Live, Life, and Love at CERN (Part 2)
It had been almost two months since I submitted my application for CERN Summer Student 2014. It was also a very busy semester in my college which made me forgot my application. I also did not expect that my application would be accepted because I prepared it only in less than a week. But God always knows the best for me.
I walked from my lab to the parking lot where my car was parked. It was midnight and I was on campus because I had to prepare Cansat Competition with my team. I was so sleepy when I looked into clock on the dashboard of my car. It showed 12:18 which meant that the month was changed to April. I took my smartphone to take a picture of the empty parking lot in the middle of the night. Then, I started the engine in my car and drove home. It only took 20 minutes from my campus to my home by driving a car in the midnight. During rush hour, it would take more than an hour.
After arrived at my home, I parked my car in the garage. I took my bag and put it on my desk. Before I went to bed, I wanted to take a shower using warm water (approx. 45 degrees Celcius) to relax my body. It would take some time for the water heater to fill up the bath tube. Meanwhile, I opened my laptop to check email and did light browsing. My mailbox is categorized based on their importance. I rarely check my inbox that has a low priority such as Facebook updates, newsletter, etc. But, at that time, I saw one new mail on very high priority category. I was curious enough because before I left my campus that night, I was pretty sure that there were no new very high priority mail. Then, miracle happened!
I was shocked. Really shocked. I was silent briefly for several minutes.
“Is it real? Is it an April fool?”
I checked and double checked again the sender of the email and it was legit. The email was sent by CERN using @cern.ch domain. That moment of silent was changed when I jumped from my chair and shouted loud. Every people in my home, which were just entered their dream, suddenly woke up. They congratulated me even though with their eyes closed. I didn’t care; it was the best midnight gift I had ever got in my life!
Then, I read the email carefully. It was stated that the information was not official yet, so I need to wait several weeks to receive my letter of acceptance. Another thing that I had to highlight was, I must find funding for my participation in CERN Summer Student 2014. Indonesia is not a member state of CERN, so the funding from CERN is limited. Normally, my university should give me the funds, but I would not depend on that.
The information was given to me earlier to give me more time to find funding and sponsorship. It was not an easy task, especially in Indonesia. But, I had gone this far, and it was CERN where everyone will be delighted to be invited there. It would be very worth to give my another best effort to find the sponsorship and funding. I must join this program! I must go to Geneva! It was only several steps left. I could even imagine how beautiful the Globe of Science and Innovation with Mount Jura on the background is.
I went to bed at 3.00 a.m. after took a shower and I would think about it next week because I was very busy with assignments and projects.
After mid-semester exams have been finished, I tried to write a draft of a proposal for request funding. The proposal was intended to be sent to request funding from my university, alumnus, or corporation. According to from CERN, the standard living cost was CHF90 (approximately 1.2 million IDR) per day. That was really a lot of money. As a comparison, I could fulfill my everyday life in Indonesia for less than CHF10 per day. I was pretty optimistic that with only a third of the required living cost, I would be still alive in Switzerland.
For my stay at CERN, I need CHF5400 for living cost (60-days), some CHF1000 for round-trip airline tickets, some other CHF500 for insurance, preparation, etc. In total, I would need approximately 90 million IDR for funding. But, as I said earlier, I was quite optimistic that with only 45 million IDR, I could still join that program.
I made the proposal to be as beautiful as I could. I added a lot of photograph of CERN, especially their particle detectors, and gave some extraordinary facts that CERN had been had. The cover used a background from one of the CERN experiments (copyright of the image goes to CERN) and printed on a high-quality glossy paper. The contents were also printed in high-quality ink-jet paper. I hoped that the proposal was attractive enough to get some funds.
I planned to distribute the proposal to my university as it was the closest institution. At that time, I was not expected that they would give me the significant amount of funds. The next one was my university alumnus who has been a successful people. Some of them have big companies, occupy a high and strategic position in government, or being kind to their alma mater by donating some of their money. I also had a plan to send the proposal to Tanoto Foundation, a foundation that gave me scholarship during my study in university. The last one, I wanted to send the proposal to company and corporation such as PT PLN, Garuda Indonesia, Bank BNI, Bank Mandiri, PT Telkom Indonesia, Medco Energy, etc. I hoped that they could give some of their CSR for funding my proposal.
At the 2nd week of May, I almost sent ten proposals and had received no response. The final exam week was getting closer which forced me to temporarily stop searching for funding. I was worried at that time because it was only one month before the program was begun. At that time, I thought that I should focus on final exam before sending more proposal. I hoped I would receive a positive response from the prospective sponsor.
I rushed to finance room in my university to meet the head of finance. She said that she had received my proposal, and she was happy with its look. Then, she said that my university would cover all of the costs needed based on what I had written in the proposal. Again, oh my goodness! I was trembling, and my hand was shaking when she gave me a pen to sign on the documents. Oh God, I was so happy that day. 🙂
“I am going to Europe. I am going to CERN. Is it for real?”
So, mission accomplished. My funding was successfully completed. I could (almost) join the CERN Summer Student 2014. I could be a part of the biggest and most sophisticated particle physics research facility in the world and feel how to live, life, and (hopefully) love as a researcher in an international research laboratory are. Before I could get there, I needed to prepare other little things such as Visa, Airline Tickets, Hostel, etc.
I knew that my preparation was still long, but at least I had certainty from my side that I could possibly join the CERN Summer Student 2014 after I got full funds from my university. Therefore, the first thing I need to do was to tell the committee of CERN Summer Student for Non-Member States that I had got funds and could join the program. I will listed my next steps after I have got the funds in the next section.
The border between Switzerland and France on Rue de Meyrin, Geneva. During my stay at CERN, I walked through these borders twice a day. When afternoon, I was in Switzerland. When night, I was in France.
©2014 Bagus Hanindhito | Geneva, Switzerland | Canon EOS 60D | EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II | 1/85sec | f/16 | ISO200 | Full Manual | Manual Exposure
Update my participation status. My application for CERN Summer Student 2014 was accepted, but my participation was currently withheld, waiting for funding. If I were unable to find funding for my participation, my position would be given to reserve candidates. Therefore, after I had got funding and I could positively join that program, I need to inform the committee first. I emailed them this great news, and they sent me some newsletter about the preparation I had to do before departure.
Decide period of the contract. The committee gave four periods of contract that I could choose from. The options were listed below.
- June 16. 2014, to August 8, 2014
- June 23, 2014, to August 15, 2014
- June 30, 2014, to August 22, 2014
- July 7, 2014, to August 29, 2014 (with some exception)
I decided to choose the option two (June 23, 2014, to August 15, 2014). Why? Because it was the beginning of June and I hadn’t had the visa and other things that I had to prepare. Moreover, at August 22, 2014, I had qualification exam to decide whether I could take thesis or not. Therefore, with that period, I could still have one week to explore some country in Europe.
Make a booking of CERN hostel. CERN provided two choices of hostel for stay during the program. The first one was CERN Hotel inside the Meyrin site (Geneva, Switzerland) and the other one was CERN Saint Genis Hostel in France (approx. 2km from Globe of Science and Innovation). The room rates could be accessed via this link. After careful consideration, I chose the Saint Genis Hostel for stay throughout the program.
Although the second option seemed a deal breaker because of its distance from CERN, CERN provided a free scheduled (almost every hour) shuttle that performed round trip between CERN Meyrin site, Saint Genis Hostel, and CERN Prévessin site. Moreover, the distance of 2km was not that far both by walking or cycling (CERN provided bicycle rent for free for Summer Student with a deposit of CHF100). The room rates for Saint Genis Hostel was cheaper than the CERN Hotel which was fascinating. The Saint Genis Hostel had a good proximity from the nearby supermarket (i.e. Carrefour) which was a good point. Later on, I found that the internet speed in Saint Genis Hostel was not acceptable. It was very slow, especially during nights. But alright, it was cheaper by the way.
Fill some documents (again). There were some documents that I needed to fill.
- Medical Form (provided by CERN) which listed all of disease and disorder that I had been suffering.
- Certificate Proof of Enrolment from University which declared that I was registered as a student at my university.
- Contract Document that must be signed by me and the head of the department in my university.
- Emergency Contact that listed number which could be reached when accidents occur during my stay at CERN.
- Convention d’Accueil document which would be given when I arrived at CERN to facilitate movement across Switzerland – France border.
Getting covered by insurance. The next step was to obtain insurance that had a minimum of EUR30,000 coverage during my stay at CERN. The insurance was mandatory both for CERN Summer Student and for visa application.
Lake Geneva with its Water Jet (Jet d’Eau). You can relax yourself in the middle of the lake by riding a ship.
©2014 Bagus Hanindhito | Geneva, Switzerland | Canon EOS 60D | EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II | 1/85sec | f/20 | ISO200 | Full Manual | Manual Exposure
Bus Y, operated by TPG, connects Val-Thoiry – Geneva Airport – Ferney-Voltaire. It pass in front of CERN Meyrin Site.
©2014 Bagus Hanindhito | Geneva, Switzerland | Canon EOS 60D | EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II | 1/40sec | f/7.1 | ISO3200 | Aperture Priority | Auto Exposure
Liquid helium tube at CERN to cool down its superconductor magnet. The valve is covered by ice even when the tube is exposed under direct sunlight.
©2014 Bagus Hanindhito | Geneva, Switzerland | Canon EOS 60D | EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II | 1/400sec | f/7.1 | ISO100 | Aperture Priority | Auto Exposure
Obtaining Schengen Visa. This was the most complex step I had to prepare. The list of documents that I needed to prepare was listed below. I applied for Business Visa as it was required by CERN.
- A Schengen visa application form filled and signed. (can be downloaded from the Embassy’s website)
- Passport which is valid for at least three months beyond stay and minimum two empty pages. (I already had)
- Two recent passport color photograph which is taken on a white background. (I already had)
- Return flight ticket reservation with a full itinerary. (I would do it later).
- Declaration of consent. (I didn’t think I needed to fill it. But since visa application for Switzerland Embassy in Indonesia is handled by the third party, I needed to fill this).
- Medical insurance with minimum EUR30,000 coverage during my stay. (I already had)
- Invitation letter. (I already had from CERN)
- Mission statement. (I used the cover letter from my university)
- Work statement. (I used the signed contract from CERN)
- Hotel booking. (I used the hotel booking from CERN Saint Genis Hostel)
- Visa fees. (Free for CERN)
I was ready with all of my documents needed to apply for the visa. Unfortunately, the visa application for Switzerland Embassy in Indonesia is handled by the third party named TLS. Therefore, I could not just directly come to the embassy. I needed to make an appointment with TLS and waited for my turn to come to the office. It was summer when a lot of people went for holiday thus I expected that the visa appointment would take very long in waiting list.
As expected, I would be able to come to TLS one June 13, 2014. The visa application itself would take at least five working days to complete (might be longer). Meanwhile, I would be take off to Switzerland on June 19, 2014 (first plan). It was the real problem I had to face. So, I decided to email the committee of CERN Summer Student, seeking help from them for my problem. Maybe, CERN as an international organization with high reputation could help my visa application.
Several days later, the embassy contacted me to come directly to the embassy by bringing all my documents on June 2, 2014. What a relief! I appreciated the help from CERN to obtain my visa. Maybe CERN emailed the embassy directly with their magic letter (hehe). So, I came to the embassy, bringing all of the documents needed. It only took less than one hour to store all of the documents, and I was asked to come back to take my passport next Wednesday. It was fast.
Obtaining Airline Ticket. After obtaining a visa, it was the time to book and pay airline ticket. The first plan was to depart on June 19, 2014 (local time), and went back home on August 20, 2014 (local time). By the way, I added one week holiday after my contract ended so I could explore Europe :D. Moreover, I would really love if I could fly on an A380, the biggest passenger aircraft in the world. \
Fortunately, Lufthansa has flight that uses A380-800 from Frankfurt to Singapore and Singapore to Frankfurt. Then, I searched for that flight. By considering the ticket price at that time, I chosen to depart on June 17, 2014 and went back home on August 20, 2014. The flight back to home would use the A380. I didn’t mind to have transit in Singapore just to enjoy the A380.
Preparing logistics and other things. It depended on what I need to bring during my stay at CERN. Some of the things that important for me were plug converter, personal medicine, some of local Indonesia instant food that I might be missed during my stay at CERN, and other things.
Then, it was the time to count down to my departure!
to be continued…
More stories like this…
Working day-to-day in the biggest particle physics laboratory in the world is just awesome. At first, I think that I fall into the deepest of my daydream.
It was the end of my stay at CERN. I felt that the last two months went by so fast than usual that I was sad to leave CERN too early. I wished I could stay longer here. If not, I hoped someday I would come back here to do my next challenging research project.
Participating in some workshops held by CERN added up my experience and knowledge. It becomes “a must” during my stay at CERN.