Heather McCann ’16 Western University, Media, Information & Technoculture

Never in my life have I gotten a 90% on a report card, and I feel as though being at this school pushed me to get to that next level academically, and it was one of my biggest successes this year.
As I wrote in my application in October of last year, ever since I was young I had wanted to attend Neuchâtel Junior College. My sister, having such a big influence on my life, convinced me in a second that this would be the best decision of my life. With twenty days left of my year abroad, I know that this year has been the best year of my life and changed me for the better.

Academically, studying at NJC pushed me to attain the highest I could achieve. With help from able teachers and the incentive to work hard during the week so that I could travel around Europe, I attained one of the highest marks on a midterm report, which let me get into my number one program at the University of Western Ontario. Never in my life have I gotten a 90% on a report card, and I feel as though being at this school pushed me to get to that next level academically, and it was one of my biggest successes this year. Spending a year abroad with Neuchatel allowed me to see the world from a different perspective as well as immerse me in the culture.

Looking back a year ago I never would have thought that I would be running on a track team in Switzerland, speaking French with locals or taking a quick hour flight to hop over to Barcelona, Belgium, or even London for a weekend. Studying abroad gave me a distinct cultural perspective that I would not have received from any other trip or short exchange. I got to experience the incredible new food, customs, and social atmospheres. Studying at NJC also brought back my confidence to speak French again. I attended a French immersion school for 11 years, and once I switched out of it, I stopped speaking it altogether. Once I arrived at my pension, I quickly realised that my roommates and I would need my experience and I quickly came out of my shell. And with all the practice with my pension and around the city, I quickly regained everything I thought I had forgotten.

The biggest takeaway that I received from NJC was the personal growth. I attained this personal growth through school and travelling. I never thought of myself as a shy person, and I have always been very independent due to my sports, but I will say that I have greatly matured over the year and did become even more independent than I was before. The year abroad gave me an opportunity to discover myself in a way that I would not have had had I stayed in Toronto for my final year of high school. With a small graduating class, I was able to put myself in other people's shoes easily, I was able to reach out to others if they needed a friend, I was able to take initiative, but most importantly, I created lifelong friends that shared the same amazing experience as I did. When I will bump into Neuch alumni on the street, we will always share a special bond of the amazing experiences that we received from our year at NJC, whether we were close or not.

I have become more responsible through independent travel specifically, as this is one of the first times that anyone has granted me with total trust and responsibility and with those two balanced I believe I thrived. I would often plan the trip itineraries for my groups, make dinner reservations, learn how to navigate the city and buy plane tickets all without the help of others. Although I did make some mistakes along the way, such as booking the more expensive flights, after the first couple independent travels I started to figure things out.

As I am writing this, millions of memories are flowing through my mind, but what I experienced this year cannot be put into words, and are not often something young adults my age get to experience. These experiences have helped me mature and gain a sort of independence I did not hold before. In the future, I will build on this experience by continuing to travel the world, but first, I must succeed in university and find a stable job that will support my wish to travel! With the experiences and qualities I received from NJC I would say that it turned me from the girl who came here in September, to the completely different one who will be graduating in a few weeks.
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A Canadian high school in Switzerland | Grade 12 & Gap