Papiliorama

 

Bonjour mes amis!!

To keep things interesting, I have decided to change my blog to an English and French blog. The surprise will be that you will never know if the next blog will be in English, French, or Franglais! This way all of my family and friends can enjoy the blog no matter what language they speak!

This week, I am going to highlight a few places I have visited within the last month in Switzerland!

Today’s Spotlight: Papiliorama

 

Karla and her family surprised me with a visit to the Papiliorama a few Saturday’s ago in Kerzers, Switzerland. Between 15 and 18 francs, you can enjoy three grand halls full of animals and insects! Depending on your love for animals, I would budget 1-3 hours, plus some time to explore the gift shop and grab a bite at the restaurant!

The first exhibit hall is very dim and no photos are allowed, because it is full of nocturnal animals. I wasn’t a huge fan of all the bats, but I loved watching the sloths and discovering what animals come alive at night.

Before entering the second exhibit, make sure to leave your jacket outside on one of the many coat racks. To help the animals feel right at home, the jungle exhibit is very warm and humid. Take your time and explore all the paths in order to find the waterfalls and steps up to a treehouse! Tip: Look up and you will see a toucan that makes a loop through the dome every 2-3 minutes.

Finally, head over to third exhibit, and be surrounded by flowers and butterflies!! I have always been fascinated by butterflies and their cycle of life, that I left feeling so inspired. Whenever I am feeling low or without purpose, I try to change my perspective and say that I am still in my caterpillar phase. Soon, I will be a beautiful butterfly with purpose and jobs to fulfill, but right now I have to learn to enjoy the waiting phase as a caterpillar.

In all, the Papiliorama was the perfect event to fill the rainy Saturday afternoon. Thank you so much to Karla and her family for inviting me!

Till the next adventure,

SC

Right at Home: The Weekend in London

A true vacation for a teenage girl involves a lot of sleep and food. Thus, Saturday afternoon started at the grocery store! It was the weirdest feeling to understand the label on every product in the store! I kept saying, “I can read everything without thinking! It’s all in English!!” To satisfy our sweet tooth, Margaret and I decided Saturday night was simply meant for baking and movies! We picked up a Betty Crocker confetti cake mix (my favorite) from the American store and the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. In order for us to justify eating so many sweets later in the night, we took Scout (Margaret’s adorable dog) for a walk through Kensington Park. Since we knew baking would be a lot of strenuous work, (hahahaha) we decided to commence my sushi obsession and pick up some from itsu on the way home!

Sunday morning started around 10am with Cheerios and Say Yes to the Dress! Once I had prepared myself for the day, I headed out to Columbia Rd. for the famous Columbia Rd. Flower Market!! This incredible flower market is only open on Sundays from 8:00am-3:00m. I absolutely adore flowers, so you could say I was in heaven. The entire street is jam-packed with vendors and every type of flower! After scouting out all the options, I finally decided on three bouquets with a purple and yellow theme.

Once I arranged all the flowers throughout the apartment, I headed out to the 5:45pm Hillsong London service! I was excited, but a little nervous since it was the first time I had ever been to church alone. Once I found a seat, I became great friends with the two ladies sitting next to me and the group of teens behind me. Since everyone at Hillsong is so kind and welcoming, I immediately felt like I was back at IBC (my church) in West Virginia! I felt a tear of joy fall down my face during the first worship song. While singing in my room is great, I loved being surrounded by so many people who love God just as much as I do! The sermon was incredible and gave a new perspective on the crucifixion of Christ from God’s point of view. I never pondered the pain God went through to give up His only son for a world of sinners. Without Jesus dying on the cross, it would be impossible to have a relationship with God due to all of my sins. I loved how the preacher ended by saying, “It has been an honor and privilege to share this message with you all tonight.” Now that I have more of a global mindset, I’ve come to realize how much of an honor and privilege freedom of speech is for me. Even writing this blog could land me in jail in certain countries!

It is the little things like understanding a cereal box and baking cakes to being able to say whatever you want that we must never take for granted!

I hope you enjoy the little slideshow I put together!

P.S. Wait till the end for a surprise the pastor delighted the whole audience with at the beginning of his sermon!

XOXO,

SC

Looking Back On 4 Months!!

Yet again, another month has slipped by so quickly!  The adjustment phase is over, and now Switzerland is my home. This month was filled with many joyous moments such as traveling to Lucerne, skiing, and the holidays!! I have truly enjoyed opening my advent calendar each morning and experiencing Swiss traditions such as visiting the Christmas markets in Montreux and Sion! Another very exciting moment was Friday night when I dreamed for the first time in French!!! I feel as though my French has improved, and my teachers have started to notice as well. I am now participating in all of the activities, which means the “Exchange Student card” doesn’t work anymore. Most of my exams are solely graded based on my grammar instead of the actual content, which is very kind of the professors.  Surprisingly, studying for the SAT’s is causing me the most stress. Since I don’t use English anymore on a daily basis, I have lost a good bit of my vocabulary. I was sitting with my family, and we had to search in a dictionary to figure out the word for skyscraper. I kept saying “sky toucher” or “really tall building”. It’s astonishing how often I understand exactly what someone is saying in French, but I couldn’t translate it to English to save my life.
While 99% of this past month was filled with joy and laughter, I had two really hard days. I was told that holidays would cause homesickness, but I didn’t think it would really happen to me. Thanksgiving was difficult because it was the first time when it hit me that life in the USA is still going on without me. This past Wednesday afternoon was hard as well, because I started to miss my American Christmas traditions. As soon as I arrived home, I blasted English Christmas music and had a little dance/ baking party. These are the difficult moments of exchange, but they remind me to cherish all of the happy moments even more.
I cannot wait to spend Christmas with my Swiss family next weekend and gather new traditions to share in the USA next year!

Thank you again for still continuing to support me through your prayers and messages!

Merry Christmas!!

XOXO,

SC

 

Dear F.E.S.-Study Abroad Must-haves

Salut!

Now that I have been an exchange student for almost 3 months, I thought I should share some of the things I have learned/ wish I knew before going abroad. I remember reading every blog about traveling for a year in search of the answer to my many questions. One thing I wish I would have had is a list of the must-have items, since I could only take one suitcase. Below, you will find 14 items I have found to be necessities for studying abroad.

*F.E.S. stands for Future Exchange Student

  1. Bookbags- I brought one UO small black backpack and one waterproof large Patagonia backpack. Backpacks are the ideal bag for traveling and school!
  2. Wallet w/ a coin pouch- Europeans use coins and cash a lot more than Americans. When you buy things, the change is almost always in coins, since they have coins with larger values than the States. Here is a similar Vera Bradley wristlet
  3. Passport holder- As an exchange student, it is very important to keep your passport with you at all times. While this could be dangerous, a passport holder is the perfect solution. It can hold you bus pass, passport, and I.D. without anyone else knowing.
  4. Laptop- While your host family will most likely have a computer, it is so much easier if you have your own laptop. You can do schoolwork, e-mail friends and family, and anything else at your own leisure.
  5. Adaptors- As soon as you arrive, you will want to charge everything. Make sure that you buy the correct adaptor for your country, or you can buy a new phone charger in your country when you arrive. Amazon is a great place to look for adaptors.
  6. Watch- Since Swiss people are extremely punctual, a watch is a necessity. Buy a watch in the States, because it will be a lot less expensive!
  7. School supplies- While you can buy everything you need at the store once you arrive, it is nice to already have a few pens, pencils, a notebook, and a folder for the first day of school.
  8. Agenda- Agendas are a great way to stay organized and write down memories. Each day, I write down my homework and a funny thing that happened that day. Agendas are also a great place to write down addresses from home and birthdays.
  9. Home country items- I wish that I would have brought more items from the USA. Bring candy, photos, mini flags, and other souvenirs. They are great to put in your room and to give away to people you meet!
  10. Home country flag- You would think this is obvious, but I actually forgot to bring an American flag! It is a great prop for when you present your country at school and pictures when you visit places. I love taking my flag on hikes and trips to take pictures.
  11. Camera- This can be your I Phone, a Go Pro, or a real camera. You are going to want to document all of your adventures.
  12. New toiletries- While your host family is very kind, it is a little awkward in the beginning. It makes everything more comfortable if you have all of the toiletries you need for about a month or two. By the time you run out of your products, you will feel comfortable enough to ask your host family to take you to the store or go by yourself. (Girls- I brought enough monthly products to last me at least 6 months.)
  13. Walking shoes- Europeans walk everywhere and shoes are expensive! You want to make sure you have a good pair of sneakers you can wear with everything, but won’t have blisters by the end of the day.
  14. Water bottle- Bringing a reusable water bottle is a great way to save money. I bring my bottle with me everywhere, and it has saved me so much money. Plus, it will help you retain a healthy lifestyle.

I hope that these tips help you in your preparation. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me on the contact page or leave a comment.

XOXO

SC

I’ve Changed My Mind…

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.

  1. “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! 😉
  2. “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.
  3. “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.
  4. “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!
  5. “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.

XOXO

SC