Becca Cambridge ’15 Western University, Medical Sciences

It’s hard to put this year into words. Even as I’m sitting here writing this and looking out my window at the lake and the Alps, I’m still in awe of this view that I’ve seen every day for the last 10 months.
It’s hard to put this year into words. Even as I’m sitting here writing this and looking out my window at the lake and the Alps, I’m still in awe of this view that I’ve seen every day for the last 10 months. I think the best way to describe this year is that it’s been like climbing a mountain. Not in the sense that it’s been 10 months of a tough uphill battle, but hear me out. When we started out in September, we had this massive journey ahead of us. We had countless places to explore, people to meet and form such incredible bonds with, and for a lot of us, a huge language barrier to overcome. But when you climb a mountain, even though parts of it are hard, there’s obviously a reason for doing it. You get to challenge yourself, learn new things along the way, and you have this ever-changing perspective of the world around you that you thought you knew. When you reach the summit, the end of the year, you realize how far you’ve come and how worth it the voyage was.

All of the places we got to explore, everything from Kenya to the town of our pensions, brought new perspectives. I went to so many new countries this year, which was absolutely incredible. There were so many places that I had learned about in classes or just dreamed about visiting, and this year I was finally able to put a real-life image to them. And though being a tourist is always fun and exciting, it was also really interesting being able to actually live here in Switzerland and experience another lifestyle away from all the guide books and tourist attractions. Living with my Madame, I was able to see what it’s really like to live here. I realized that even though we have a massive ocean separating us, we’re not as different as we seem. On the other hand, it was interesting to see all the things that were different, even the little things like style and the ways of greeting people.

It can be scary putting yourself out there and meeting new people, especially when you know you’re only going to be with them for a year. But I pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone, take that extra step up the mountain, and talk to as many people as I could. Now, 10 months later, I have this wonderful family that I know I will remember for the rest of my life. For our climb up Mount NJC, we had this incredible support system that pushed us to go farther than we ever thought we could, and brightened the days when things were harder.

Many of us, including myself, had this massive language barrier to overcome. I had come with 8 years of core French which was helpful, but I had never really done much speaking or listening to actual French speakers, so I had a long way to go. Now, after my uphill trek of learning new words and making mistakes, I am happy and proud to say that I can get by in a conversation. I’m not fluent by any means, but I can already look back and see how far I’ve come and how much it has helped me to connect with my pension and just adapt to Swiss life.

Throughout this whole journey, the biggest thing I’ve learned is how important adventure and perseverance is. I’m always going to be presented with things that will seem scary and difficult at first, but you just have to go into it with all you have and push yourself a little farther each day. If you see a detour, take it. Stop and smell the roses, go hang out with the cows for a while, and don’t be afraid to explore everything and learn along the way. As you go along your journey, there are endless opportunities to look back and see how far you’ve come to give you the motivation to keep going and finish what you started. I’m not quite at the summit yet; I still have a couple more weeks until I get my diploma. The problem with reaching the summit is that it means your adventure is almost over. So, for this last stretch I’m just going to embrace every moment and make the most of the time I have left with this incredible family we have. We will all be starting new mountains soon enough, but I am beyond grateful that we were able to spend this year together. Thanks for the adventure, Mount NJC.

“You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so...Get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss
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A Canadian high school in Switzerland | Grade 12 & Gap