2004-05 Outbound to Switzerland
Hometown: Gainesville, Florida
School: Buchholz High School
Sponsor: Gainesville Sunrise Rotary Club
Host: Stans Rotary Club, District 1980, Switzerland
October 16 Journal
Okay...I know how much everyone of my Rotary peep's and their parents have been anxiously waiting for this journal from possibly the most extroverted person in the group...so, here it goes. I have been in Switzerland for almost 10 weeks now, and I can honestly say that it feels like I have been here for about a month. I'm going to try and organize this thing the best I can, so I will start with the beginning and then how these 10 weeks have changed me into a different Monica.
I arrived in Zurich on Saturday, August 7th, 2004 at 10:35am (one hour late). The plane ride was tiring and somewhat worrisome. I was so tired from the flying, time changes, and going to the beach and staying up all night the night before my flight (I know mom...bad idea), that when I finally got to Switzerland I just wanted to find a bed and go to sleep. When I first came here, it didn't really hit me like I was in a different country, but instead that I was just here. I would hear people speak to me and I would answer back, but then when I would try to remember what was being asked...it was like it had never happened...I am still like that today.
For the first two weeks I was here, I lived with my Rotary counselor and officer. I really have to thank these two people for taking me in and helping me more than anyone could have my first two weeks here. I learned so much German and so much more about Switzerland that I had never known before. Then, I started a three week language school the second week I was here. I didn't really learn anything that would help me in school or in the real Swiss life, but it was fun to get to know the other inbounds that live close to me and go with them to Luzern (I know Elliott ... your fav. city) and walk around and see Luzern. Then, after three weeks of language school I went to my real school...The Kollegi. The school...is crazy. I take so many different subjects and so many of them I have never had before...this though, makes it so much better because then when I go back to the states I'll be able to pass everything. I'm not going to go into detail, I'm just going to say that they put me in the math class...they take 2 maths and they are Calculus and Angewandte (don't ask). I don't really understand these to the fullest yet, but everyday I work hard. I only went to school for two weeks and then it was three weeks holiday (one week hiking in the mountains with my class) and then I am back at school until December.
I really want to go into detail about this hiking week with my class, because even though it was the hardest thing for me to ever do (carrying a 16kilo rucksack and walking from Switzerland to Italy...literally), in the end I loved it and wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I met so many people from my class and got to be included in everything they were doing. I learned Swiss games with cards (still don't fully understand, but its all good) and so many stories that my class has shared together. We made inside jokes, and I am now...the "Gangsta Mutha" of the "Gangsta Babies"...funny, I know. I pulled muscles and wanted to take the bus, but the girls in my class said..."You'll regret it...don't go...stay with us." I did in the end, and I am so happy now. I used Italian toilets and didn't have a shower. I wore the same pair of pants for 4 days. I did so many things that I would have never even thought of in the states, that I have done here and I love all of it. I have walked up a lot of mountains since I have been here, and just a few weeks ago I went to a ski place (Titlus) for the first snow of the season. I played in the snow in -4C temperature with some other inbounds from Canada and Australia...it was so great to see the snow for the first time...I LOVE THE SNOW!!! Now I am going to start snowboarding...thanks Livi for your stuff.
The language was extremely hard at first, and since in Switzerland they don't even speak real German that makes it even worse, but I am starting to understand a lot of Swiss German and I find myself thinking of what to say and everything in German. I have found out that I can be Monica in English and the same Monica in German...it was hard, but I found a way to overcome that barrier. I have learned so much and am grateful for every single thing given to me here and back home. I left family, friends, and my Rotary gang who I love more than anyone. I have had homesickness (for about a week) and I thought..."Why am I doing this?...I had so much more back home." I still don't know why I am doing this, right now, I'm just going with what's given to me and taking it as an experience I will never forget.
I have changed into a person I somewhat don't even recognize in the mirror. I eat with a fork and knife (fork in left and knife in right hand), I don't eat all of the Taco Bell (waiting for it Mom), and I don't burp or fart (remember last orientation Jen)... I have become a polite nice little girl and when I come back...you guys are going to flip. The good thing though, is that I haven't forgotten who the real me is, and I am still the funny, obnoxious, loud person that I was in Florida...just toned down a bit at times.
Well, I think that is it for now, but I want to shout out to some people and thank them for everything that they have ever done for me: my parents (here and in Florida), my siblings (here and in Florida), my Rotary gang (here and in Florida), every Rotary guy in Florida and all of them here in Switzerland. Livi- I am so happy to hear that you are okay, and hope that you are having a great time in Florida...I'll be in your house in December I think. Well, I will send pics in a couple of days (lots) and I love all of you....
November 6 Journal
Okay...so I have been in Switzerland for 3 months now...the time has actually started to feel normal ...it's about time. I know that it hasn't been that long since I wrote, but I have a lot to say so I think it's time to write again.
First...Katie came last weekend...that's right...Katie...in France...came to see me...in Switzerland. I was so happy to see her and show her my life here and my German skills. We talked about all of the good times we shared together through the summer and it was nice to reminice (spelling I know...englisch sucks now). I took her to a Halloween Party with some friends from school and it was so much fun. We ended up being the only 5 teenagers there, but it was still fun. She came at a good time too because I was starting to have problems with my family and she helped me through it...saying, "Monica, you're strong...don't even think about going home." Well, Katie came for about 3 days and then was off to France...it was a nice visit and I can't wait till we all get back...Summer '05 baby...
Well...I have started a normal routine and it's finally getting boring...I go out with friends from school and speak German...the normal stuff I guess I would do back in states...except the German part. The language is coming...considering I started out with no German whatsoever I think I've come a long way and am proud. I've been doing a lot of thinking though...mainly about what I'm doing and where my life is going to be when I get back. I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and which college I wanted to go to and all of the stuff I needed to be thinking about...SAT's. Now, I just don't know anything...and even though it scares me, I've come to accept the fact that I just need to start living my life here and worry about making good grades here and everything. I'm not really homesick anymore...just trying to still remember the good things that I took for granted back home. This year changes you in a way you would never think...it shows you what you had that was so good that you never knew was good until you're not there. I know this probably doesn't make sense, but it doesn't have to...aren't you guys proud...I'm maturing...maybe not...I dunno.
Now I have to talk about Halloween and Thanksgiving...European people just don't have these...they're too American. Halloween was a sad time...I love trick-or-treating, but I decided that I could live one year without that so I just sat at home and chilled with Katie...still had fun dancing to random mixes. Thanksgiving though...I'm gonna try and cook dinner for my family...of course, I will have help from other people, but it should be nice to show them some of American traditions...that's what I'm here for...showing and learning at the same time.
Okay...so in September I did go in the snow, but it was on a mountain where I am going to start snowboarding maybe. I do have pics, but I have to learn how to email them, so when I do, I will email some pics. Snow...well, it's cold, but it's the greatest thing on earth...maybe tied with the ocean and surfing though.
Well, I have to go because I'm late for a train...
March 3 Journal
So, since I haven't written in such a long time I can't really update everyone on what I have been up to because that would take way too long; instead I am going to tell all of you about something that happened here in Switzerland that changed my year and something that I will always remember...My Family.
I changed from my first to my second host family on December 27th. It would have been earlier but I had told my counselor here that there was no way I was going to move a week before Christmas, so after much deliberation I got to stay. I know that I had said in my last journal that I was having some problems with my family, but it wasn't problems that they caused, it was problems that I was creating within myself. You see, I had some serious problems with attachment and abandonment from when I was younger and they were still there. When I had to move from my counselor's house to my real family, I had gotten so attached to my counselor and her family after only two weeks, that I didn't want that to happen again. The first two months with my first family were not as good as they could have been because I closed myself off to them...I wasn't really me. This wasn't good for me or my family. I had written my counselor telling her that I couldn't live there anymore and that I wanted to move, but there was no reason why I shouldn't have liked it there.
Finally, my host mom couldn't take it anymore and asked me: "Monika, do you like it here by us?" Of course, I said yes because I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but my host mom could see it in my face and eyes that something wasn't right. So, she sat me down and we talked for about two hours...just on my problems with attachment and everything that I have. My host mom taught me that it's good to change families because you get to see different parts of the culture (I know...Rotary already told me this). She said that my families want to learn about Florida and America. She also said that it's so much better when I'm open and talkative and really me, than being so reserved and not speaking. After this talk with my host mom, I made such an effort to be more open and really me...and that's when it all clicked. I wasn't always perfect in this family, and in fact, I got in A LOT of trouble when I was living with this family. I was spending too much time with the other exchange students which was degrading my German, I slept at other people's houses too much, I almost got sent home, and there was one time where I had stayed out entirely too late. I still don't know how my family dealt with this because I know that if I had done some of the things with my family in Florida like here...I wouldn't probably be here.
My host parents though were the most understanding people I think I have ever met, and it was so much better when I was honest with them than trying to hide it (which in fact I never did). This family did so much for me in ways that I will never be able to repay them, but I think that they know just how much I really love them. They taught me things I thought I could never learn. My host mom taught me how to cook special Swiss meals and things that will help me not only with my exchange year, but also with the rest of my life. She was there for me when I needed someone to talk to or just a hug or...a mom. My host dad was probably the funniest person I have met so far here in Switzerland. We laughed together, joked together, and ate Fleisch (meat) together. He was there for me when I was down or missing my real dad...he was a great host dad. My sister...well, we had our problems sometimes but that's completely normal. She taught me how to not get into so much trouble and that it's good to be "me". We went to movies together, shopping, and eating. She had her life and I had mine, but we made days for each other...and they were great. This family dealt with my dad calling at 9am expecting me to be awake...and the funny thing is is that my family can't really speak English and so them trying to explain that I'm asleep was priceless. They provided me with the best food I think I could have imagined...which is why I probably gained 6 kilos (3.5 now). They weren't only my host family...but my family.
I moved two days after Christmas. We were being hosted by my new host family for a sort of dinner type thing. So, we hauled my now 3 suitcases to my new family and ate. I was doing extremely well at first...not crying and being strong. But at around 11:30pm when everyone was getting tired and wanting to go to sleep...it hit me that I wasn't going too...I was staying. I just couldn't help it...I cried and I didn't care anymore. It was the hardest thing for me...to leave my host mom that had been more of a mom to me in my four months here. She talked me through it, and even though the tears didn't stop it helped. To see my dad, mom, and sister leave while I was still crying was probably the worst thing for both sides.
Well, I know I can go to visit my family anytime I want, and actually I do, but I truly love this family as well, and having to think about how I'm moving in three weeks makes me want to cry...which is why I don't think about it.
Well, I think that I have written a lot, but I just want to say this to the new outbound class (man...does that sound weird): be yourselves, be open, don't be scared. People say it's hard to be the same in English and in another language...but for me, it really wasn't that big of a problem. You just have to not think about what people are going to think or say..."just do it."
Congratulations Outbound Class 2006...your journey begins now. Congratuliert Hanna...Die Schweiz ist ein tolle Land.
Guys (you know who you are I hope)...can't wait til Welcome Home Dinner...jammin in the van!
Jilly (Mommy)...thanks for letting me do my thing...I love you!!!
Monika...Smöni vo Floida (can't say the r)