I have been a law graduate for two years now and during my last year of studies I entered a legal competition organised by an international law firm.
I first had to write an essay on international lawyers to which I was successful and got shortlisted into a group of 10. The next round would require me to present on one of five topics and the top three would be paid to go to one of their international offices (outside of the UK).
I chose to present on drilling rights in the Arctic and after spending weeks researching, writing and memorising my ten minute speech whilst simultaneously studying for my exams I went to London. It took five, long, arduous hours to get from the East Midlands to London via National Express. I took the coach service because I am not rich enough to pay over one hundred pounds to travel by train. Due to unforeseen motorway traffic I was running late and after arriving at the coach station, frantically walking to the underground and running to the law firm’s office I made it…just late but fortunately I wasn’t the latest competitor.
We were given lunch *finger food*, and whilst mingling with the other competitors I realised something astonishing. I was surrounded by Londoners and Southerners only. I was the only person who was from somewhere above London! Everyone was incredibly posh and were dressed in expensive suits that were probably tailor made for them by their daddy’s best friend. I however, was wearing a suit purchased from Next and was trying to give the impression that I was comfortable wearing it…for I was not.
After a tour of the law firm it was time for the presentations. Sadly, we would not get to watch each other so as I waited for my turn I began rehearsing my speech in the large room we were left in. I was far away from everyone when a group of the posh competitors began walking over to me and speaking loudly. They were trying to distract me – probably thinking I was an easy target to make crumble. They came over and then tried talking to me as well as taking glances at my notes.
I remained unfazed and was determined to win just so I could rub it in their arrogant faces.
It was my turn to present and in I went to a room where three people from the firm would watch and mark my presentation. I was confident. Public speaking is one of my biggest strengths and I had taken part in national, public speaking competitions for six years and I had won numerous accolades.
I began my presentation and I soon began to realise that I was impressing them as the three people marking my performance swivelled their chairs to face me directly. They were laughing and engaged with my witty and thought provoking presentation.
After everyone had presented the winners were announced. Third place, then second place were announced and I was not named. First place. Me! I had won and been triumphant. A working class boy who failed to get any vacation schemes or training contracts had just beaten those with silver spoons well and truly lodged up a dark orifice. Their faces were pure horror, except that of a lovely female competitor who was ‘down to Earth’ unlike the others.
As winner I got to choose which out of the three destinations I would go to. The second place competitor would then choose out of the remaining two and then the third place winner would go wherever was left. The choices: Paris, Geneva, Piraeus (Greece).
I had honestly not contemplated winning the competition so had not thought about where I would choose to go. I have learnt in law that it is best not to raise your hopes up because I have been rejected over 50 times by law firms despite being the number one law student at my university.
The second place ‘winner’ was more than happy to shout out where he wanted to go and asked me not to choose that place. The audacity of that guy was unbearable. I told the organisers I would like to think about my choice at home.
Having been to France on a school trip I have only horrid memories. The trip was to a weird, boring costal town that reminded me more of Wales than anything else. Despite never going to Paris I decided against this option as it would be a place I could always go and visit myself.
Piraeus was a good option due to their shipping expertise but the accommodation would have been Athens and I would have to commute to Piraeus to visit the office. I didn’t want to handle any more stress at the time so I decided against that.
I opted for Geneva, Switzerland. I had never been there and the law firm’s office operated in many different sectors so I would get a broad experience.
It was settled, I would be going Geneva.
I flew from Birmingham airport (an airport much closer to me than any London airport). Sadly, this meant that I would have to connect via Frankfurt. I never knew how big Frankfurt’s airport was. It took me 40 minutes to get from my plane to the other plane. It was intense and crazy but I made it on time (unlike the return journey).
I arrived in a beautiful sunny Geneva and was whisked to my hotel via taxi. As the travel expenses were paid for I had to get receipts so I could be reimbursed. Six years of learning French failed to make me fluent in the language. I Googled the French word for receipt and swiftly pronounced ‘Le recu’ to the driver. It may have taken two attempts but the receipt was mine.
Arriving in the afternoon I quickly dropped my things and went to the United Nations (I sound so important). I wasn’t going on business sadly, but on a tour of the grounds. The tours are open to anyone but are first come, first serve.
After having my photo taken for security reasons and paying the fee, I waited in the hall. Then a monsoon flooded Geneva. The rain was intense and there was no letting up. The issue was the tour would start in a separate building which meant walking outside for about five minutes…with no umbrella. I wasn’t expecting Geneva to be raining in the middle of summer so I didn’t bring one. Drenched. The other visitors and I got to the other building looking like friends of Aquaman. It was not pleasant and I felt wholly undignified walking around one of the most important places on the planet looking dishevelled.
The tour was insightful and I was able to appreciate the workings of the UN in between the sound of squelching from my waterlogged feet.
Located just outside the UN is a prominent landmark the ‘Broken Chair’. A large statue of a wooden chair that has one of its legs missing. It symbolises the atrocity of landmines and cluster bombs. The chair is surrounded by water jets.
With my clothes firmly stuck to my skin thanks to the cascading heavens, and with no sign of clearer sky’s I tossed my cares aside and walked all the way towards the centre of town. After a mildly long walk I reached the Jet d’Eau. This is a single, large jet of water that rises 140m into the air. It sounds more impressive in writing that it does in person. Maybe it was because I had experienced enough water for one day but it just didn’t do anything for me. Maybe I’ve become tainted by Macau and Vegas and all fountains must now dance to water for it to be entertaining for me.
With my body and soul well and truly soggy I retreated to the hotel room to shower and change into dry clothes. Fortunately, this interlude to sightseeing finally saw the relenting rain dissipate.
I went walking into the old town, heading to Bastions Park, where I stumbled across ‘The Marronnier de la Treille’. To those not familiar with such a name, this is the world’s longest wooden bench! There is clearly not many exciting things in Geneva, so a 120m long bench is the pinnacle of excitement.
I’m sounding very harsh on Geneva so far. I really wanted to enjoy the city but my mood was anything but sunny.
I looked at the Reformation Wall, another signature sight in Geneva but couldn’t find anything within it to trigger a positive response. Walking around the streets at night time though was proving joyful as the buildings are aesthetically pleasing and the river is soothing. This was short lived when I realised the price for a warm snack. Geneva is definitely not for the poor.
The next day it was time to visit the law office where I hoped to experience the working culture of the international firm. Unfortunately, the international firm hadn’t informed the Geneva office about what to do with me except for the explicit instructions that I could not get involved in any work (this was very disheartening). I didn’t really get a chance to do much, but was given a free lunch so I’m not complaining too much.
Having completed my experience at the firm I went off exploring again, in mildly better weather.
With this spare time I opted to properly wander the quaint streets of the old town. The shops were cute (and expensive) and a medieval charm enveloped this small area. It reminded me very much of Tallinn. The Cathedral of St. Peter is truly wonderful and its gothic and neoclassical tones transfix the eye.
I walked some more and returned to Lake Geneva for some more walking. I drank on a floating pub and then went to sleep.
Early next morning, I swiftly visited the flower clock. A clock that is imposed on to a flower bed. Once again Geneva has tried to make something boring and failed at reviving it into something extraordinary.
With that, I made my way to the airport and another taxi driver was exposed to my terrible French accent. Connecting via Frankfurt again was arduous.
My plane from Geneva was slow and I still had to rush from one side of the airport to the other. I have never ran so fast in all my life…and so far. The airport was a disguised marathon track and with heavy panting, sweating and a heart on the verge of exploding I got to my gate and hoped that I was on time for my flight. I wasn’t. I was late.
Thankfully, my flight from Frankfurt was delayed and I made it back to the UK. I have never been so grateful for a delayed flight but this one was simply a blessing.
Overall, Geneva didn’t offer me much. It is a small city and is short in terms of sights for a tourist. I was left saddened by this all and would not wish to return again. I am more than willing to visit Switzerland again, but Geneva was nothing more than a shushed ‘meh’.
All photo’s are taken by myself. Follow me on Instagram: Arik_Dane