Two years ago, Stanley Sam got off to a rough start in Switzerland. First off, his son was born just one month after he left Ghana for Eawag. «That was certainly bad timing,» he says. He went to visit his young family three months later, and last year his son and wife visited him for a month.
Next, he found himself surprised by the typical, somewhat closed Swiss mentality. After his bachelor’s degree in Ghana, he completed his master’s degree in environmental biotechnology in Istanbul. «Naively, I thought I knew European culture after this experience,» he says with a laugh. «But now I realize that Istanbul is very different from Switzerland.»
Nevertheless: «In spite of everything, it was easy for me to settle in at Eawag. This is where people from many countries meet and interact very openly with each other,» says Stanley Sam, whose full name is Stanley Bortse Kweku Sam. «Stanley» is his so called Christian name, «Bortse» is his Ghanaian name and «Kweku» means Wednesday. This is the day of the week when Stanley Sam was born and, like all Ghanaians, the day he was born is part of his name.
Outside the «Eawag bubble,» he has up to now found it difficult to get to know people in Switzerland. To counteract this cultural barrier, Stanley is now hard at work learning German. He also joined the Empa-Eawag football team to continue playing his favourite hobby sport.
Before joining Eawag, Stanley Sam worked as an engineer at a waste-water treatment plant for a gold mine in northern Ghana. Because he’s always up for a challenge and dislikes routine, he looked around for something completely new after four years. He found what he was looking for after receiving a placement offer from Eawag, which included a doctoral thesis in the Sandec department. Stanley Sam is now conducting basic research to develop technologies that will enable the dewatering of faecal sludge.
As far as his home country is concerned, Stanley Sam misses not only his family but also sometimes the Ghanaian national dish: Fufu. This dish is similar to mashed potatoes. But instead of potatoes, it is made of manioc, yams and plantains. However, family and food are not the only reasons that Stanley wants to return to Africa after completing his PhD: «I believe that I can make a big difference in Africa with my knowledge,» he says. «There is still a lot to improve in the management of waste water and faecal sludge in large parts of the continent.»