Matterhorn Kate Mitchell

What I’ve really learned from my Exchange to Switzerland

Kate – Exchange to ZHAW, Switzerland

Semester 2, 2016

This photo truly sums up my experience here in Switzerland. Standing next to one of the tallest mountains in Switzerland the Matterhorn on a platform at 3089m above sea level in -7 degree Celsius weather that changes in the blink of an eye from sun to snow storm. This represents my experience here in Switzerland in many ways.

When I first arrived in Switzerland to begin my study abroad semester I felt like I was about to climb the most challenging mountain. With a new university, in a new country, with three native languages I didn’t speak and living by myself in an apartment block with 90 other new people, it felt like this mountain was truly looming over me just as the Matterhorn and twenty-nine other 4000m mountains did. As I began to tackle this mountainous challenge I realised that all I needed to worry about was soaking up every bit of the experience, and that I needed to take a step back and admire the view. I needed to see that I am in one of the most magnificent countries in the world with mountains, lakes, snow and so many other new experiences. I needed to realise that I could gain so much from my studies in a new university with people from all over the world who spoke more languages than I could count on both hands. But most of all I wanted to be able to look back over my time here and not be disappointed that I didn’t make the most of every opportunity. Finally, the feeling of standing in -7 degree weather was like nothing I have ever felt before. The way your face tingles and stings as if you have been slapped by the wind and your body starts to shake a little as it struggles to stay warm. This feeling is something I want to keep with me forever because it represents the shake up in my life and perhaps the slap in the face I needed. We can all get caught up in our daily routines and never step outside of our comfort zones because we are scared or feel too insecure. This experience has taught me to not be afraid of changes and challenges that seem overwhelming but to throw a few more layers of clothing on, strap on some warmer boots and enjoy the ride. Switzerland has brought out the best in me and as I get closer to the end of my semester and face the reality of coming home to sand and sun rather than snow and mountains, I can truly stand at the top of my mountain to admire the beautiful view and all that I have achieved and is yet to come.