Alanna Natale '17 Western University, Media, Information & Technoculture

I explored the new and exciting and travelled into the unfamiliar this year which only ignited fires of curiosity inside of me, reminding me how much this new adventure I had been offered has taught me about the kind of person I am.
5-year-old Alanna ran around naked, threw Barbie cars, and never ever stopped talking. However, she was most of all a little girl who longed for adventure. Now, sitting as 17-year-old Alanna thinking back to my wild 5-year-old shenanigans I can confidently say I have found her spirit again. Yes, still a little crazy but most of all someone that has rekindled her fondness for the unknown. I explored the new and exciting and travelled into the unfamiliar this year which only ignited fires of curiosity inside of me, reminding me how much this new adventure I had been offered has taught me about the kind of person I am. Most of all, NJC has renewed the 5-year-old spark in me that I had lost a long time ago, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

I attended an all-girls school for most of my life, day in and day out the same routine which, let me tell you, got quite repetitive after 10 years. When the start of my Grade 12 year rolled around, I wanted to give the happiness thing another shot. So, I applied to NJC in hopes of a brighter future and after hearing the surprising news of being accepted, I was very optimistic. Coming into this year, I was very skeptical given that I didn’t really know how things would turn out. On the very long plane ride from Toronto to Zurich, I set goals for myself, goals that I now reflect on and how each and every one of them stood as a turning point for me. So, I now stand at the end of my indescribable year in Switzerland, achieving so much, feeling so humbled by this experience and with confidence saying this was the best year of my life. NJC has shown me the value of stepping outside of your comfort zone, the value of travel and exploring different cultures, but, most of all, NJC has shown me the value of friendship, lifelong friendship and bonds that are indescribable and seemingly timeless. I can confidently say after stepping outside I am a different person, a happier person, and someone who is fearless again. Truly, that is something I never thought I would say stepping on that plane in September.

The opportunities this year have been endless! From travelling all over Europe with your best friends to skiing in the Swiss Alps, this year has been unlike any other. I never thought I had friends I considered to be the people who you would do anything for, the people you know you could turn to in times of need, and then knowing that those feelings would be equally reciprocated. As my mom would say, I hadn’t found my people. Let me tell you, spending a year getting to know some of the most amazing people I have ever met gives you more than friends, it gives you a family. I have had the opportunity to meet my best friends at NJC. People who are so genuine and make me laugh harder than I knew possible. They have filled the piece I was missing and truly exceeded my expectations. I am lucky to say I have found my people this year, and these friendships will truly last a lifetime. I grew up in a household where travel was very important. My parents would take my three sisters and I all over the world starting at a very young age. I found a strong appreciation for the value of cultural immersion and how each and every new place I visited had something new and unique to offer. I fell in love with places I had never been before, and I was eager to explore, so I thought what a better opportunity than to live in Europe for the year. This year, I have been lucky enough to see things like the beautiful city of Barcelonam and experience the hustle and bustle of city life in London—each one leaving me speechless. I believe that every adventure I had this year has only helped me grow and furthered my love for travelling. Each place offered a new city with new food and new sights to see, leaving you in awe of the diversity from place to place. I have been stunned time and time again by the beauty of Europe and that never would have been possible without this year. One journey from Toronto to Neuchâtel led to dozens more I never thought possible.

I am so overwhelmed with emotion as this year comes to a close. This has been my greatest adventure. I see life as a journey, or almost like a story. Each new opportunity or undertaking makes a new page in your book. My story is full of the good, the bad and the ugly, however, so I am so thankful for all of those times, as had I not had those moments, I never would have made the leap to come here. My heart is so incredibly full after all of the memories I have made, each one taking a place in my story. NJC has been the most incredible chapter of my life, and I am sad to see it end. My incredible parents stood by me no matter the circumstance and gave me the final push to get on that plane, to them I am forever grateful. My best friends who have tolerated my crazy side, and have never failed to be my shoulder to cry on, I will miss the most next year.

So, here is to all of the new adventures to come and the new chapters to write. Thank you NJC for helping me along this journey and presenting me with more than I could have ever imagined, but, most of all, thank you for helping me find 5-year-old Alanna that I had lost.
Neuchâtel Junior College offers the unique opportunity to study Canadian curriculum abroad. While living in Switzerland in a French community, students enjoy an international education through travel and experiential learning in Europe. Gap year and Grade 12  high school students gain international experience and develop independence and life skills that prepare them for university and the global workplace.

A Canadian high school in Switzerland | Grade 12 & Gap