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,


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!!




Week 15: Merry


This past week has definitely been merry and bright! The entire town has transferred from Thanksgiving to full on Christmas mode, and I am loving it! This week included skiing a Nendaz, attending an AFS Valais raclette dinner, admiring the Christmas market of Montreux, and opening my Advent Calendar!! I am so excited to experience the Christmas season and spend more merry moments in Switzerland!!

Below, you can find videos and a photo from this past week!



From left to right: AFS Coordinator for Switzerland, Russia, USA, Costa Rica, and Slovakia

The town was fully lit, courtesy of my papa, for Christmas last Thursday. After school, Papa and I took a tour of all the lights in Sion. Of course, we had to make a quick pit stop for some hot chocolate and wine before heading home for dinner with the rest of the family. That night, I had to prepare an American cake for the AFS banquet the next day. Since I am nowhere near a professional baker, Maman and I shared a lot of laughs as I attempted to bake. We knew I had made an American cake when it included 400 grams of butter, a box of sugar, peanut butter, and a Reese’s on top!

P.S.  Papa was even featured in the newspaper for his incredible work with the Christmas displays in Sion!!

Skiing has been filling my weekends and taking most of my energy. While I have improved a lot, I am always dead by the last run. Once I start falling every 10 meters, Papa and I know it’s time to head home for the day. After skiing last weekend, we took one last look at the pumpkins and then began decorating for Christmas. The tree will arrive in only a few weeks, and I cannot wait!

Le Marché de Nöel in Montreux! It is known as the most beautiful Christmas market in all of Switzerland, and I definitely agree! It took over 2 hours to walk through and admire all of the beautiful stands. This afternoon trip was accompanied by my dear friend from India.




Time’s Flying: 3 Months

And just like that, another month has flown past me! This month has been full of adventures since I had two weeks off of school for Fall Break! I loved having the break to travel and regroup for the second half of this semester! I cannot believe Christmas is only 38 days away!! Each day brings new Christmas lights and joy to my heart! I love Christmas season and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, my Savior!!                    Below is a quick recap of this incredible past month!!

Places I visited this month:Milan, Italy, Lucerne, Lugano, Lausanne, Mt. Pilatus, Domodossola, Italy, Vevey, Charlie Chaplin Museum,numerous hikes with Papa, Annecy, France, and Crans-Montana

First times: presented on the United States for 45 minutes in all French, skied in the Swiss Alps, visited Italy without knowing any Italian, snowed in October, painted 2 point perspective houses, ate a burger and had ice in my drink since I left the USA, attended the opening of a Lush store, ate the best pizza in the world in Italy, got all my math homework correct, received a 4 on an exam (it was Gym but it’s still the highest grade I have gotten hahaha), lived in Switzerland for 3 months of pure bliss

Favorite moments: traveling with Karla to Milan, Melanie’s 16th birthday weekend, learning to ski, presenting about the USA                                                                                (Swiss people are obsessed with the USA and Reese’s. If anyone wants to send anymore Reese’s I know they would be greatly appreciated hahaha) Special thanks to the Tanners, Momo,and my mom for sending me Reese’s for my presentations!

Hardest moment: My teachers found out that I can speak French and understand more than they thought. While it is great that I am improving in French, they are starting to expect more from me know. In the end it will only help me, but it is a little bit stressful right now trying to keep up.

Upcoming Events: Maman’s birthday, Karla’s 18th birthday, Ben’s 19th birthday, Andrea’s 19th birthday, and CHRISTMAS!!!

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Ski Season Has Begun!!!

Dear friends,

As some of you may know my family (USA) loves to try different sports and be active together. While my brothers and dad are very athletic, I love sports, but I definitely excel more in the classroom. But if you truly know me, you know I love trying new things and going on adventures!

Today, my family (Swiss) took me on an incredible adventure!! Due to the snow this week, some of the skiing trails have opened!! I got my skis on Saturday, and this morning Papa and I headed to Crans Montana. I have only skied one other time in my life at a YoungLife camp, so Papa truly taught me how to ski!  On the first run down, I fell 10 times! The other skiers were so surprisingly nice, and always asked if I was okay! (It was pretty obvious it was my first time hahaha) The second run I only fell 3 times, but then my legs got tired. On the last run, I fell four times on the same hill! I wanted to continue skiing so badly, but my legs were just not cooperating. After 2 hours of skiing, Papa and I headed into the restaurant for some Nestea! One funny thing I noticed is that no one eats the snow. While in the USA this is completely normal, here it is not very safe since the snow sits there all winter and gets mixed in with dirt. While Swiss and Americans are very similar, I love finding these little cultural differences!

All in all it was an incredible day full of laughter and learning to always get back up again!

I hope you enjoy this little video of some of the highlights! Trust me, there will be a lot more skiing videos to come!! I can’t wait to hit the slopes again!!




Dear F.E.S.-Study Abroad Must-haves


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.



Mel’s 16th: Day 3

October 24, 2016


It’s Melanie’s 16th birthday!!! After opening presents and eating breakfast, we headed out on the town! Lugano is so beautiful!! It is truly amazing how I felt like I was in Italy! It was as if I felt at home! (I was born in Sicily, Italy) Papa explained to me that the streets are so narrow to block out the sun. Then in the summer, the buildings cast shade on each other. It’s brilliant! Even though the day was foggy, the colorful buildings and tiles made up for the lack of sun. I definitely need to make a trip back to Lugano!

After walking around for a while, we loaded up in the car. I thought we were heading home, but I was in for a huge surprise!! I looked out the window and saw the sign for the border to Italy!! I was in Italy!!!! I was overjoyed and couldn’t stop smiling!! We stopped at a restaurant, and I had to order ravioli, of course. It was delicious! I truly cannot express the amount of happiness I felt in that moment. I have always wished for a sister, and now here I was celebrating the 16th birthday of my sister in Italy!

Happy birthday Melanie!! I am beyond blessed to call you my sister and friend!




Mel’s 16th: Day 2

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Melanie and I woke up around 7:00am and then headed to breakfast with Maman and Papa at 8:00am. I chose a coffee and croissant with Nutella. Then we loaded in the car and headed to Pilatus!! WOAH! Mt. Pilatus is a mountain that can only be reached by cable car or train. We took the super steep train that climbs at a 48% incline! At the top, we could see everything! Since it was kind of cloudy, Papa told me you can normally see farther, but I was still in awe! From the viewing platform, I could see the Swiss Alps, the Prealps, and the Plateau of Switzerland! Papa and I also discovered a tunnel for another really cool view! We each broke an icicle from the cave/tunnel and enjoyed a quick refreshing drink. After I visited the gift shop, we headed back to the train. We came right at the perfect time and were given our own private train ride down the mountain! It was so much fun to be able to stand up, take pictures, and live up the luxuries of a private train. On the way to Lugano, we passed through an extremely long tunnel! It is 17 kilometers and took almost 14 minutes to pass through!! Inside the tunnel, the temperature reached 33 degrees (Celcius)!! Once we arrived in Lugano, we went to a huge outlet! It was actually quite similar to an American mall, even the prices were similar. I found the same shoes I almost bought in Sion for half the price in Lugano! I also bought ski socks, ski gloves, and a yellow cable knit hat since it is almost time for ski season! Once we finished shopping, we headed back to the hotel to chill out. I loved just relaxing in the room! Around 7:00pm, Papa and I headed out in search of sandwiches, but instead we found an amazing Italian restaurant. I was amazed at how everything was in Italian! I love that we can drive 2 hours and everyone speaks a different language and has a different culture. Since we were in the Italian part, I ordered tortellini and Papa had minestrone soup! Papa taught me a few Italian phrases, and then we headed back to the hotel to prepare for Day 3 of Melanie’s 16th Brithday Weekend!




Mel’s 16th: Night 1

Last Saturday, Maman, Papa, and I left the house at 2:00pm to drive to the first location of Melanie’s 16th Birthday Weekend! For the parts I was awake, the scenery from the car was incredible! I was super excited because we took a train for a portion of the trip, but we never got out of the car! Insane right?! It is a train for cars!!! Once we arrived in Lucerne, we were on the hunt for our hotel. Papa accidentally got in the opposite lane, and we could not turn around because there was a tunnel. I found it quite funny, because it reminded me of my Dad missing our turn in Pittsburg and becoming completely lost a few years ago. 😉 Once we circled Lucerne, we found free parking and walked to the hotel. I loved the hotel!! The lady at the front desk only spoke English and German. It was the first time that my English skills came in handy! I am starting to really see the benefits of knowing more than one language. Once we got the room keys, we headed to the rooms. I couldn’t stop laughing because everything was so tiny and European. Now I understand why Europeans think America is so extravagant. The elevator was so tiny! We were like sardines, but I loved the new experience and a new funny memory.

After we rested in the hotel for 30 minutes, we headed out on the town. Lucerne is beautiful!!! I watched a video about Switzerland last July as I was preparing to study abroad, and it was set in Lucerne. It was incredible to see the bridge and streets in real life and not just on my screen! It felt like I was in the video! We stopped in a souvenir shop, and I realized we were the only white people in the whole store! Everyone else was Asian. Maman told me that Lucerne is the mecca of Asian tourists. I love seeing them do the funniest poses to get the perfect picture!

We then headed to the train station to pick up Melanie since she had to work in another town that morning. When we headed back out on the town, everyone had disappeared. It was only 8:00pm on a Saturday! Everything was closed except for the bars and some restaurants. Melanie chose an interesting restaurant haha. It was actually very nice, but the food options were not what I am accustomed to. We all ordered the crepe with ricotta cheese and a variety of vegetables. On the plus side, I ate turnips for the first time! Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel and prepared for Day 2 of Melanie’s 16th Birthday Weekend!!


A train for cars?!


Somewhere Over The Rainbow

One thing I love about living in Switzerland is the amount of walking and exploring I do with my family! Last Sunday, we went on a short hike after lunch. We had planned to go to a glacier, but due to the weather we changed our minds. I am so glad that we did, because we were surprised with the most amazing, vibrant rainbow I have ever seen in my life! The beginning of the hike was rather cold (which doesn’t bother me because I love the cold) and halfway through it began to rain. It was a rather funny moment as my sister and I were covering our heads with our scarves. We decided to turn around early due to how cold the rain was, and we were pleasantly surprised to see a double rainbow right infront of us! I was in complete awe!! Seeing all of our frozen faces light up with huge smiles was a moment I will never forget. Seeing God’s promise within 50 feet of me halfway around the world was so comforting and inspiring.

Please enjoy my attempt to capture the incredible views!!



Love getting to use my hiking shoes in the mountains!! img_0358img_0359img_0371img_0372

Make sure to check out my instagram for a video of the rainbows!! @minihartiensimg_0388img_0389img_0393

I am so blessed to be living a life where this expression is constantly on my face! Each day brings new inspiration and meaning to my life!!