She Shoots! She Scores!

Halla '24
What brought you to NJC?
HP: I initially came to NJC to play hockey in Switzerland. I had been living in Belgium for a year and the hockey opportunities were scarce and low quality.  When my father’s colleague told him about a Canadian high school in Switzerland that his children attended, we were immediately interested. Swiss hockey is very well known so we began to look into the school and the opportunities to play here.

How did you connect with the local team to play hockey? What has your experience been playing in a foreign country?

HP: We connected with the team by emailing the head coach and manager of the Neuchâtel Hockey Academy, letting him know about me, where I was from, and that I was considering attending NJC the next year and would like to play on his team. He invited me to a tryout for their women’s team in February of 2023, the winter before I would attend NJC, and it went amazingly; it was probably the most fun hockey I had since leaving Canada when I was 12. The coaches were very pleased with me and I was able to play for their second division team this year, constantly training with their first division team; however, I was unable to play with their first division team as I don’t have Swiss citizenship.
My experience playing hockey in a foreign country was nothing new, I lived in Germany for three years and Belgium for one, playing hockey in both countries, which means I know how to adapt to new environments and cultures. Making friends and meshing well with the team is always hard at first, but you learn to grow and love each other, and it was quite easy in Neuchâtel especially since I speak French. Playing hockey in new countries means you can travel, mature, grow as a person, and broaden your horizons and expectations of others. It’s not scary, it’s incredibly fruitful.
Tell us about your last game in Zurich. What happened? Why was it so important to you?
HP: My last game in Zurich was probably the most memorable experience I have had in Neuchâtel. It was a friendly match that we arranged with Zurich's team, as we already had our last season match in Bern a couple of weeks before. We played in the Swiss Life Arena, the place where the Zurich men and women’s D1 teams play. Our team took a tour of the building, learned its history, and had a chance to watch the PFWL’s final match before our game. I also had the chance to see the statue and the stick of my mother’s very old friend, a Canadian hockey player from Manitoba who played his last games in Zurich before passing very young, which was so special to her. The whole team was ecstatic, most of us had never played in such a big arena, and at this point in the year we all felt like family, truly just enjoying one another’s company. In this game we won 9-0, with me scoring two goals and earning two assists which was a very special ending to our season. Everyone was having so much fun and playing in probably the most cohesive way we had all season.
This match was so important to me because it signified the end of my minor hockey career and the end of a great era on this team. I have been playing hockey competitively since I was four years old, and since leaving Canada I have played in over six countries with my teams. The success of this match was such a beautiful climax in my years playing hockey, and I felt proud of myself for all the hard work I have put into this sport, and my life. Of course, there were tears from me, and the other two foreigners that I have become very close with this year, a French girl, and an Italian girl who also moved to Neuchâtel just to play on this team. Finishing these 14 years of playing hockey with a rewarding match was the perfect way to end this time of my life.
How have you managed to balance your hockey schedule with school? What obstacles have you faced and how did you overcome them?

HP: Managing hockey with school is not easy, but it's something that I have been conditioned to do for so many years. Something that really helped me balance my schedule is taking advantage of any free periods I get in school, using them to do needed work, and get ahead in classes. When hockey takes up four hours a day five to six times a week I don't see that as a problem when it comes to school, I actually find hockey to be the thing that brings me the most peace and serenity, and when there’s times that I’m not active or not in season that’s when I get the least work done. That’s when I feel the least productive.

One of the biggest obstacles I faced this year was how late my practices were, which is not new to me, it was just particularly difficult due to the fact that I don’t have my parents to drive me to hockey. I’m used to late practices and long drives. In Germany hockey was 100km away, an hour by car, where practice would end around nine, getting me home by ten, and I would use this time when my mom drove me to do school work and catch up on anything missed. The difference in Neuchâtel was that training ended every night at 10:15, and my bus wouldn’t get me home until 11:30, meaning that my homework needed to be done after hockey or before 5:30, which was usually when I left for training. I could tell that these late nights were the thing that made me the most tired, which led me to take many more naps during the day to make up for it. This did help a bit, but constant fatigue just became a normal thing for me during these times.
What has been your favorite part of NJC so far?
My favorite part of NJC so far has to be the opportunity to live with a pension family, and the ability to make some great friends at school. I have very deeply connected with my pension family where I feel as though my pension mother is my real mother. We are so close and have such an amazing relationship where we can share anything with each other and I will always be grateful for her, and the fact that I can feel like I will always have a home with them in Neuchâtel. Living with them has also given me a great opportunity to improve my French and learn some Italian from them. Going to NJC has connected me with some of the greatest friends I have ever had. The friends I met here are the people I can see myself being connected to my entire life, people that I know will always love and cherish me as I do them. My friends at this school are so special and unique and I am so grateful that I was able to meet them here. 
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