Amelie Chartrand ‘17 Carleton University, Public Affairs & Policy Management

In retrospect, I think the main difference between who I am now and who I was ten months ago is that I don’t wait until I’m ready or until someone else leads the way for me before doing something. If I want to do something, I will do it.
“This year really changed my life.” As I went through the process of applying for NJC and explored the school’s website and met alumni, I heard this quote more than a million times. I heard it so often it lost its meaning. Everyone seemed to be saying the same thing. They became different people, had the best year of their life and made friendships that lasted forever. To be perfectly honest, I started this experience thinking past students were sugar-coating it a little bit. I did not believe what all the hype was about. I mean, yes, I was going to go live in Europe for a year, meet a bunch of new people and travel, a lot. But, I didn’t understand how alumni who attended the school 30 years ago still say it was the best thing they’d ever done, how people said it made them grow so much that their friends and family did not recognize them sometimes. The crazy thing is, now, I completely understand. I’ll probably be talking about this year on my deathbed, rambling on about how this is where it all started for me. This is true, for many reasons.

First off, coming to NJC is not merely living in Switzerland for 10 months and travelling. It is not merely becoming more independent and becoming “global citizens”. The NJC experience is like putting on multi-colored sunglasses after living your entire life in black and white. Everything is suddenly brighter, more complex and it seems like the entire world is at the tip of our fingertips. As I’m writing this, it is becoming more and more difficult to describe how it impacted me. The way it did impact me was so subtle that I did not notice it until I talked to friends from back home that I hadn’t talked to in months. Suddenly, it seemed like I was going a million miles an hour and they were standing still. I had seen twelve different countries in 10 months and they had stayed in the same place the entire time. I felt like my entire world had shifted and they still went through the same morning routines day after day. It made me realize that the little girl that stepped off that plane on September 6th 2016 was not the same one writing this reflection right now.

In retrospect, I think the main difference between who I am now and who I was ten months ago is that I don’t wait until I’m ready or until someone else leads the way for me before doing something. If I want to do something, I will do it. I wanted to swim with the local swimclub, so I sent an email, got a spot on the team and paid my fees. I really wanted to go to do an independent travel in Stockholm, so I looked at the flights and booked a plane ticket. I didn’t wait for a group to get organized, I made it happen for myself. We wanted to go bike in Liechtenstein, so we figured out how to get there, rented bikes and did it. This sounds so easy and trivial, but I went from talking to what I wanted to do, to actually doing it. I always admired all of those people who actually said they wanted to do something and then did it, who did not talk to talk and say empty words, but who acted on their ideas. This year has helped me move closer to becoming that person. It also opened so many doors and opportunities for me. The same spirit of confidence applies for the two Model UN experiences that I had the honour of being a part of. I had no previous experience or knowledge of Model United Nations, but I went ahead and took the leap because I was interested in trying it. This leap of faith was a big turning point for me this year because I ended up loving it so much that international relations is now a part of my undergraduate degree. This newfound confidence gave me so many opportunities and opened so many doors for me that I don’t even know the extent of their impact yet. The most important thing is that I’ll be able to transfer this to my future.

More importantly, not only did I become a more proactive, confident and independent woman, but I also grew into myself and became my own person. Whether I liked it or not, my parents had a big impact on how I behaved for my entire life. Spending a year away from their influence and their habits allowed me to make habits of my own and think for myself a lot more. Living in a pension helped me do that. All of sudden I saw that things could be done differently, that little everyday things were not set in stone and that I could create any new routines and traditions I pleased. I thought I had broken free from my parents during the beginning of high school, but boy, was I wrong. Even now, I know I am not completely free, but this year definitely helped cut so many of the strings that were attached to me. I started tutoring twin boys in English and got my own pocket money. If I wanted to go somewhere, I figured it out. If I had to book a hotel or fill out a form or apply for a scholarship, it was all me. No one was nagging, or telling me I had to make sure I had everything, looking over my shoulder to see if I was filling out the forms right or sending emails to people for me. I grew up, in every sense of the word.

In conclusion, my year at Neuchâtel Junior College was more than just going out, travelling and meeting new people. It was about becoming fearless and driven. It was about finding what made me tick and discovering that exploring the world was just a click away. When we go back home, everything will be the same but nothing will look as it did before. What seemed boring before will now look extraordinary. That is the true magic of NJC.
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