NJC's Three-Generation Legacy Family

Judith ‘61, Rae ‘91 & Zoe ‘23
We recently caught up with a three-generation legacy family to learn more about their time at NJC.  It is incredible how generations divide their experiences, but there are many similarities between them.
What was your experience leading up to and arriving at NJC?

Judith: In early September 1960, with a year’s worth of belongings in a steamer trunk I left for Montreal with my parents who thought a year abroad was a good idea. Mr. Wilde and 82 of us embarked on a Cunard ocean liner for the Atlantic crossing to Southampton. During the crossing, Mr. Wilde interviewed each of us to determine with whom we would live for the coming year. Upon arrival in England, we spent some time in residence at Oxford and in London before crossing la Manche for France. I don’t recall our arrival in Switzerland, but once in Neuchâtel three of us were sent to be pensionnaires at the warm and gracious home of Claude and Marianne Morel at Promenade Noire 3. We could not have been more fortunate. In addition to their own two children, we were three Canadian NJC students, a Scot, a Brit, two Swiss German girls, and a Swiss German au pair. We were surprised to learn that we were only to be allowed one bath a week but we managed to have two by sharing the bathwater!

Rae: When I was in elementary school, I attended one of my mom’s NJC reunions. Ever since then, I wanted to go to NJC. Although I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I think it was witnessing the comradery of her classmates and the joyous energy in the room that intrigued me. Hearing stories about my mom’s time in Neuchâtel and the travel experiences of my dad, opened a door to the possibility of me doing something similar. We had done some traveling as a family and those trips solidified my interest in attending school in Switzerland since living abroad would allow me easier access to more of the world.

Zoe: In the months leading up to leaving home I was quite excited. Going to NJC would be the first time I was leaving the country since the pandemic. I knew that Europe had very little to no restrictions and I had been feverishly dreaming of life returning to normal for so long. Even though my new normal would be so far away from everyone and everything I knew, it was worth it to me. Once I finally arrived in Switzerland I was eager to start my new adventure. For the most part, I was not nervous since I knew everyone was in the same position as me. I adjusted pretty quickly to my new life and found the school made the transition pretty easy. 

What is your favourite NJC memory?

Judith: It is impossible to describe one favourite memory but the whole experience remains among the best of my life. One of our favourite memories from Rae’s year was when she told us triumphantly “I work on my own!”

Rae: How do you pick just one?! 

Zoe: It’s so hard to choose my favourite memory since I’m still experiencing new ones every day.  Some that definitely stick out though are, Des Alps, which is when you get to watch the cows parade down from the alps; the school trip to Belgium, my favourite trip so far - the activities were really entertaining and the shopping was amazing! And lastly, the semester break trip to Zermatt. I had a great time on and off the slopes! I loved having mine and everyone’s parents around, they were all so lovely and wonderful to hang out with.

What made NJC so special for you?

Judith: Certainly, lifelong friendships are at the top of the list, but the experience of living in a foreign country (63 years ago being abroad was more “foreign” than it is today), living with the Morels, learning to live in another language, enjoying new food - chocolate truffles, artichokes, yogurt, fondue – and travel to Spain, Morocco and Italy were all part of the unforgettable experience. Broadening one’s worldview is a gift.

Rae: Although we had a lot of work, looking back now, it was also when I had the greatest sense of freedom. For the first time, I was an ocean away from my family, friends, and country. I gained a real sense that I could make it in the world, no matter how difficult things got. I even consider the darker times special. Through the lows, I learned: resilience, independence, and self-reliance. NJC introduced me to my first love and my first heartbreak. I often say that NJC was the best year of my life, but articulating exactly why is difficult.

Zoe: For me, there have been two things that have made NJC special for me. The first thing is my friends. I love being able to hang out with my friends after school, whether that entails doing our work together, taking group naps or watching movies, it’s always a good time. The second thing that has made NJC so special for me is my pension family. I lucked out with my pension. The family I live with are amazing and kindhearted people. They make you feel as though are truly a part of their family. Not only is the family amazing but, so are the other girls I live with. In the beginning, I was unsure about having four girls living in a house together however, since then I have changed my mind. I love that there is never a dull moment and that there are always friends at home. They are like the sisters I always dreamed of having. 

What do you love most about the shared experience with your mother/daughter/grandmother?

Judith: We share the experience of living ‘en pension’ and being far from home for the first time but what is evident are some of the differences. 30 years separate each of our time at NJC so our school experiences are quite different. In 1960/61, except in rare circumstances, we were not allowed to travel on our own. All communication with our parents was by mail – and there was lots of it flowing in each direction. A phone call required a reservation with an overseas operator, was very expensive and happened only once. By 1990/91, we spoke to Rae on a weekly basis and the family trip to Zermatt had been established. In 2022/23 email, face time and/or texting are commonplace and daily communication with Zoe is possible. Good? Bad? Different for sure. However, the emotional bond of a unique shared experience trumps any differences.

Rae: There is something sentimental about the three of us attending Neuchâtel. I didn’t realize how much fun it would be to share and compare our NJC adventures. 

Zoe: What I love most about sharing this experience with my mom and nana is that they get what I am going through. Although times have changed drastically since either one has been here, for example, technology, when it comes down to the nitty gritty they understand me. When I miss foods from home, wish I could give them a hug or am figuring out how to travel alone, they have done or felt the same way that I have. So, when I call them in a panic because something has gone wrong while I’m booking an airbnb or I’m trying to convince them to mail me my favourite treats they always know what to say. 
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