Prior to NJC, I was both nervous and excited. The nerves were a result of taking in this fresh start, though, I was excited to meet new people and experience a new way of life. From the first day, I felt welcome, and, day-by-day, I slowly became a lot more confident in myself and in others around me. When I think about my independence, it is something that I have carried with me from Montreal. Despite receiving the occasional assistance from my parents back home, taking public transportation and not relying on others to get me around from place to place continued to an extent where I no longer felt the necessary urge to rely on others. This independence was done through taking the public transportation (i.e: trams, buses, train) and not only booking flights for independent travels, but also flying away with friends and having to take care of myself has all really enhanced my personal and intellectual growth. Living away from home has also taught me how to budget. Being given a certain amount of money per month, and dictating the amount I would spend to ensure that I have enough money to last that month, has truly outlined the importance of managing my spending and of being cautious of what lies around me.
Living abroad has also slowly begun to show me how big the world is. Despite the cliché, attending school abroad in Switzerland has opened my eyes to new cultures such as language, foods, and the general day-to-day life. Having lived here for almost a year, I have discovered a new side to myself. What I have learned is to appreciate what is offered. This experience went by so quickly. When I look back and think about it, I can still recall the moment when I first arrived at the Toronto airport and saw a bunch of other students like me who were about to go on a journey of their lives. I have learned how important it is to be outgoing and show an interest in meeting people and taking advantage of what is thrown my way. For instance, taking the train every morning to school and looking to my right only to see the beautiful scenery of the lake and the sunrise that shines over the city of Neuchâtel and the mountains ranges in the background.
Although I knew how to communicate in French, coming from Montreal, I still knew that I had a lot of learning and improving to do. However, by speaking French every day to my pension, to vendors and to the new people I met, it's allowed me to take my French to a whole new level. As for the food, I have heard about traditional Swiss dishes (i.e: fondue, raclette) and Swiss chocolate, but tasting it and developing an appreciation for the texture of the food has made me even more open and eager to try new foods.
Finally, there is no doubt that life in Switzerland is far different than life in Montreal. Starting with the punctuality and the organization of the transportation system, which is off the charts. Though I have been warned several times by my parents and others, I was still shocked by how on point everything was. Even if trains were late, there would be an announcement on the speaker at each stop informing you about the rescheduled time that the train should be arriving. This is something that I was very impressed with given that in Montreal there are no warnings at all and the punctuality isn’t as good.
Being roughly six-thousand kilometers away from home has definitely made me more internationally, personally and socially aware and responsible. Living in someone else’s home for nearly a year and travelling around Europe has definitely changed me. My pension life has been an incredible experience. Having been taken in by a family who practically knew nothing about me to developing a connection with them as though they were my parents has been an extraordinary experience. As for my pension roommates, the experience of getting to know them on a more personal level has been great. Likewise, speaking French at every meal and having to take care of myself has opened my eyes to the culture that lies around me. Internationally-speaking, travelling with the school for day trips or trips to different countries and for my own personal pleasure throughout Europe has been an experience of a lifetime. Attending places, like Greece, Barcelona, Italy, Belgium, or even visiting the Remembrance Day ceremony in Ypres have both made me more culturally and worldly aware of what goes on in the world I live in and how different people are in comparison to life back home in Canada. Likewise, in terms of common after-school activities such as going to the lake and playing volleyball, soccer, football and even frisbee are far different than what I would normally do in Montreal, which was a nice change. Going to the lake after school with friends was quite enjoyable given that back home, I don’t have any lakes near me, nor a spectacular view to look at. Having done what I have done, I could never have imagined that this is what I would be doing during my Grade 12 year at school. Being away from home, with a bunch of students my age, living with a pension family who only speak French, travelling around Switzerland on weekends for sporting events and travelling abroad for school trips have been opportunities of a lifetime that I will cherish forever.
After the final day when I leave on June 17th to return home, I plan to continue to evolve myself and take advantage of new opportunities that are thrown my way. For instance, participating in an exchange/living abroad at university, which will allow me to take part in another endeavor similar to the one I was fortunate enough to have by attending NJC. I also plan on continuing to be open to meeting new people, trying new things and travelling around the world. All in all, as I reflect on my year, the opportunity that I have been given has been truly remarkable and I am incredibly grateful to call myself an NJC student. At the end of the day, it has allowed me to see how much I have grown, from stepping on the plane in Canada to the end of my NJC year in Switzerland.