SEAS '20 Joseph Iwasyk

SA: ETH Zurich
Intern Abroad: Switzerland

Program Abroad:

  • Semester Abroad (SA): ETH Zurich, Switzerland

  • Intern Abroad: Tecan, Switzerland

Ask me about...

  • Recruiting abroad & dealing with rejection: I went into my abroad experience assuming plans would work out with a biotech internship in the US. Unfortunately, I was not provided the offer and had to scramble to figure out what I would do for the summer while studying abroad. As a Junior, I felt incredibly stressed and hopeless about not having my summer internship plans. Additionally, the Swiss working permits are near impossible to achieve, which further added to the stress. However, after applying and getting rejected many times to various Swiss internship opportunities due to my US citizenship status, I decided to refine my application approach. I outlined a very specific method I could use to achieve the elusive Swiss working papers. After outlining the plan for a working permit, I was lucky to get an interview that manifested into an offer at Tecan in May, much later than I had ever planned for at the start of Junior year.

    • The moral of the story: things will work out. I want every Junior at Penn to know that you DO NOT have to have your plans for the summer figured out during OCR. It is incredibly stressful to have this "ideal plan" and often I think people rush to figure it out simply because there is the peer pressure to do so in the fall. I am so incredibly happy I did not end up working in the US because my internship at Tecan was an incredible experience from both the learning and networking perspective. I would be excited to talk about this experience with Penn students going abroad and guide them through the method I used to achieve the Swiss working permit if desired.

My Experience Abroad:

My study abroad at ETH Zürich was hands down one of the most refreshing learning experiences of college. This program offered a unique perspective to Bioengineering that gave me new exposure to concepts such as Silicon wafer processing, Immunoengineering, and Biofluiddynamics. I was thoroughly impressed with the curriculum and instructors at ETH, along with the atmosphere that is heavily dedicated to research. 

Furthermore, ETH enabled me to access a unique network of Biotech VC's and startups in Switzerland, providing a new perspective on entrepreneurship in the biotech space. I was able to schedule an appointment at the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property and speak with various attorneys on the process of establishing IP abroad. All of these opportunities truly gave me a new incentive to explore entrepreneurship abroad. 

Finally, I was able to gain valuable work experience through interning at the Swiss biotech company Tecan. Working in a Swiss company provided me unique exposure to business abroad and I certainly would want to return.

Other Highlights:

  • Nature/Swiss Alps: I went hiking or skiing nearly every weekend to embrace the nature of Switzerland. As someone who has barely left my bubble in the suburbs of Philly, seeing the Swiss Alps for the first time in my life was exhilarating and inspiring.

  • Unique Study/Work Culture: I grew to appreciate all aspects of the Swiss culture, from the highly organized society and clean city of Zürich to the polite and well-thought-out approach in problem-solving methods. If I return, learning German/dabbling in Swiss German is a must. 

  • International Friends and Colleagues: Being in the central location of Switzerland, I had the opportunity to meet people from all different countries and learn about their cultures. I made many wonderful friends and hope to return to Switzerland to reunite with them again.

On the Penn Abroad Blog:

Stranded in the Swiss Alps

Return to Ambassador Archive