In the months leading up to arriving in Switzerland, I researched and watched every video about Swiss culture, studying abroad, etc. I honestly thought that I was so prepared and that living here would be a piece of cake. As my 2 month anniversary is just one week away, I thought I would share some of the things I thought I knew about Swiss life, and the truth that I have learned in the funniest, difficult, but best ways.
- “French will just hit me. I’ll be fluent in a week.” I am literally laughing out loud at the fact that I was so naive and silly to think that a language would just magically fill my head. It’s been 7 weeks, and I am nowhere near fluent in French, but everyday I progress. My goal is to be able to speak well and understand the majority of conversations by Christmas, so that I can get to know family members and express gratitude. This evening I presented a children’s book to my family as their entertainment during dessert, and boy was it entertaining! I really tried to practice my “r” as I told a store about a elephant who keeps making “énormément” mistakes! I learned a few new words, but the majority of the time was spent sharing a good laugh! 😉
- “School will be so easy. I will get all A’s. This year will really boost my GPA.” HA! School is so difficult, and I have received nothing but 2’s, and 3’s. (F’s and D’s) OT say the least, I am handed a pice of humble pie as I enter school everyday. In the USA, I learned conversational words in French class, not Geography and Economic terms. The most frustrating thing is that I can understand the class and the main topics, but I cannot express my opinions or explain my responses. Luckily, all of my teachers are extremely understanding, and my English teacher helps me a lot! When I found out my Swiss school wouldn’t be giving me any grades, I was disappointed, but now I am so thankful!! There is no way I could be on the same level as my peers or even pass the year if I was held to their standards.
- “I won’t be homesick at all. Hedgesville who?” This year has been the first time I’ve ever experienced homesickness. While Switzerland is incredible, I miss the normalcy and routine of always seeing someone I know out in town. The first two days of school were difficult because I was so out of my element, but my Swiss family has helped me SO much in making the adjustment super smooth. When I feel overwhelmed, I just take a few deep breaths, eat a piece of Swiss chocolate, and think of a funny memory with my Swiss family. Then I remember that I chose to be here and I am so blessed to be living in Switzerland with my family.
- “It will be awkward with my family because of the language barrier. I won’t be able to get to know them.” This is 100% false!!! I was so nervous to meet my family and see what they were like, but I could not be more overjoyed with the family AFS gave me! No matter what, they help me express exactly what I want to say. Every time I speak in French, they listen so attentively and help me fix my mistakes. I am so blessed that they have opened up to me and really adopted me into their family. Now when I think of my family, I think of having two sets of parents and 3 siblings. I even have a bunch of inside jokes with my Swiss family!
- “I am so prepared. I have this whole year under control.” I think this is one idea that I have decided to leave in the USA. I used to always think that everything could be perfect and preplanned. As soon as I stepped off the plane and realized I had forgotten French, I realized I was in for a lot of surprises! My favorite moments are when I think I translated the directions perfectly and know what is going on, and then we do something completely the opposite! I cannot help but laugh and remain flexible! As long as I am not in a dangerous situation, I just go with anything and follow social cues from others.
There is a sense of joy and content that comes from studying abroad. Maybe it is the fact that I am not allowing myself to be stressed out by school or responsibilities. Or maybe it is the adventure that I know awaits me outside my bedroom door every morning. While these are just a few of the truths I have discovered, I hope that I conveyed how my perspective has changed. I am no longer focused on a percentage written on a test, or the opinion I think someone has of me, rather the effect I can impact on others while relying on Christ to direct my path to glorify Him.