Dec 1, 2016

The founding principle of all the activities of Zdenek and Michaela Bakala is, truly, the courage, which must, according to their belief, always go hand in hand with responsibility.
Visit site Bakala Philanthropy.

English   |   Français

Cristian Riccio - report


  August 2014 – August 2015


University of Cambridge



Institute: Institute of Metabolic Science


This last year has been extremely enriching from a sociological point of view. This was my longest stay abroad and the first time being bathed in a different culture. It was interesting to discover a different way of living, political system, educational and healthcare system.  The way people interact with each other is also different in England and I even read a book called “Watching the English” from Kate Fox to try to understand people better. Among the national traits I like, humour is my favourite. It is very witty, a bit black, present in almost all interactions and always makes me laugh. Despite big differences in funding and structure, the way science is done in England is fundamentally the same as in Switzerland. A rigorous scientific method based on hypotheses, experiments, results and evidence is applied. What differs are the ideas and the people bearing them. Many intelligent people work in Cambridge, making it a very fertile ground for innovative ideas and interdisciplinary work. It might sound stupid but this stay made me realise that there is a world beyond Swiss borders!



I cancelled my Swiss health insurance and passed onto the British National Health Service, which provides free basic healthcare to all residents in England. In order to cancel the Swiss insurance, one has to officially leave the Swiss commune and hand in a certificate to the health insurer.


I slowly settled in my research institute, filling out many forms. As my room was incompletely furnished, I had to buy a bit of furniture, as well as bed linen, kitchen utensils, clothes basket, etc. One fundamental thing for Cambridge events is to have formal clothes: suit, tie, etc. A black bowtie and a black tie suit are even necessary for some events. So do not think you can get away with not packing a good suit and a tie in your luggage when leaving Switzerland. It would be a great mistake. I have seen many people being excluded from events for lack of suitable clothing!


Luckily, I had a friend in Cambridge who was looking for a housemate, so it was easy for me. However, it is generally hard for someone from abroad to find a room. This is where the College comes in handy, as they offer accommodation to all their new students. Colleges are a peculiarity of Oxford and Cambridge and are a kind of home to the students. Search more information online about colleges if you are planning to come to Cambridge to study.


 There is an innumerable quantity of clubs and societies in Cambridge, also a big difference with the Swiss system. The Cambridge system is centred around the University. I attended many lectures from the scientific societies and did voluntary work in nature reserves but there are clubs in sports, debating, music, everything one can think of.


In winter, I spent time going out with my housemates. In summer, I gardened in our backyard, cycled in the countryside (a consolation to hiking in the Alps) and played badminton and table tennis with my friends.


I think that my masters year in Cambridge was incredibly valuable and was the perfect bridge before my commitment to staying here for a four-year PhD programme.

© Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala