Thursday, July 5, 2012

If the answer is no, can I change your mind?

So, this is it. My final 3 days in Switzerland. Realizing that this extraordinary journey is finally coming to an end can be described in no other words than simply surreal. I am still not able to wrap my mind around it. Unlike when I left America just 11 months ago, I do not know when I will see these familiar faces again that are now part of my life, or when I will walk the streets that have become my home. But that is the magic of exchange. Although this year was wonderful and unbelievable in every way, it was simply unreal. It is a year slipped in between the seams of your life. You are able to leave your home and surroundings for one short year, and have the most amazing adventure of your life. And for those short, sweet 11 months, time simply stops. And you just enjoy the ride. I knew the whole time that eventually, this experience would have to end. And I would have to make my way back to reality, as if this entire year never happened, and know that the people in my life back home would never truly know how much this year has changed me. I just didn't know the end would come so soon.

I am so thankful for this experience. Over the course of this year, I was able to see places that I have only read about in books. I lived in EUROPE. I was able to meet people who I never would have met before, and who were simply extraordinary. I learned about a completely other culture, and the people who fill it. I learned that people from all over the globe truly just are people, and the only true differences we have are cultural. And when you can get past the cultural differences, we really are all the same. But most importantly, I learned about myself.

I learned how I act when faced with adversity. I saw how brave I can be, and what values I now know I stand for. I learned how to do what I know is right, even when others disagree, and I discovered who I truly am. I now know how I wish to impact our world. I gained a sense of confidenc, and a willingness to try whatever comes my way. And I have made some of the best friends in my life. This year has changed me more than I ever would have imagined. I feel like the person I was getting on the plane to Zurich is only but a refraction of who I am today.

But as I like to think of it, I don't think I changed that much this year; I think I just finally became who I really am.

Am I a different person now? Yes. Of course. But I think who I became isn't someone new, but a part of me I have always had inside of me. An exchange year isn't just a year in your life, it is a life in a year. I don't think we change as much as exchange students as much as we become more of ourselves. I was able to grow up and experience so many wonderful things in such a short period of time, and learn about the world.

But even more, I have

  • learned to ski
  • read 8 books in German
  • learned French
  • been to my first even hockey game
  • rock climbed 30 meters in the air
  • survived a -20 degree celcius winter
  • played guitar for money in the streets
  • been able to understand and participate in a German school
  • eaten real swiss fondue, raclette and so much chocolate
  • ridden trains for hours and hours
  • learned Swiss German
  • learned how to ice skate
  • conquered my fears, and dived from 8 meters into Lake Zug
  • learned how to eat lunch for 1 franc a day
  • hiked the Rigi, Pilatus and Wildspitz
  • watched so many German movies
  • open a Swiss bank account
  • got a real Swiss watch
  • woke up at 2 am to go to Swiss Fassnacht (like Mardi Gras)
  • gone sledding in the Alps
  • learned Zurich like the back of my hand
  • missed my train ride home multiple time
  • ...but always found a way back to my house
  • become a master of riding my bike in downtown Zug
  • <- and never got hit by a car doing so
  • been able to communicate with people without being able to speak the same language
  • become immune to embarrassment
  • seen the Philharmonic Orchestra
  • been to Rome
  • been to Venice
  • been to Nice
  • been to Paris
  • been to Berlin
  • been to Litchenstein
  • been to almost every Kanton in Switzerland (and city as well)
  • become able to fake being Swiss
  • been completely and utterly lost
  • explored castles, and churches that are hundreds of years old
  • cried, laughed, screamed and smiled more than I ever have before
  • have multiple families now, and none of them are related to me
  • made best friends, who don't speak the same language as me, and one who do, but live on other sides of the world
  • had the most amazing, wonderful, crazy and thrilling year of my life

I can not believe the amounts of people who have shown nothing but kindness to me, and for that, I will always be grateful. All my host families, who went above and beyond to make me feel not like a guest, but like a member of the family. My teachers, who took the extra time to make sure I felt like I belonged, or who put in the extra work to translate things into English, when I didn't understand. The Rotarians, who were always so kind and funny, and made me feel loved. And most importantly, to my Swiss and American friends, who truly made this year so remarkable. I will miss you all more than you will ever know.

But I will miss this truly beautiful country most of all.

Here is a video I made of all the clips I have taken on my camera this year. I think it will show better than I could describe, just how wonderful this year was for me.

I can't believe I am leaving this magical adventure on Monday, but somehow I am ready. Dorothy eventually has to go back to Kansas, and the Penvesies can't stay in Narnia forever. I am excited to see my family and friends again, and am ready to move on with life, but I wil always carry this year with me. Because Switzerland wird IMMER meine heimat Land sein. Ich liebe der Schweiz, und ich werde dieses Jahr NIE vergessen.

I just can't believe it is almost done...

I will miss being an exchange student. I will miss Switzerland. I will miss Switzerland so much.

Watch the video :)))) to make it larger, move your mouse over the video, and then click where it says "Youtube" in the lower right-hand corner, or the icon with the four corners. I hope you like it!


Starring: Laura, Phoebe, James, Elle and Sienna--the best friends I could ever ask for. This adventure of a year would not have been possible without you five. I will miss you guys most of all.
Zug Girls (and boy) forever, yeah?