Amanda Sennert

ZURICH — I arrived here early Wednesday with half of the Pittsburgh delegation to the One Young World leadership forum, having taken advantage of the nonstop Pittsburgh-to-Paris flight. A short connecting flight brought us here to Switzerland’s largest city. At the airport we found the One Young World (OYW) table and were greeted by staffers who gave us directions, an unlimited public transport pass for the entire country via rail, bus or boat, and sent on our way.

After settling in at the hotel, a small group and I began to explore this beautiful city of about 2 million inhabitants. (See photos below.) It’s located in the north-central part of the country at the northern tip of Lake Zurich, nestled amid wooded hills leading to the Alps about 20 miles south. Blue-and-white OYW flags fluttered along our walk to the Alstadt or Old Town. Merchants and passersby were warm and welcoming as we strolled the narrow streets, admiring the architecture and sampling the many culinary offerings. We heard countless languages as we walked, including this nation’s trio of official languages — French, Italian and German (German dominates in Zurich).

We also attended a reception at a biergarten on the lake with the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and the American Club of Zurich. The setting was gorgeous and offered a great opportunity for the delegates to network amongst each other and meet expats in Zurich. Memorable among them was Annamaria Fato, a multilingual Pittsburgh native and international businesswoman who hosted the reception. Anna worked with the Pittsburgh G-20 Partnership in the run-up to the September 2009 summit, and is an incredible supporter of greater international business and cultural cooperation wherever she hangs her hat.

We also walked through the open-air market of the Hauptbanhof, the central train station, and dined outdoors at Zeugenhauskeller on traditional German fare of bratwurst with onion gravy and potato salad. Delicious. We were able to absorb some local culture, watching locals socialize and dance to everything from traditional folk tunes to Spanish love songs to American pop. The Pittsburgh delegation also shared some of its own culture, and there was evidence in the form of a Penguins “white-out” towel and Steelers paraphernalia.

I am off to register at the Kongresshaus, the convention hall hosting the summit. I’m looking forward to Thursday’s presentations on global business and corporate social responsibility as well as the opening ceremony, which we have been told is quite powerful. We’re also looking forward to meeting other delegates from around the world during a tour on Lake Zurich.

It’s now three days and counting until OYW’s location for 2012 – possibly Pittsburgh — is announced. Fingers crossed, game faces on.

More to come,

Amanda Sennert is the Energy Workplace Project Fellow at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, where she coordinates communications for ShaleNET, a federal grant program that helps to prepare low-income, low skilled workers for family sustaining jobs in the natural gas industry. A native of Bradford County, Pa., she earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and political science from the University of Pittsburgh, and a master’s in international development from American University in Washington D.C. She lives in Shadyside.