Kate – Exchange to ZHAW, Switzerland
Semester 2, 2016
We all love the comfort of our homes. Home cooked meals, our own bedrooms and spaces, and being surrounded by the people we feel the most comfortable with. We feel safe and protected there and life goes on in our little bubbles. Moving to Switzerland, living away from home for the first time and starting at a new university has all definitely popped my bubble.
I live in Camp AXA, which is an apartment block for international students in my university’s town of Winterthur. There are ninety students living in the building in individual rooms but sharing kitchens, bathrooms and shower facilities. There are thirteen people in my kitchen and with whom I share bathrooms and showers. In Australia I live in a house of five people and two dogs and that seemed plenty to me. Now living with ninety people in one building who all speak different languages, come from different cultures and backgrounds and study different things, it has been a big and exciting change.
It’s a strange feeling to come home and not have your family there to greet you but the people in my kitchen and surrounding rooms have become my family. As we are all international students living away from home, we all share the same fears, hopes and excitement. We teach each other our funny customs and slang from home to which I’ve shared plenty of Australian slang and even a jar of vegemite. We talk about our family and friends back home but also our plans to travel and explore whilst we are away. We all have this connection of being away from home that allows us to bond and become close. We are learning to go it alone together, whether its deciding what to cook for dinner because we’ve eaten pasta three nights in a row, or making sure we have everything covered in terms of visas, permits and Swiss bank accounts. They are now the people I say good morning and goodnight to and the people with whom I share my day. We share the days we are feeling homesick and the days we experience something we never thought we would.
I did not know how things were going to be when I arrived here. I didn’t know if I’d fit in or if I’d make friends. I didn’t know how I would be able to communicate with people without speaking at least the traditional languages here. I also feared that I was not ready to embark on such a big adventure and that I would be too scared to really experience life here. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I know I am extremely lucky to have the ability to study and live in another country. Especially when I get to live in the most beautiful place I have ever seen. My journey here has only just begun but I am so excited for everything to come. From the Christmas markets in Strasbourg, to concerts in Munich and weekend trips to Poland, I have so much to look forward to. I want to continue to explore Switzerland and see the sights of Geneva, Lugarno and the many mountains. I hope to continue to meet new people and to tackle the German language. Home will always be there waiting for me, so for now I need to make the most of my time in beautiful Switzerland and get as much out of this experience as I can.