Collin Oakes '18 Queen's University, Commerce

I thought I knew exactly what to expect after hearing their stories, but the Neuchâtel Junior College experience is truly one that needs to be discovered individually. 
Last year, around February, I made the decision to step outside and enroll at Neuchâtel Junior College for the 2017/2018 school year. Nervous and excited are two words which simply but effectively describe how I was feeling before stepping on the plane at Pearson Airport, as I had never done anything quite like this. Both of my brothers attended NJC and came back toting that it was an incredibly memorable year, and one of the best times of their lives. I thought I knew exactly what to expect after hearing their stories, but the Neuchâtel Junior College experience is truly one that needs to be discovered individually.
 
My time at NJC has been extremely beneficial regarding my growth, both as a student and as an individual. I have become a better and more mature student as a result of my time here. Living alone without my parents looking over my shoulder, I have become more responsible in managing deadlines, assignments, tests, projects and more, while being involved in extracurriculars such as the hockey and basketball team. I have learned to use my time effectively in order to achieve academic goals while having an active presence in the social and community aspects of the school and pension life.
 
I believe that I have also become a more intelligent student since my first day here. This is where the international travel part of the school comes into play. I applied for the Model United Nations in Leiden, and was given a spot as an ambassador for Slovakia, and a member of the United Nations Environment Programme. This experience was truly amazing. Being around intellectual, involved, international students was stimulating, and helped to expand my personal and global knowledge. It inspired me to apply to more than just business schools in Canada, as I also applied and was accepted to international relations and politics programs in the United Kingdom. Being able to “connect” my classroom education to historical landmark and real world places was also remarkable. For example, studying World War I and the Holocaust in English and then visiting Vimy Ridge and Dachau helped me obtain a better grasp of history, have a first-hand glance at the horror of the past, and truly appreciate Canada’s historical role. Visiting Roman and Greek historical sites, after studying them in Classical Civilization class here at NJC, and in Latin class at my old school, was truly special to me and quite unique. Also studying immigration and overpopulation in World Issues and then witnessing immigrant street peddlers in places such as Rome and Athens was extremely eye-opening. It provided me with a view into the daily struggles that immigrants endure and it made me think how we need to do more as a society to help. I don’t think I would be able to experience this all while sitting in a boring, plain classroom in Toronto.
 
As an individual, I believe that I have grown astronomically. My adventures at NJC have helped me become more confident, more fearless, more open minded and overall a more positive person. When I was living in Toronto, I always had the same group of close friends who I did everyday things with, such as going to the gym and playing sports. I always felt comfortable in my basic routines. My time at NJC has helped me outgrow this sense of comfortability. When I came here, I knew some people from old schools and camp, but not the rest. I was nervous to meet new people, but that quickly changed. In the first few months at NJC, while spending everyday with my fellow students, exploring the festivities of Neuchâtel, travelling to places such as Munich, staying with a host family with two roommates who I had met here, doing things that I had never done with people that I did not know before, I established solid friendships that have turned into friendships that will last me my lifetime. This helped me grow more confident as a person early on, which helped make my year more memorable, and will help me in the future.
 
This confidence helped me become more fearless. I never thought that I would be the type of person to just up and go to a different country for the weekend but that’s what I did here. My confidence helped me not be afraid, but to take risks and make the most of every opportunity. This has lead me to have great memories such as skiing in the Austrian alps, exploring the Louvre in Paris, biking the beaches of Mallorca, performing spontaneous renditions of Kiss’ Beth, and performing slam poetry for all my classmates.

Making brand new friends is something that I thought that would be hard in the beginning, but it was so easy with this group. By going on adventures with new people and creating great memories, I grew so close with so many different people. I learned to be open-minded with people and to accept everyone for who they are, as they did with me.

I grew as a leader during my time here too. When the year began, I was quieter and more in my shell but throughout the year, I became more and more comfortable, which helped me lead. Whether it was sports, such as the basketball or ski team, or day trips, I used my leadership to make sure that my friends and I were seizing the day, doing our best and making the most of our time here.
 
I’m going to miss everything about this place. I’ll miss the train ride to my pension, the view from the terrace, and the teachers who made my time spent in class so great. I’ll miss eating lunch in the Swiss Alps with some of my best friends, sitting on trains surrounded by friends, and sitting at the lake just relaxing. I’ll miss seeing the fun, crazy people that I spend everyday with. But with one chapter ending, another is beginning. I will be attending Queen’s University next year, where I am excited to make new friends, learn, build upon my international experience, and begin my true adult life. Who knows, in third year, I could do an exchange and have another amazing international experience. Thanks to the faculty, to Mr. Boyer and to my fellow students for an amazing year, and one that I will never forget.
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A Canadian high school in Switzerland | Grade 12 & Gap