This feeling no one will ever know unless they experience it. You step onto the plane, looking over your shoulder at your family waving goodbye, your eyes fill with tears of joy and sadness, everything will be alright. The stranger next to you on the plane strikes up conversation and you breath easy for a moment because you feel like you are not alone, you make small talk and then they ask you of course about your blazer and you get to explain your whole idea of this adventure you are about to venture on. Their eyes widen and you know that they are just as nervous for you as you are. The plane ride was long, but telling your story that you have yet to experience makes it enjoyable, and instead of looking at it with fear, when verbalized you realize that this is an opportunity of a life time, you will see and do so many things that you have never dreamed of, this trip, this journey you can't prepare for, you are alive.
My feet brace myself as my knees shake and I walk off the plane, and go through customs and grab my bags, I am not so sure what my host mother and brother look like, the pictures I was sent seem to be lost in my mind mixed in with all the thoughts, "Will they like me?" "I hope they find me." "If not I have my calling card to call someone, but who" "Shush Morgan you will be fine."
I hear my name MORGAN! WELKOMEN! I feel at ease, I am found. I am greeted with three kisses and a smile, this feels right. We go to get my train ticket and everything goes smoothly except for the part where I struggle to get all my things on the train and a nice young Swiss boy helps me along and says something to me, but I was not quite sure what it was, but I nodded to him and thanked him.
My host brother is a trip, he is so kind and always so funny, he is very intelligent, I am glad he loves spending hours of playing chess, I of course always lose, but I am learning.
The food, is amazing. Cheese has never tasted so good, and neither has chocolate. A traditional Swiss meal is where you heat a slice of cheese on a hot tablet in a stove looking thing on the kitchen table, and then you pour it over potatoes, AMAZING!
Cows seem to be sacred here, they are obsessed with the "coo" it's adorable. When I arrived in my town the first thing I saw were hang-gliders, they glide all day everyday, it's amazing how relaxed here and how people enjoy every second of their day and waste no time to be bored, they always find something to do.
I ventured to the town of Bern yesterday with my host mother and brother, we went to Einstein's house in Bern, Munster of Bern (Gothic Cathedral), The Zytglogge Tower (Medieval Tower in Bern-Old prison guard built in the 1300's), walking around in this new place is so invigorating.
Speaking german is coming more easily to me than I thought, that is all my host family speaks to me on exception if I really don't understand, but I usually do, STUDY YOUR HOST LANGUAGE. I can't say that enough, open your eyes to the world and it will open it's arms to you, close your eyes and you will not know the direction you are going towards.
I have to say the change is not easy, it is exciting but it does cause you to be a bit sad, and you do miss home. But then again it is wonderful and an experience you will have for the rest of your life, I have only been here for three days and I feel I have started to change, for the good, I am becoming more aware of who I am and that it is alright to feel lonely and to be alone, it causes you to tap into your emotions and be alright with life by yourself, even though you are surrounded by unfamiliar people you know that you are fine, society has made of fear the feeling of being alone, but it's something special when you can be alone and feel content. I will only get stronger.
They have really neat candy shops that specialize in sweets other than chocolate, the Swiss have it all. Delicious.
The weather is so pleasant, there is no such thing as central air in Switzerland, but you don't need it, you leave your windows open and enjoy the fresh air, it does get a bit chilly at night, and from now on it will keep getting that way. I will start school in 2-3 weeks, I am so excited to try and make friends.
Know that it is okay to cry, perfectly alright to smile, and normal to feel a mix of emotions you can yet explain.
Today is the day, embrace it and feel alive, I certainly do.
I have come to the realization that this has to be one of the best things that has ever happen to me, being on my third week here I have learned more about so many different things than I have ever learned in my whole entire life. I have started to learn a whole new culture, a whole new language, well two languages because Switzerland has at least another dialect of German, Swiss German, that I think I will master by my last day here, hopefully, it is terribly hard, I have also learned so much about myself.
Yes, there is no way to avoid homesickness, you will at least feel it slightly, that is if you go running and talk with your host family and make yourself very tired before you lay down to go to bed, that is what I try to do, so you don't have time to think about what is going on back home, and to be honest, you're most likely not missing anything super important back at home that needs you to think about it all the time.
I have said that I have realized a lot, and thus far I think what I have realized the most, are things about myself, and life in general.
Everyone has their own story, this story is one called life, your life. Everyone will choose to lead their story in which ever direction they would like, I choose to lead mine in the direction of happiness, success, and some failure. What some people don't realize is that one day they will have to share their story, and think about it, I mean really think about it, when you get older, yes we all physically do, you will have to tell your story, and don't you want it to be as interesting, and as amazing as you have dreamt it to be? This all connects back to, don't sit in your room all the time and be antisocial on your exchange, don't spend all your time thinking and missing home and friends and family, live in the now, you are here, BE HERE. Don't be somewhere else, lost in your thoughts, rather get lost on the train, like I did on my first day venturing to school.
Everyday I learn something new, I love it, everyday there is something exciting to look forward to, some days are hard to get through, and others I don't want to end, I love this life that I have begun, I am so very thankful to everyone that has made it possible.
I am indulging in the delicious food, drenching in the amazing culture, and filling my mind with memories to last a life time.
My story will have more happy moments than sad ones, my story will make people asking for more, my story will be all my own, and I am the director and actor in this story, this story called life.
Lights, Camera, Action,
This story has begun, and it will be a success, get out and make your story memorable.
Time is already flying by; I can’t grasp many days it seems. I learn so much everyday, my German is coming along wonderfully, I have never been so proud of myself. School has begun, and let me tell you it is interesting. Here you can not wear your “outdoor” shoes inside so you have to change your shoes right when you walk into school into “house shoes” I like this, because your feet are so comfy all day.
One thing I did find out is sleeping in class is unheard of, school here is a lot longer than school in the United States. I go to school from 8am to 5pm. One of my best friends here had a birthday, and a tradition here in Switzerland is to make a huge sign for their 18th birthday that says “We love you” you put this huge sign up on their house the night before their birthday morning, well my friends birthday happened to be on a school night, so I stayed up very late so my host sister and I could venture to his house and place this sign on his balcony without him knowing. It was around eleven or twelve at night when we got to his house to put this sign up, we finished around one in the morning, we had some problems, but then of course I had to wake up for school in about five hours, I got to school beat tired and by the last period I felt like a zombie, we were watching a film in class when all of a sudden I was saying something to a class mate and BOOM I was out like a light. I think I slept for around thirty minutes, and had no idea until I woke up with all my classmates laughing and asking if I had sweet dreams, in German of course. The teacher was not mad, thank goodness, he thought it was funny, but when I told my host mom, she was not so thrilled, I explained that in America I NEVER slept in class but here I just have to get used to the longer days, and I promised I would never sleep in class again, my host dad however thought it was hilarious.
I love school, at first it was a bit awkward just because some teachers did not even acknowledge that I was in class, I think that is because last years exchange students left a sour taste in their mouths. I have made a point to let them know I am here to learn even if I do not understand everything. My German/English dictionary is my lifesaver; I carry that thing around like it is my child. Chemistry has never been more interesting, the names they use here for the elements are so interesting, I however cannot pronounce the names just yet, they are sure to twist your tongue. I have integrated quite well, my classmates are so funny, the Swiss are nothing like the stereotypes we have for them. They are amazing people.
I also found out that dogs here are very friendly where I live, I go running about everyday and so far four times I have been chased by a dog and its owner, and then in German the owner will apologize like crazy, and it is so sweet, there are dogs everywhere here, I love it. I think I will become a pro walker when I get done with this year, you walk everywhere, no matter if you are going to catch the bus, going to the train, going to school, whatever you do you WALK. I love this healthy lifestyle.
My host family is the sweetest; I am so lucky to be living with people so kind. I celebrated my 18th birthday here, you will never believe what happened. I wake up to a huge kiss and hug from my host mother, and later we have the most delicious “black forest” cake I have ever eaten, then around 9pm my host parents say we have to get in the car to go and get my birthday present, I was so confused, I got into the car and we pull up to a building, and it is pitch black, we all get out of the car and walk up to the building, my host mom knocks on the door, and a lady comes and opens the door, we walk in and then she turns on the lights, it is a jewelry store, then my host mom tells me to pick out whatever I want for my birthday, I burst into tears, I have never experienced something so shocking as this, I found a beautiful necklace that I liked so they graciously got it for me and then my host mom says “You need a ring to match that” I am even more shocked, I find a ring to die for, and she says “Yes, this is perfect.” I appreciate all that my host family does for me, they are by far some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Switzerland is a great experience, it is everything I could have wished for, but nothing I could have expected. I can never thank Rotary and my parents and everyone else that made this possible for me enough, you truly have changed my life, for the better, and I am loving it more and more everyday.
You know how we say “Piece of cake” in English when something is simple, well this Swiss guy was trying to tell me it was a “Piece of cake” to ski on the “black” slope and instead of saying “Piece of cake” he said “A cup of chicken” then he said “A cup of cake” and finally a “Piece of cake” I have never laughed harder in my whole entire life, he enjoyed it as well, he finds my German funny at times, and his English funny at times as well, I love this culture, I love the language barrier and watching it fall.
Switzerland, a wondrous place, a place where you can look out every window and see something breath taking. The atmosphere here is a lot different from the atmosphere in the United States, it is refreshing, mind blowing, and perfect.
I have settled in quite well, I have so many Swiss friends, the Swiss are not what the stereo-types have said they are. They are very warm and sweet people once you get to know them. You do have to make effort in letting them know you are interested in the way of life that they live.
I have become a coffee and hot tea addict, they do enjoy their coffee here, as I have come to find I enjoy it quite well too.
The language is going great I am learning new things everyday, I have never been so interested in a language until I came here, it is nothing like learning a language in school, it is the real deal. You feel so proud of yourself when you can finally have a conversation with a stranger in their language and not in your first language. I now think in German, I hardly ever use English, or even think in English anymore. This is kind of funny because I have started to forget my English, and in my English class I am asked questions about English, and sometimes it takes me a bit to remember the word or how to properly say it. This is a sign that I am truly immersing myself into the culture.
Switzerland is unique along with all of the people that live here in Switzerland, this place is like no other I have traveled to, I think that is because when you travel, you are in a way "a tourist" and you do not truly get the feel of the culture, but I have had my hands full of this culture and let me tell you it is amazing.
School is very long here, I have class for around 9 hours a day, but it is so much fun. The sport class here I have twice a week and in sport we have danced and made human sculptures and all sorts of fun things, I have learned how to play basketball, volleyball, soccer, and courtball. Also my classes are very interesting because you do not have the same classes everyday like you do in America, you have different ones each day. It mixes things up and keeps you busy.
I have fallen in love with the city Lucern, the whole look and feel of the city is to die for, I love walking around in this city and just enjoying the scenery.
I went to a Carnival type thing here called Määs, it was really fun, shopping, riding rides, eating, talking, laughing, the Swiss know how to have a good time. When they say they want to relax and have fun, they sure do it.
I also have been to the Cinema here, very interesting, you have assigned seats on your ticket when you purchase it, so the earlier you come to get your ticket the better seat you get, also half way through the movie you get a 15 minute pause to go to the bathroom, buy more refreshments and all, it is nice because you don't have to miss any of the movie.
Little differences like that make you stop and think, and realize how we all live our lives so differently but then again how similar we do things, but with a twist.
I am no longer really homesick, your emotions do take you for a ride, you will experience all the emotions you have ever felt in your life all at once and then none of them at all, you will also feel emotions you have never felt before and ones you can not explain, but that is the life of an exchange student, and it is so interesting to push yourself out of your comfort zone and see how you react, you will never be able to prepare yourself enough for what you will feel, but you will also never be able to know how much you will enjoy it and cherish it until you do it. It can be tough and it can be nothing but beautiful and amazing, you just have to remember when you get stuck in a rut and you do not know what to do and where to turn to, remember tomorrow is a new day, you may see the sun or you may not, but you will be stronger and you will be one day more in tune and secure with yourself, because being an exchange student will force you to grow up, and force you to be on your way to finding yourself and you will find that you are a beautiful person inside and out, and that you are doing something a lot of people would not dare to do. Some days you may not want to wake up for, but if you do not force yourself out of bed you will miss the days that are truly worth waking up for and the days you will truly remember for the rest of your life.
Switzerland, where to start, where to begin. I can not stop saying how beautiful this place is. For all of you students out there that are thinking about doing an exchange year, JUST DO IT. It has been the best decision of my life so far and I have learned so much in just under four months. Also Listen to Rotary when you go to all of their camps to prepare you, every word of advice they give you is correct and you can apply it to your exchange year. Rotary I will never thank you enough.
Let's see, the culture here is pretty different from the US. I take a train to school everyday, pretty cool if I do say so myself. Also you can not joke with the teachers like you do in the US. This does however leave me with some funny stories.
The other day I passed my art teacher and I waved to him and said "HEYYY!" and to my knowledge in the US this is perfectly alright, well here, no, DO NOT DO NOT do this. He got this sour look on his face and told me to never do that again, that he was not a fan like Brad Pitt or something, then I thought he was joking so I tapped him on the back with my hand, haha, my host family thought this was very funny because you can not do this here, your teachers are like older people that you have to keep a straight face with most of the time, this does not make it less fun, just very interesting. Anyway the art teacher walked away shaking his head and said "crazy Americans" all of my class mates found this funny and could not believe I did this, I did not find it funny that they do not joke with their teachers as we do. Anyway to clarify my art teacher likes me a lot, he just knows I am "American" a bit funny.
The snow has settled in here and it is not yet December, it is beyond beautiful, as my other exchange friends and I have said "Every time you look out the window it is as if you are looking at a postcard or a picture" and this is so true, this place is one of the most beautiful things I have yet to lay my eyes on.
Shopping, let me tell you, fashion here is huge, and the shopping is grand, but be careful because you can burn a hole in your pocket quick, as for I have sure made an impact on my wallet so far, I need to put on the breaks, but the clothes here are to die for.
The food, you will have never eaten anything better, I am in love with their cooking, my host mom is a killer cook, I have to keep going to the gym or it will sure catch up with me, but you will enjoy yourself to death here.
The people, they are so loving once you get to know them, it takes a while for them to warm up to you, for you are an outsider, but once they get to know you, they are very very loyal and true to you, the Swiss are so fun, and so interesting.
Swiss German, let me tell you this will blow your mind, I am learning "High German" as they call it, the German you all know of, but Swiss German is in a whole other ball field, I am trying to learn this as well, but as one Swiss person told me is "If it sounds like we are choking on something, you know we are speaking Swiss German" this is so true, it is so fun to learn though.
The atmosphere here is stunning, every time I walk outside I am taken aback, because it feels so surreal sometimes.
I am so glad to be here, homesickness does happen, but you have to always remember to find happiness in each and every day, and that tomorrow is a new day, and that this year will flash by you so fast you do not want to be stuck sad.
Thanks again Rotary, I love you all.
December December oh how I love you, I have never seen the real seasons and how they change. Florida does have the "cold" days as we Floridians like to call them in our "winter" time, but here in Switzerland I am really I mean really experiencing what it is like to have cold weather, it can sometimes become negative four degrees, but that is on a rare day, non the less this is what the real cold feels and looks like. There is snow every where you look and it is just amazing.
I have already gone snowboarding and let me tell you, I busted some but and ate plenty of snow. I am taking a snowboarding class starting on Christmas Eve, this should be fun and help me learn the correct way to fall and get back up.
I went night sledding the other night, what fun that was. You go up a ski lift around 10pm at night and sled down the mountain and reach the bottom at around 12am. Then after all this fun you get to go and eat fondu, oh the delicious cheese they have here in Switzerland is die for.
In a week or so I am going to go dog sledding, yes dog sledding. This is with eight Huskies, my favorite type of dog, I am so excited, everything I do here I think, wow this is really a once in a life time opportunity for me.
I am enjoying every waking moment of it all. Christmas is around the corner and I honestly thought I would be more homesick than I actually am. I think the snow is helping me, because I know I will most likely never have a white Christmas and if I do later in life it will most likely not be in Switzerland although I do hope to come back.
I recently went to Germany and I realized how thrilled I am to be in Switzerland, in the beginning of all of this I wanted to go to some country that spoke German and my fist thought was Germany, then I thought oh Switzerland what a neat place, when you first think of Switzerland what do you think of? Chocolate, Cheese, Swiss Alps. Exactly the best things in life, and the only things you need to survive on, =) The whole deal with them speaking mainly Swiss German here, and making it a bit harder to learn "correct" German did scare me a bit, but now having traveled to Germany I now see that Switzerland is really really something special, Germany is as well, but there is just something about Switzerland that is like no other place, nothing can be compared to it. I am so grateful to be here, even with the challenge of Swiss German, in Switzerland you can honestly be ANYWHERE here and see nothing but a picturesque landscape. You can with out a doubt stand and do a 360 and every place you look, looks like a postcard.
This exchange has brought nothing but a wonderful learning experience thus far, everyday I learn something new, or see something spectacular, if any of you "newbies" have any questions or are in the least bit interested in going to Switzerland, or already know you are coming to Switzerland and would like to talk, I am here with open ears and eager fingers to type and chat with you, do not be hesitant or afraid.
So January is already here, I have already had a wonderful start into this new year, 2011 will be something that I can not forget, I know this for sure. I got the opportunity to go Dog Sledding, and if you have this opportunity in the country you are going to, please please do so. You have no idea how much fun it is, it is nothing like you see in the movies, but so much more fun. The dogs are nothing but power animals with so much energy and love packed all in one. I also built my first snowman in my life here in Switzerland, that was a lot of work but so worth it, I keep learning how to snowboard better and better everyday since I live right in front of a ski lift, so nice, I am really soaking up this luxury. Time is now flying faster than ever, I am completely comfortable in my country, I can say everything I want to say with no language restraint now. I can breathe easier. I have made so many friends and have really acclimated into the school. I feel as one of the Swiss, I do get mistaken a lot for a local and that is just so refreshing.
I would just like to say, push your limits, step out of your comfort zone, feel completely vulnerable and live. Life is not supposed to always be easy, life is not supposed to be everything bliss. We all have good and bad days, but the memories good or bad will always be with you and you will only gain strength from these experiences, find a smile everyday, find some happiness, and watch yourself grow into a person you had no idea was inside of you, and I can thank this exchange year for that, I am changing and learning new things about myself everyday and it is so interesting to see.
This year, no matter what you think now, will change you for the better. You will learn so much about yourself and about things in your life that you want to accomplish, you will make life long friends, special bonds you never knew you could make all because of this exchange year. Do not hesitate to feel nervous or to feel uneasy. This year will bring so many emotions you never knew were within you, and it is healthy to tap into yourself like this. You have to realize how lucky you are to have this opportunity because so many people would kill to be in your position, you will meet people so many other people that will tell you the same thing, and really take it into consideration, you, yes you, are one of the luckiest people alive to have this experience, do not take it for granted.
Hope everyone has a wonderful new years and stays safe and healthy.
Thanks again Rotary, you are truly a blessing.
So it’s finally February, I have been in Switzerland for officially six months, wow this time is going by so quickly. I have learned so much thus far, I can’t even begin to imagine what I will learn in this last half of my year. I am doing some traveling in my last half. I will be going to Berlin, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam and other parts of Italy. I am taking a yodeling class with my host mom and let me tell you how much fun it is. This is truly the Swiss experience. All of my friends here think I am crazy for wanting to do something such as yodeling but why not? I only live once and I only have one year for my exchange to make it the most memorable year of my life. So I will yodel my heart out.
I am over homesickness full blown, that is a shock to me, because homesickness would come and go like the wind blows, but now I am one hundred percent comfortable in my country and I know how everything works such as the train system, the eating habits, and just the way of living life in Switzerland, when I think about coming back to the States it is a totally odd feeling, I can not even begin to explain, only other exchange students know how I feel. I am enjoying every moment here, I will not and am not taking this for granted.
I have made so many friends and I am shocked at how close some of them and I have become. I just know I am going to have a ton of Swiss friends come to America, you really do make unbreakable bonds with people on your exchange and it is so heartwarming to see and feel. I would just like to say Rotary has prepared me so well for this year; I can not thank them enough.
The homesickness chart is right on cue, they know exactly what we will and are feeling due to the months. They really have this down to a “T” So a little bit about how I have changed because I am dying to try to put it into words.
I have grown a tolerance for so many people, and so many things. Before, when I was living in the States I talked fast, walked fast, thought fast, everything I did I could not slow down. Here I am forced to stop and rethink everything, I am forced to speak slower and to think slower due to having a new language in my brain to use. It has been like a breath of fresh air. I have come to realize that we are all so different but then again so much alike, we all get sad, we all laugh, we all smile no matter what language we speak.
I have grown to really strongly dislike stereotypes, I may find them funny at times but now they just become something like an itch that you can’t scratch when I hear them. I have become way more open minded and open hearted than I used to be, and most of all I have grown a huge respect for myself, I really do finally appreciate who I am and who I have become and who I am on my to becoming.
This year has open so many doors for me not only in the outside world but also in the “inside world” such as mentally. I am just amazed at how much you change and progress for the best in this year. Any parent reading this; smile, please, and do not fear that your child has changed in any way for the worse, but for the best.
Smile because your child really does have a grip on life; smile because your child is not like many other kids their age. We all will come back different from our year and only us exchange students will know exactly what we all feel and that we are different from most every kid in our age group. That will cause us some challenges but do not doubt that we won’t be able to handle the challenges, look at us, we are making it through a year in a whole different country, pretty much on our own, we are invincible, nothing can and will stand in our way, we have conquered what most people call us crazy and weird for.
We are exchange students changing the world one journey at a time.
Let's say someone has pressed the fast forward button on my exchange year, officially. I was told how it would go so fast right before you eyes, but I never ever began to actually contemplate the idea until now, I AM IN MARCH. This is almost mind blowing how insanely fast it is going from here on out.
So let's see if I can recap on a few things I have gotten to do. I am in love with Penguins, and I read in the newspaper here that the Zürich Zoo was having a "Penguin Parade" it's where they let the Penguins out at a certain time and you can walk WITH THEM, so of course I HAD to do this, I quickly organized how to get to the Zoo and believe it or not I got to walk with the Penguins, what a cool experience. They were just so adorable.
Over my "Fasnacht" break I was taken to Berlin by my host family, wow that was an experience of a life time, I enjoyed myself more than I have ever in a long while. For those who are wondering what "Fasnacht" is, it is something that is very special to Switzerland, it's a bit like Halloween in the states but with a twist. It lasts a whole week long and you wake up, put on a costume, does not matter what, just something that is ridiculous. Then you can go to different towns and what not and there will be parades in the morning with "Guggenmusik" (that is some form of loud music with trumpets, drums, cymbals, anything instrumental that you can think of. Then at night there are party's with this music as well, and it can last all night and it's just a crazy experience, they hold this true to themselves, everyone, all ages goes and does this for a full week, some dedication, I know. Anyway I was so thankful to get the opportunity to go to Berlin, that was a must see on my travel list...along with the rest of the world.
School is going well, I am fully 100% intergraded, I feel like I am really living the true Swiss life. I love love love my host family, I can not stress this enough. I really got lucky. This year so far has been like a dream, it goes so fast and is everything and more than I ever wanted or thought of. In two weeks I will be going to Rome with Rotary, then in May I will be going to Amsterdam with my school class for a week, then in June I will be going to Paris with Rotary, these last few months I would not pass up for the world. There are always ups and downs, but let me tell you all, stick it through, you will see what I mean, you will know exactly what I am feeling when you get to this point. I know I will remember this year for the rest of my life.
I've gained friends, life long memories, confidence, I've matured, a lot, I think my parents back home will be shocked, I don't think they will have a grasp on the world anymore when they see me, they will be so proud, it gives me goose bumps just thinking about how proud I am of myself. Most of all though, I have gained an appreciation, respect, patience, and acceptance for everyone and everything in this world, we are all blessed with this life no matter how bad it can get sometimes, but I am so very thankful.
As they would say in German "Geniessen Sie das Leben du lebst" "Enjoy this life you are living"