Ciao! The language is just one of the many things that I have been adjusting to during my first week here in Switzerland. So far this experience has already been absolutely incredible. It still hasn’t hit me that I have the opportunity to live here for four months; it feels more like a vacation at this point.
It has already been easy to see and feel the communitas forming during the first week abroad. I could tell as early as the plane flight over that we were unsure of what to expect and wanted nothing more than to meet people that we could share this wonderful experience with. Being a very adventurous and outgoing individual I love to get to know new people and don’t have a problem reaching out to people I don’t know. Since we were all in the same situation it was easy to start a conversation simply by asking them about who they are and where they are from.
After being here for a week it is easy to see how people form such close bonds in a short amount of time. Since we are all in a foreign environment and don’t speak the language or know the customs it is easy to latch onto each other. However, there can be danger in this too. I don’t want to only spend my trip with the study abroad students. I want to get to know other individuals that go to the school and that live in the community.
Franklin University has such a diverse population with tons of different ethnicities and cultures combined into one small campus. On my walk to class this morning I heard at least four different languages being spoken. I want to take full advantage of getting to know a variety of people from different backgrounds. One of the challenges that I have faced is getting too comfortable with the familiar. It is very easy to stay around people that have things in common and it is easy to communicate with, but I want to challenge myself to meet people from all over the world. Last night I had the opportunity to eat dinner with a girl from Shanghai. We came from different parts of the world and had entirely different interests but still had a wonderful conversation. This trip is an incredible opportunity not only to indulge myself in European culture, but also learn as much about any culture that I encounter.
Even in this liminal state where I have no technical “home,” I can see Switzerland quickly filling that void. The people here have been wonderful and you can’t help but fall in love with the scenery. Everything here is a new experience and incredibly exciting. As Slimbach states, “It’s precisely this plunge into the unknown that awakened the sleeper in us, exciting a sense of childlike wonder.” This concept has become more than clear to me in my short time here. Staying in a stagnant environment you become so accustom to your surroundings that it takes a change of perspective to step back and take a look at the beautiful world around you. It certainly helps that I am in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, but the change of pace and location forces you to step out of your comfort zone and look at things in a new light.
This may only be the first week of this incredible experience, but if the next four months are anything like my initial impression that I am going to have an amazing semester in Switzerland!