I am married, we have a nine year old son, and we are currently living in two places, my husband in Bern and my son and I in Tunis where I work at the Swiss embassy – one of the challenges of being a diplomat. We try to spend as much time together as possible in Tunisia or in Switzerland, hiking, skiing, sailing, reading a good book, visiting art galleries or just having dinner with friends.
My studies in Switzerland
I studied Classics, Ancient and Swiss History at the University of Bern. For my thesis, I had chosen a Roman historian, C. Licinius Macer. He was one of Livy’s predecessors and a contemporary of Sallust. Since his work is only preserved in a few fragments and the latest edition dated from the 19th century, I tried to have a fresh look at his work. And as I was still not bored with Macer after having finished my thesis, I decided to continue my studies and to pursue a PhD abroad.
Going to Oxford
With a degree in classics, Oxford is of course a dream destination to do a PhD. When I learned about the Berrow Scholarship, I was eager to apply, but unfortunately I failed at the first attempt. So I started my PhD in Bern and came to Oxford the following year as a visiting student and after having presented my candidature again – perseverantia vincit…
My degree at Oxford University
For my PhD, I continued working on a new edition of the fragments of C. Licinius Macer, containing the fragments themselves (also some newly identified ones) and an introduction to his life as a politician of the late Roman Republic as well as his role in the annalistic tradition. Sallust portrayed him as a popularis, which raised the question if his political ideas transpired also in his work, a question which seems interesting also from a modern perspective.
Life as a Berrow Scholar at Lincoln College
Although I only spent one year at Lincoln College, life was so rich that it feels much longer. I am still very grateful for this experience and I thoroughly enjoyed academic and social life in and around the college. I have extremely fond memories of studying in the serene environment of the Bodleian library and of the discussions with my tutor, but of course also of the evenings spent with friends, be it fellow Berrow scholars or other students from all around the world. I also remember the numerous concerts in chapels, theater plays in college courts, cocktails, receptions…. Lincoln College felt to me like a big community extruding an atmosphere of friendship, mutual support and playful competition.
Upon leaving Oxford
After one year, I came back to Bern to finish my PhD. Having studied for almost 10 years, I felt ready for something new. As I had thor-oughly enjoyed the international environment in Oxford, going abroad as a diplomat became an attractive option. I passed the entry exam for the diplomatic service, the so called “concours diplomatique” in 1997. Although my studies in Classics were rather unusual for a diplomatic career in Switzerland, the concours not only focused on politics, economics or international law, but put a strong emphasis on general culture and soft skills, and I was glad that Oxford was not only a good place to learn about networking, debating and presenting, but also to learn not to take oneself too seriously. I am sure that my year in Oxford was a great door-opener, not only as an academic reference, but also as a good School of Life.
After having passed the concours, I soon had the opportunity to discover even further horizons. Since joining the Foreign Ministry, I had the privilege to be posted in South Korea, Kenya and now in Tunisia. The nomadic life of a diplomat can be challenging, but to be constantly able to get to know new cultures and to make a positive contribution to Switzerland’s relations with the world still remains a strong incentive.
My life today
I am posted in Tunis since 2012 as Deputy Head of Mission in charge of political, economic and cultural affairs. Coming to Tunisia after the revolution in 2011 was a great experience, as the country has so far managed to stay on track with its democratic transition, with the Nobel Peace Prize having been awarded to some of its sterling citizens who have worked so hard to hold the country together. But it remains challenging, not only because terrorists are threatening the fragile democracy, but also because unemployment among young people remains high. Switzerland like many other countries tries to support the Tunisian transition process.
After four years, my posting will come to an end next summer, and our new destination will probably be even more challenging – Kinshasa. John le Carré’s Mission Song will certainly be in my suitcase.