Milan!

Ciao!!

One thing that I love about Switzerland is its close proximity to so many other countries. Last Saturday, Karla and I caught the train at 6:55am to Milano Centrale! I love the fact that it is so casual for two teenagers to go to another country alone and only know two words in the language haha. When we arrived in Milan, I was blown away by the architecture, and we hadn’t even left the train station yet! After finding our way through the gigantic station to the metro station, we headed to the Duomo. I was so glad to have Karla with me since she speaks Spanish, which is very similar to Italian. Arriving at the Duomo truly felt like a dream! Sadly, it was raining the entire day, but on the plus side, the lines were a lot shorter for the Duomo. We found the entrance and headed up to the rooftop for just 9 euros! There was a class trip near us, so we got a free tour since Karla could translate it into English for me! After taking a million pictures, we both looked at each other and realized we needed food and free wi-fi. Obviously, we headed towards McDonalds and found an incredible pizza shop next door. I am not exaggerating by saying it was the best pizza I have ever eaten in my life! We decided to go back to the same place for dinner as well! In between eating, we visited the incredible Galleria and the shops of Milan. We couldn’t stop laughing when we found ourself on the most expensive street I have ever seen. Prada, Armani, Gucci, Valentino: This street had it all! Eventually, we entered our price range and found Zara and some gift shops. When I found out there was a Lush, I knew we had to go! It was incredible, because it was actually the opening day of the Milan store!! They had a band, photobooth, and a guy wearing a wig of bath bombs! We had so much fun adventuring around Milan and just living life together abroad!

The train ride home was quite eventful to say the least! We had saved an hour to navigate the metro and find our first train without a problem. During the ride, the train started to slow down randomly, but I didn’t think anything of it. The conductor then came on the loudspeaker and informed us we would be delayed. 30 minutes later, we finally left Domodossala, Italy. This caused us to miss our connecting train and have to hang out in Brig for almost an hour. Mind you that it is now getting close to 11:00pm. We boarded the train to Sion and began to relax, when almost everyone got off the train. I looked at the stop name on the train, and it read St. Maurice. As the doors started to close, Karla stood up and said, “Sara, that was our stop! That was Sion!” The sign on the trainwas broken!! It was so dark we could barely see out the windows, but as the train pulled away, I saw myself getting further away from home. Papa called me, and I was so flustered I could barely explain what had happened. Luckily, the next stop was only 30 minutes away instead of usually being over an hour away. We got off the train in Martigny and Papa drove all the way to pick us up. I was expecting a lecture, but he was surprisingly really calm. I think he could tell I was really upset since all I could say was that I was SOOO sorry! We arrived home close to midnight, and I collapsed on my bed.

While Milan was incredible, it was definitely full of memories I will never forget. I am learning that difficult situations happen to exchange students, but it is all part of the learning process! You just have to solve them and know you will look back on that moment and laugh.

Sorry this was so lengthy, but I hope you enjoyed seeing a little bit into my day in Milan with Karla!

Enjoy the photos!

XOXO

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Week 6: From Vine to Wine

Salut!

As I shared in the last blog, this is the prime time for wine! Everyone is harvesting and getting ready to begin the process of making wine. Yesterday, Papa and I headed to Grand-mère’s vineyards and harvested grapes! I had so much fun! While it was not the same as picking pumpkins, I loved experiencing new fall traditions. Within the first few minutes, I accidentally cut my finger open. I guess I blinked while I was cutting the vine and next thing I knew, blood was running down my hand. Luckily, my uncle had a band-aid handy, and I continued with cutting grapes. I loved talking with grand-mère and laughing all throughout the day. I don’t know why, but it is as if she has been my grandmother my whole life. She is so welcoming and loving each time I see her! Grand-mère prepared a delicious picnic which included the best coffee, sausage, homemade ham (best in the world), and croissants. Afterwards, we headed to the press to turn the grapes into wine! It was incredible to see all the grapes pressed into juice. I think everyone could tell I was a foreigner, because my mouth was open the entire time in awe! While Papa was speaking with the man at the counter, another man started to talk with me about the press and the long line. It was so weird, because I didn’t have to think at all. I just responded in French as if it was normal! I felt so proud of myself afterwards! It’s kind of funny now, but it’s the smallest things like that cause me so much joy! I can definitely tell that my French is improving a lot each day, especially because Maman corrects my French as I speak. Then, I know exactly what I said wrong and what I was supposed to say. Bref, (a new French phrase I learned this week!) I cannot wait to harvest more grapes and spend time with the family among the vineyards!!! I’m definitely on Cloud Wine! haha (Don’t worry mom, I just harvest for the wine, I don’t drink it)

XOXO

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Grapes for white wine!
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I thought this was the coolest thing ever! Papa loaded up the crates of grapes onto this carrier, and then my uncle would descend to the truck! So efficient and brilliant!
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I have never seen such a large container filled with grapes. It was taller than me!!
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Not going to lie, I was pretty proud of the grapes I harvested, even if I was the slowest at harvesting. Papa and Grand-mère always had 2x the amount of grapes than I did. haha

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I can now add grape harvester to my college application!!

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Grapes for red wine!
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Grapes entering the press! It’s juice time!!

AFS Orientation Camp

Adieu!

This past weekend I traveled from Sion to Estavayer-le-Lac for Orientation Camp! It was so much fun and full of information! I am so glad that the camp was held one month into my study abroad, because I knew the right questions to ask. I arrived on Friday with three other girls from Sion. There were 16 exchange students and 5 leaders. We stayed in a chalet right on the lake! Surprisingly, it felt weird to speak English. I am so accustomed to pausing to think of how I want to say something, and I didn’t have to since we all spoke in English. We played ice breaker games, ate international food, and learned about our cultures! Five out of the seven continents were represented at camp! I loved learning about what each person was going through! I realized we are all going through the same emotions and struggles. I am so thankful for this past weekend for opening my eyes and helping me see that everything I am feeling is completely normal! I cannot wait to see the same teens again in May and discuss how amazing our year living in paradise has been!

XOXO

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Countries represented: USA -3 of us represented the best country (Maine, Wisconsin, and Almost Heaven West Virginia), Egypt, Italy, Ireland, Finland, India, Turkey, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Tunisia, Belgium, Brazil

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“I can’t stop smiling!”

Adieu!

When I was preparing to live in Switzerland, I googled my town like crazy! I kept seeing these pictures of these walking bridges in the Alps, but I didn’t believe they actually existed in my town! Last Sunday, my family and I went on a 3 hour hike right in our backyard on these walking bridges!!!! We literally walked down the road, and then up a path to the best hike ever! The hardest part was the first steep hill. The rest of the hike was flat with random inclines with nothing too difficult, but it was definitely a workout! My favorite part was walking on the path and realizing that the only thing separating me and a 3,788ft. drop was a wooden railing. The metal bridges were incredible! When I stopped off the first one, I remember thinking, “Why can’t I stop smiling?” I think I loved the hike because I felt for the first time that this is exactly where I am supposed to be right now! Seeing all the pictures on Instagram about Homecoming has made me a little homesick, but I realized I live in Switzerland! Living in the Swiss Alps is 100 times better than Homecoming will ever be! Also, seeing just how massive the mountains and trees are truly humbles me and makes me question why  I was so worried about something unimportant. Not only am I learning a new language and culture, but I am also learning a new way to prioritize life!

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support! I hope that you feel challenged as well to reprioritze your life and alter your focus.

I hope you have an incredible day and enjoy the photos below!!!

XOXO

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The famous swinging bridges!! We crossed 5 or 6!

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How cool?!?! It’s Papa’s name on the plaque! He donated to this part of the trail!

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Wow! This is home!
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Someone was getting a little tired haha. Good thing we have the best Papa in the world!

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School Life: Monday’s

Salut!!

While I absolutely love documenting special days traveling with the fam, I think it is only right to also document everyday life. The vast majority of my time during the week is spent at school or preparing for school. I am planning to write a little except about school and then my schedule for each day throughout the next few weeks. Swiss high school (college) is vastly different from American school due to the fact that it is only for those are high achievers. All of the students must test to be able to attend high school, and the majority then plan to attend university. I actually really like it, because everyone cares about their education and has a drive to learn. The students are so kind to me and even check in on me personally to see how I am adjusting! I never feel as though no one noticed I was at school that day! The people in class 2H have honestly been a major answer to prayer!

My week usually starts like this:

5:00am- First alarm

5:10am- Second alarm, stretch and check Instagram/Snapchat

5:30am- Get in shower and get ready for school

6:15am- Breakfast with Maman (I have successfully eaten two pieces of Nutella toast everyday that I have been in Switzerland haha! I love it)

6:47am- Walk to the bus stop and greet other friends

6:53am- Board the bus to school

7:17am- Arrive at school and prepare for the day/ do any homework I forgot

8:10am- First class of the day: L’histoire

8:55am-9:00am- 5 minute break between classes

9:00am- Les Maths- I love math, because I don’t have to understand the teacher to understand the material!

9:45am-10:00am- Break/ Chocolate croissants and pastries are sold downstairs

10:00am- Anglais: I usually go with a student outside and help them practice their English

10:45am-10:50am- Break

10:50am- Economie: An interesting class about Swiss laws/economy/politics, but I cannot understand most of it because the teacher speaks rather fast. Also, it is not a topic that I am already familiar with making it rather difficult for me.

11:35am-1:00pm- Lunch!! I usually eat with friends and then go on a walk around Sion! The weather has been perfect recently! The school food is incredible! It is 12CHF per meal, but I feel like I eat at a restaurant everyday! You can follow my lunch on my snapchat: @minihartiens

1:00pm- Study hall: I didn’t realize this was a thing until I walked in late today haha. An older student quickly explained it is mandatory but to not worry about it today since I am an exchange student.

2:00pm- Chimie: I love this class, because the teacher is very funny and I truly enjoy all forms of science! I also enjoy it because he said that English is the language of science so sometimes he writes a definition in English!

2:45pm- La biblio: The other students are taking German, but I read French newspapers in the library and translate some of my notes from the day.

3:40pm- Géo: I love geography, because the teacher speaks slowly and clearly. Right now, we are analyzing population patterns in Switzerland compared to the world. Thanks to my AP World History teacher from last year, I know a good bit of information about world history and can actually contribute to the class convo.

4:25pm- Walk to bus stop: I usually take a walk, because my bus doesn’t come for a while.

5:10pm- Board the direct bus to home!

7ish pm- Eat a fabulous dinner and dessert!!

8:30pm- Snapchat friends in the USA! (Ben, Lexy, and Abigail)

10:00pm- Go to bed!

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Class 2H at break time

 

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The entrance to LCP1. The school has 3 buildings, but my classes are all in building 1 except for gym!
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The city library I found today only way at lunch!
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School lunch today!! It was soon delicious! Every lunch as some form of dessert and fresh bread! You are allowed to go for seconds and take as much food as you would like!

I hope that you enjoyed getting a peek into my normal Monday!

XOXO,

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To the Top!!!

Salut mes amies!!

As some of you have seen on my Instagram and pictures on the blog, I live in the Alps!! Pictures cannot show just how incredible and massive they are, but I have attempted to capture their beauty below. Last Sunday, my family and I drove to the top of the Alps to have fondue for lunch and to visit Grand-maman. My mouth was open the entire ride, because I was so in awe of how natural and high we were! The mountains are covered in vineyards and houses on the bottom, then cows with large bells in the middle, and snow and ice on the top! It was 90 degrees when we got in the car, but when we arrived at the top I had to put on my winter coat and a big scarf due to the colossal temperature change! Then, we stopped at a restaurant for fondue and tomato soup! The fondue (melted Swiss cheese) was a different taste, but I really enjoyed it! It is very heavy in your stomach, so I could not eat too much of it. I was so thankful that my family had arranged for me to eat Swiss food with such an incredible view!! Afterwards, we visited Papa’s mother and the house that he lived in when he was a child! It was such a cute house right in the mountains with beautiful flowers surrounding the house! I honestly felt like I was in a dream! I had my first really big laugh with my maman while grand-maman was talking. Grand-maman was speaking to me, but she has a very strong accent so I just nodded my head and said, “Oui, oui.” My maman could tell that I was so lost and gave me the look of, “You have no idea what she is saying.” We both let out a big laugh which caused her to have to explain why we laughed to grand-maman. I’ll never forget that moment of feeling like she truly was my maman and knew me just like a mother knows their own child. In a nutshell, last Sunday was incredible and I can’t wait to tell you about my trips for this weekend!

I hope that you enjoy the pictures below!!

XOXO,

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Waterfalls in the mountains!

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Papa pulled over on the road so I could capture this incredible view!

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The extremely windy roads!!
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So incredible!!

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I found it very funny that they have cow crossing signs here. I am used to seeing deer crossing signs in WV.

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I was so surprised to see how many people were actually biking up the extremely steep roads! I would never be able to bike all the way up like these people!

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I was amazed that we were actually driving IN the Alps!! We drove through a bunch of tunnels carved right into the mountains!

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Another amazing view of the mountains and lush greenery.

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This is a very common sight in the Alps, because they use the milk for their famous cheese, chocolate, and cream! I loved that the cows wore big bells around their necks.

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This is a lake nestled in the top of the Alps. It provides electricity for the town off of hydro-power! My phone could not capture just how blue and clear the water was. I was astonished!!

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Next to the lake was a very cute fondue and soup restaurant full of hungry bikers and hikers!!

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This is the tomato soup we ate at the restaurant before the fondue. I can say without a doubt that this was the best bowl of tomato soup I have ever eaten in my life!!

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The views truly took my breath away!!

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This is a perfect example of how gentle these giants of the Alps are towards people. Papa walked right up to the cow and scratched it’s head as if it were a dog. I was so surprised that the cow was perfectly fine with Papa!

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Le pont du diable: The bridge of the Devil. Very cool to see the many bridges all through out the Alps for cars or for walking!
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A normal chalet in the Alps. Most of these houses do not have electricity or have just received it within the last few years! These are true mountain people!!
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Due to the long car ride of sightseeing, Voltaire enjoyed a little nap on the ride home in my scarf!

I hope that these pictures can give you a tiny view into some the incredible views I encountered last weekend! To my family: Thank you! I will never forget how breathtaking God’s creation is in the Alps

If you would like me to send you any pictures from Switzerland, the best way to contact me is via the app WhatsApp using my American phone number with the country code of +1 or via email!

Till the next adventure!

Week 1: Greetings

Hello Friends!

Today marks one week since I said farewell to my parents in New York. Though I have only been in Switzerland since Friday, so much has happened!! I have met so many incredible people. To begin, I met an inspiring group of students who are also from the USA and studying in Switzerland. It is so great to know that 8 other people know exactly what I am going through. I really connected with my roommate in New York, and I am so thankful for our new friendship. Then, I met my family!! I put my trust in God that I would be blessed with a family that I would fit into, and I received the perfect family. I feel so comfortable and welcome! They have truly made my adjustment so much easier.The same night I arrived, I met all of my sister’s friends. They were so kind and welcomed me right into their group! Even though I barely spoke, they acted as if they had known me for years! I think I have mastered the Swiss greeting of three kisses on the cheek or one kiss in casual situations and with teenage friends. I was so nervous to do the “kiss”, but it feels so natural now! I also met my school. Le college is very difficult, but my school is so incredible and paired me with a fantastic student and teacher as my mentors. The English teacher gave me a tour of the school, introduced me to people, gave me lunch buddies, and her e-mail for anything throughout the year. My student mentor is now my best friend. She is a literal angel from heaven! As I sit lost in class, she whispers to me exactly what I need to know in French until I understand. In the evening she texts me all the homework, and before school she sits with me for an hour and goes over everything for the day including homework. Even though I am not receiving grades from school, if it weren’t for her I would be failing miserably!!  I guess word spread that I was an American, and everyone has lent a hand to help me out from getting on the right bus to dropping my passport! They say first impressions are everything, and I can 100% state that Saviese has made a magnificent impression on me!!

XOXO,

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Follow me on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram @minihartiens

 

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I’ll never forget my Swiss group!
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Meeting my family for the first time in the airport! I’ll never forget the multitude of joyous emotions I felt in this picture.
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One of the streets in downtown Sion.
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Sneak peek of the view for another blog entry! My family took me on a very fun trip in the Alps!!
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The sunrise on my way to school on the bus at 6:53am. I actually love riding the bus!
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Everyday I walk through the courtyard to the entrance to the first building.
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I have not been in this building yet, but it is another part of the school!
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The center of one of the buildings of the school. This is taken from the fourth floor where my class is located!

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Le biblio (the library) If I am not in class, I am usually in the library. Instead of taking German with the other students I spend my time reading French newspapers and magazines to better my French. It is a very nice hour break on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday!
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The courtyard aka where I spend my the other half of my time during my 2 hour lunch break!
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Views from the bus ride home
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I visited the commune today to apply for my residence card! Super exciting times!

Je suis arrivée! (I arrived!)

Bonjour!

I arrived in Switzerland on Friday and have loved every second!! I love my family! They are so kind and help me with my French. They are only speaking French with me except when I need help and I am so grateful. I can understand a lot of what they are saying, but I am slow at thinking of what to say so I mainly listen. I know it sounds crazy but I am starting to think in French and I am forgetting some English. My thoughts all have a French accent now, but I have been told my accent when speaking is like the Queen of England or a little girl hahaha. When I met my family in the airport my mind went blank and all I could say was, “Hi!” I was so silly. The town is gorgeous ,and the weather is perfect. I wear a little jacket and a t shirt and I am perfect. The food is amazing!! I love it all! I have my own room and my own bathroom. I was very surprised but so thankful! I start school on Monday in Sion. I ride the bus from the stop near my house to Sion and then walk to my school. The ride on the bus is 19 minutes exactly. The roads are soon windy and tight, but the bus never hits anything amazingly. The first night my sister invited me to a party with all of her friends. I loved it. I didn’t speak much, but I enjoyed listening and meeting people. I am so thankful that she lets me come with her, because I love listening and learning new words. Sorry for bouncing around to every topic.

Favorite moment: When I met my family and they told me to call them Maman and Papa because I am now their daughter. I love saying, “Maman! Papa!”

Embarrassing moment: My mind was all jumbled and I called a picture, “Un picto.” The correct word is un photo. Oh la la

Westernization: In the super market, Jennifer Lopez was playing over the loudspeaker and many other American artists. I was very surprised. McDonalds is also in the town, and I found Kelloggs cereal in the super market! My maman was very kind and bought me Corn Flakes!!

If you would like to contact me, the best way is e-mail, this blog, snapchat, Instagram, or WhatsApp. WhatsApp is a messaging app and I use the same number as my American phone.

Prayer requests: for school, to continue to learn French

Tous mon amour,

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Le lac! (the lake)

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Landing in Zurich, Switzerland

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I loved this meal! The neighbors came over and we had a great time! It is paella. My papa cooked it perfectly.

New York to Frankfurt

Salut mes amies!

I am in currently in Frankfurt, Germany! The past two days have been quite a whirlwind! From saying good bye to my parents to listening to seminars, I have not stopped smiling with excitement. (even if I am half asleep lol) I have met so many amazing people, especially the other 8 students traveling with me to Switzerland. I don’t think that everything has hit me yet, but I have gotten jitters every once in a while. I met a very kind Egyptian on the flight and even learned some Arabic! It is so crazy hearing so many different languages everywhere I go! Surprisingly, I feel very confident and so excited! This is due to my amazing family, both natural and host! I am so excited to arrive in just a few hours!

Highlight: Meeting an American girl that will be attending my high school in Switzerland

Emotions: Constant excitement

Funny moment: I was sitting at a table with the Swiss group waiting for the next event and I was playing with my glass of water as I had a quick daydream.  I completely forgot that there was watering the cup, and I poured it all over the table.

Prayer Requests: 1. to not be so excited that I forget how to speak French 2. to become confident and speak French with those I meet

Love from Frankfurt,

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T-60 Days Till Savièse

Hi all! I am so excited to start my official travel blog for the upcoming year in Switzerland! I have decided to use WordPress rather than my old blogspot blog due to the programs and their features. AFS allowed me to have a fundraising widget on Blogspot.com, but it closed June 18,2016. From now on, this blog will be the best way to keep up on my adventures abroad! Thank you all for your support!

Love, SC