Tess Leishman '18 Western University, Science

As I desperately try to grasp onto every minute left, I can’t help but reminisce with complete awe about the time that I have spent here.
It may not be surprising to you when I say that I find it difficult to describe my year at NJC. This is partly because I feel incapable of explaining what I’ve experienced here, and partly because as the year comes to a close, my mind does not know how to comprehend the idea of leaving. One thing I can say is that deciding to come to NJC was the best choice I possibly could of made for myself just over a year ago. I know this is a common statement made by NJC grads, however I now know why - because no NJC student could imagine themselves spending their grade 12 year living at home, walking the halls of their old school, not having embarked on the adventure that they have had this year. As I desperately try to grasp onto every minute left, I can’t help but reminisce with complete awe about the time that I have spent here.
I often think about how my life was a year ago, back at my old high school in Toronto. By grade 11, I was simply going through the motions; often struggling to pull myself out of bed, dreading every minute spent in the school building, putting no effort into relationships outside of my small group of friends. There were still many aspects of my life that I loved, however school was nowhere near something I even slightly enjoyed, and I felt that I was wasting my life away by wishing for time to pass more quickly. I think about how lucky I am to be able to come to NJC, because it completely flipped the attitude I had towards school, and life as a whole. There were definitely days here when I didn’t want to go to school, didn’t want to deal with the stress, and didn’t feel like putting in effort, however it was like there was something that clicked in my brain when I came here. I felt that I was finally supposed to be exactly where I was. NJC could give me things that are not offered at many, or any, other schools. The privilege that I have experienced throughout the year almost makes me feel guilty, given that so many students are not provided with the opportunity to learn and live in an environment like NJC. Part of the reason I quickly came to enjoy school here was because of the type of learning that the school provides. Small classes, involved staff, and the hardworking atmosphere I felt from the student body somewhat intimidated me at first, however it no doubt worked in my favour. I have learned what an advantage this can give a student, which only makes me feel more grateful for the opportunity to learn in this atmosphere.
Although NJC gave me a new motivation for schoolwork, this is only a small part of what the school provides its students. Another thing I have gained from this year, includes the knowledge and appreciation I have for so many parts of the world. Having the opportunity to travel across the continent to further explore what we are learning in class makes everything more interesting, and gives us experience that others don’t have. I not only am able to better understand the material, but I created a much stronger emotional connection to the sights and events than I ever could have by sitting and reading about it in a classroom. Even during independent travel, having the opportunity to experience so many cultures in a relatively short amount of time has given me a much broader perspective of the world. Still, out of any country I have visited this year, of course Switzerland will always have a special place in my heart. I still am shocked to walk outside and see the Alps as they stand towering over the lake, seemingly close enough to touch on the especially clear days. Thanks to my pension family, I have been able to truly immerse myself in the culture here, by seeing and experiences things I never would have otherwise. Whether that be making friends with a field of cows outside of town, attending an 18th birthday party in a cabin the forest, or getting snowed in at a chalet in the Alps, the adventures I have with my pension is when I feel I am living most like the Swiss, and were a remarkable part of my year.
NJC has caused me to grow as a student, a traveller, and it has also caused me to grow significantly as a person. Upon entering high school four years ago, my anxiety grew and I found it difficult to feel comfortable in my own skin. I believe that I was struggling with a lack of confidence, and a feeling of importance. I wasn’t sure if I had anyone to depend on, and did not feel that I could put my full trust in anyone. This year that changed, all because of the relationships that I have built here. I knew I would make friends, and that I would find people I liked, however I never imagined having such the strong bond that I do with everyone in the class. Having experienced everything that we have together, I have formed relationships with people that are much more meaningful than I had expected, and probably more so than any other friendships I’ve had before. It would be a stretch to say that I love every single one of my classmates, however everyone is important to me, and a necessary member of the group. Unlike many others that move away from home, I was not fearful in leaving my family. However, I did not realize that coming here also meant that I would join an entirely new one - one I did not know that I so desperately needed. Because of the level of trust that is shared here, I finally feel reassured in being myself; something I have struggled with for years.
So, NJC helped me to grow in just about every way possible, and I can recognize this year as the greatest of my life so far because of it. Looking back on the year, I can now recognize that as cliché as it sounds, what really made this time special was the small, often overlooked moments. Now, those then effortless moments seem to have been perfect. For example, some of my favourite parts of school travel were during the train rides back to Neuchâtel. It is rare to hear silence in a group of NJC students, and during one of those post-trip “nap times” is probably the only time you ever would. However, there is something about the silence that made me feel like we were all so vulnerable to each other. As humans, there is no time we are more unprotected than when we are asleep, and it is then that I realized that I am not the only one who feels safe here, or feels that they can truly let their guard down; everyone else does, too. I can’t help but feel sad that all of these moments are now only memories, however it is the people who helped to create them that make them so special. This is not easy to say, considering the countless amazing things we’ve been able to do here, yet I know that if there is one thing NJC has given me that is unattainable anywhere else, it is the people. The people who have pushed me to work hard, accompanied me on my adventures, proven to me that they cared - it is they who have allowed me to grow in every way that I have. And, once we leave the home that we have built here in a rapidly decreasing number of days, it is they who will allow me to carry everything I have learned into the future, wherever it may take me. 
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