, but more than likely you will give updates on what you are doing at a group meeting, be it a meeting with the UK/RAL group, or your specific work area experiment group. These are nothing to worry about as people are there to help each other, it doesn't matter if you get something wrong, everyone does. They are informal meetings, and sometimes you may just be presenting a few slides to people over Vidyo, is just the meeting software/tool widely used at CERN. The majority of meetings have an Vidyo connection so for example you can listen in on your experiment's weekly meeting, while remaining at your desk.

Experiment Weeks

Each experiment has a certain number of weeks a year, where people who work on the experiment travel to CERN, if they can, and take part in various conferences. It's just an opportunity for the experiment to come together and see where they are with as many people as possible present. While a lot of the talks will not interest you, or will go over your head, there are some nice talks giving you a general status report of the experiment and updates of the current and pending physics results. There are sometimes dinners and things too.

ROOT & C++

This is the software that you will most likely use all the time. If you haven't used it before, and while you will certainly learn it as you go, it's very much worth to install it on your own machine and begin to get used to it. You can get it from the CERN ROOT website and this website also has various tutorials you can view and work through (If you're using windows you'll need to run it on a VM). The main language used is C++ so again if you're not already familiar with this language there are plenty of tutorials and help found online (through your university account you can get access to Lynda.com which has a few beginner guides to C++, worth a look over the summer). There is also an extension of ROOT called PYROOT. This allows you to code in python instead of C++ if you so wish.

Online Lectures

A great way to prepare for everything: about CERN, the detectors, particle physics, ROOT etc is to watch the summer school lectures. These can be found here. I see that the CERN/Fermilab school lectures from 2011 are also being uploaded.

Academic Training Lectures

There are lectures at CERN but usually they are aimed at a academics based at CERN, so they are often above us. However there are a few which are aimed a little lower which I was a able to follow. Previous lectures are on CDS, future ones are on indico.

LHCb UK Student Meetings

These are bi-weekly meetings that are actually the most informative meetings I (Thomas) have found at CERN. This meeting is where you can ask the really basic questions and the people talking explain everything, instead of assuming you already know it as is the case in other meetings. I highly recommend these meetings, they're generally held on Tuesdays at 10.30am CERN time. The future meetings are in the LHCb-UK category of indico, which requires you to login, there is also a twiki page too.

Conferences

Your work, depending on its status, may mean that it would be good for you to present it somewhere. These vary from experiment but last year there were at least two events that were attended by one of us:
  • UK ATLAS Meeting - This is a three day meeting held at one of the ATLAS UK institutes, usually in early January, where basically the UK staff share what they are doing and generally talk about all aspects of the experiment. Students can give talks (usually PhD students) and there is also a poster session. Adam presented a poster at the meeting, and was a good opportunity to get used to presenting your work in this way, and just the general experience. The costs were covered by RAL (accommodation and travel), so if you are the ATLAS student - this is well worth attending. A nice banquet at the end as well.
  • LHCb UK - I (Thomas) would have gone to this, had I known about this before I arranged my flights. It's held just after new year, so if you stay in England a bit longer after your christmas break you can go to this, RAL would probably pay for the travel/hotel. It was at Imperial in 2011, I'm not sure where it will be next year, but talk to Sajan (LHCb Supervisor) about this before arranging your Christmas flights.
  • IOP NPPD - webiste - A conference which both Thomas and Matt attended, Sajan (LHCb supervisor) is keen for you to go here generally if Glenn has enough spare travel money. I (Thomas) presented my work here, had lots of interesting lectures, a couple of posh dinners and went out on the town in the evening with the UK LTA students. It was an awesome week, accomodation and flights to Glasgow were paid by RAL. Due to the infrequent flights to Glasgow, I even had time to pop over to Edinburgh for the day. It was definitely worth the trip though, just for the experience of presenting your work at a conference, scary and great. I (Chris Burr) went to IoP2015 would recommend going if you get the chance.
  • ISTAPP - webiste - This is a particle physics school held in Turkey, Thomas and Adam went in 2011. It was good, but very difficult. I would think about going if you can, but don't expect to understand it all especially the later lectures. It was free food (excluding dinner) and housing, you just had to pay to get there for the two weeks. Days were jam packed with work and the evenings were homework filled, but it was very social and great fun to explore Istanbul. If your work results in something quite important then there is always the chance of attending a major conference to present your work.

I (William) went to the IOP Annual Conference for High Energy Particle Physics at Imperial College and presented a poster of my work. It is worth submitting an abstract to this, as the conference was very interesting.

CERN Address

CERN CH-1211 Genève 23 Switzerland

Bikes

You can rent a bike from the mobility centre, now located across the road from reception in the car park next to the globe (you can also get the forms to fill in from here). They require a 100 CHF deposit. You will also need a signature from your experiment's secretariat. The bikes have been improved, after being pretty poor and if you get a puncture or anything they will just fix that for you. They're a really good way of getting around, we'd definitely recommend getting one. The website for this service is here. You can also try to purchase a bike from the CERN Market.

Leaving CERN

If you are not carrying on to do a PhD with any of the experiments then it's probably best to leave CERN properly. You use the Termination Form, it requires you get various things signed off. Note you only need to get the things signed off you have had dealings with (e.g. if you have never got a dosimeter you don't need to see the dosimetry service). You will have access to CERN stuff 2 months after leaving, protected experiment stuff usually until end of contract.

If you are doing a PhD then you can get it all transferred to the new institute. But should change your registration at CERN to 0% time at CERN (probably best to actually say something like 5% than 0%) so that you can give back your French and Swiss cards, which is required if you are moving back to the UK.

Social

UK-LTA Students

The UK LTA (long term assignment) students are a group of many UK students who are permanently based at CERN. They are all PhD students, despite this many are great fun. They meet for lunch in R1 (room number of the main restaurant) every day between 12-1. They also meet for beers every Friday at 6pm, and then often go for dinner in St. Genis, or Geneva. They also do a load of other stuff as well. To get in contact with them you'll need to ask around, it's likely that one of your supervisors will have a name/email for you to get in contact with them. To talk they use a very large Skype group, so you'll need to be added to that by one of the members, and from there they discuss everything from what time lunch is that day, to who's doing what at the weekends.

CERN Clubs

CERN has an equivalent to societies, and they are called 'clubs'. There's a list here. There's clubs for everything from cycling to choir (although a distinct lack of badminton frown ).

Not on that list because of CERN bureaucracy is LGBT CERN. They're a great bunch of people and well worth looking up if you're part of the LGBT community. Contact the admins by email at: lgbtcern-contact@cernNOSPAMPLEASE.ch. You can also visit their website

Skiing

CERN is situated right next to both the Jura mountain range (small) and the Alps and in the winter (when you will be there) there will be plenty of opportunity to ski. Skiing largely speaking is a reasonably expensive hobby but it is possible to have some cheap-ish days on the slopes.

Skiing in the Jura is much cheaper than the Alps and it is easier to get to. For skiing in the Jura I would advise going to the Monts Jura resort. Students get the child rate for ski passes (currently 20€ for a day pass) so remember to take your student card. There are ski hire places at the resorts which cost between 15-20€ for a days hire and insurance is only 2.50€ per day. To get to the resort there is a ski bus that will take you either from St Genis (on the Y route) or Gex (end of the F route) to the ski resort for only 2€ return.

Also it is well worth talking to the LTA students about skiing as many of them enjoy skiing and arrange trips on weekends. If you are lucky there may be an LTA student with a car who can take you to/from resorts for skiing.

I (William) did a lot of skiing whilst out there. You can catch a Ouibus/Flixbus from Geneva airport or bus station quite cheaply that will take you to Chamonix for a day trip or longer. I did 3/4 weekend trips and a couple of longer trips too. Skis/boots/helmets can easily be rented in Chamonix centre (intersport). The skiing area in Chamonix is great and offers a lot of variety and different difficulties.

Ski Club

Another way to get involved with skiing at CERN is to join the CERN ski club. They arrange many trips to slopes with transport from the CERN site. I didn't take advantage of this but it is worth looking at if you are serious about your skiing.

LTA Ski Trip

The UK LTA students organise a yearly week long ski trip. The trip takes place in January each year and is good fun if you can get on it. It's highly recommended that you go, it's a great time to learn to ski/snowboard too, since the other more experienced skiers will teach the newbies. Remember to buy ski insurance along with the ski pass (unless you've confirmed that it is covered by your existing insurance from the uni).

For details of the current ski trip ask people in the LTA when you get there, I'm sure they will be more than happy to tell you all about it.

Previous Students

There have been 11 generations of Southampton students:
  • 2008/09 - Ken Mimasu (CMS), Benjamin Samway (ATLAS) and Ewan Tarrant (LHCb)
  • 2009/10 - Matt Coombes (LHCb) and Zack Williamson (CMS)
  • 2010/11 - Thomas Bird (LHCb), Adam Stewart (ATLAS) and Duncan Leggat (CMS)
  • 2011/12 - Espen Bowen (LHCb), Rebecca Falla (CMS) and Jack Roberts (ATLAS)
  • 2012/13 - Declan Millar (ATLAS), Chris Mintram (CMS), Rhys Owen (ATLAS), Alex Pearce (LHCb), Nicole Skidmore (LHCb), Ben Sowden (ATLAS)
  • 2013/14 - Adam Butler (CMS), Michael Kiss (LHCb), Simon Wilkinson (ATLAS)
  • 2014/15 - Christopher Burr (LHCb), Matthew Chapman (ATLAS) and Ali Farzanehfar (CMS)
  • 2015/16 - James Pillow (CMS), Henry Aldridge (CMS) and Sean Kirwan (LHCb)
  • 2016/17 - Misha Cooke (LHCb), Kristina Hanna (CMS) and Maksymilian Wojtas (LHCb)
  • 2017/18 - Ross Glew (LHCb), Tristan Hosken (CMS) and Matteo Ceschia (CMS)
  • 2018/19 - William Smith (CMS), Alexandra Moor (LHCb) and Leo Rowe-Brown (LHCb)
Remember to update the number of generations when you add your year to this list!

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