My Couchsurfing Conference Experience

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Introduction

Couchsurfing. Maybe you’re familiar with the term, maybe you’re clueless. So, what exactly is it?

Couchsurfing is, in a nutshell, a community of travellers who host and stay with each other for free.

But it is NOT the same as a free hotel.

If you’re thinking of just rocking up at someone’s house, dropping your bags and going straight to a conference without any interaction with your host, think again. The philosophy of Couchsurfing is to have an enriching travel experience, to form friendships and learn about each other’s culture. Someone is welcoming you into their home and life – have a little respect and take advantage of the opportunity to share this wonderful thing called life.

When I recently attended the Law and Language workshop at Fribourg University I opted for Couchsurfing. In this post I explain:

  • Why I Couchsurf; and
  • My experience Couchsurfing whilst attending a workshop.

If you’re interested in how to attend a Legal English workshop or conference on a shoestring budget – check out this post. 

Why I Couchsurf

I live a juxtaposition. I work online. But I love travel. I interact online. But I love meeting people. In a world becoming increasingly isolationist and xenophobic, Couchsurfing is a way to build relationships, broaden perspectives and learn.  

If you are learning English (or another language for that matter), it’s also a great way to practise your language skills.

Let me tell you about my recent experience of Couchsurfing and see if I can convince you to try it.

My Couchsurfing Experience

A Cheesey Arrival

After a long coach journey through the Swiss Alps from Como, Italy, I was glad to arrive in the beautiful medieval city of Fribourg. On arrival I met Heloise, my lovely local ‘Friburger’ Couchsurfing host, who very kindly welcomed me as her guest for a few days.

We got straight into the local traditions, stopping at a local cheese shop to pick up fondue cheese, and a supermarket where I bought groceries for the weekend, before heading back to hers.

After a pre-dinner drink on her pent-house balcony, enjoying the evening sun, overlooking the picturesque panoramic scene (a perfect blend of city and distant mountains), we set about making (and subsequently consuming) a delicious traditional fondue.

Post-Conference Fancy Fribourg

On Friday morning, after a good night’s sleep, (on a large and comfy sofa bed), it took a total of 5 minutes door-to-door to get to the university for the workshop. You can read about the workshop here.

In the evening, Heloise and I cooked together and then headed out to her friend’s fancy dress party.   

Now, what can be seen as a disadvantage whilst living in Italy – the lack of the the sixth sense for fashion that the Italians seem to be born with – suddenly became my forte in Fribourg. Lucky for me,  it just so happens that a very British flowery patterned colorful shirt forms a part of my everyday wardrobe, thus coming in handy at this floral themed fancy dress party…  

I also got a little insight into the lives of Friburgers and it was very cool to hear them switch from German to French to English with such ease.

Why do birds circle round Fribourg….?

…One wing is holding the nose. 

According to Heloise, Fribourg is so well-known for its potent pastoral ‘perfume’ that there is even a joke about it. Saturday morning, I got to experience the ‘fresh’ country scents as Heloise gave me a city tour. We passed typical Swiss scenes and found the fragrant culprits – cows, with great jangling bells, a stone’s throw from the city centre.

We wandered through a local market, stopping for coffee at a cool café – Le Port, and finishing off riding the funicular – one of the city’s main curiosities.  Why? – It’s powered by, none-other than, waste water. Another pong to add to the mix.

We both did our own thing in the afternoon, I relaxed a bit and then headed to a local free choir concert at St Michael’s church.

Lazy Sunday?

Think Friburgers rest on a Sunday? Probably most of the time, but not this one. With a 9:00 am kick-off, the annual Tzampata involves people with a lot of energy, running up many flights of stairs, all over Fribourg, as fast as they can. For fun.

What a shame I didn’t have time to register for it.

But I was happy to exhaust myself by watching it and then continue with some sightseeing which involved seeing possibly the world’s tiniest and fluffiest foal. 

I had a final lunch with Heloise before heading back home on the FlixBus – chosen for economical and eco-reasons (explained further in this post on how to attend a conference on a shoestring budget). 

Final comments

If you like to combine Legal English workshops and conferences with city trips – why not give Couchsurfing a go. On the other hand if it’s really not your thing, you can always fall back on Airbnb* or try out house sitting with Trusted House Sitters*. 

I had a brilliant time Couchsurfing with my fantastic host Heloise, and I highly recommend it.  Fribourg is often simply a day-trip for tourists from the more well-known destinations of Bern or Zurich, but it’s a city which deserves far greater attention and I thoroughly enjoyed my few days of pretending to be a local.

Have I tempted you to try it?

 

*Psst… links with an *asterisk* mean that they are an affiliate link and will give you a discount or benefit, and will also give me some kind of benefit. I am very careful with my recommendations and only suggest things I genuinely like and have tried.

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