I find myself now, back in Australia, thinking about and reflecting on my experience. At first, a few memorable moments come to mind; sitting by Lake Geneva, enjoying the sun with friends and food; enjoying the view from a cable car, as it slowly ascends a mountain; dipping my feet into an icy lake, well deserved after a long hike. The memories I’ve made, and the things I have experience have left me with this sense of completion. The trip was whole, nothing was left unfinished, and nothing left to regret not doing.
I remember feeling anxious on my first day at the University of Lausanne. I scanned the room, taking in the colourful detail of the other students around me as I wondered which ones I would become close to. We had a language assessment that day, it was engaging and highly interactive. Once classes had begun on the second day, friendships were quickly made. After class we would grab our things and hurry off on the metro into town to quickly buy the necessary items for a picnic. Each would bring something and as we shared what we had brought, and laughed in the setting sun.
The classes weren’t like regular classes. They weren’t stand and deliver but instead were very focussed on developing communication skills rather than memorising grammatical structures and vocabulary. There was a lot of opportunity for students to express themselves and develop a degree of comfort and fluidity to their speech. My class had students from all over the world. This provided an unparalleled insight into the lives and cultures of other students like myself. Some were older, with children that were sometimes brought into class, and others were younger, still in high school. The diversity of the classroom was one of my favourite aspects of the course. It encouraged us to go beyond in regards to communication, there was an increased emphasis on how to communicate rather than what we are communicating.
Of course this trip wasn’t just picnics and classes. I did take some time for myself to explore Switzerland and its culture. One weekend I left Lausanne and got the train to Geneva to stay for the weekend. There I went to see the UN at the Palais des Nations, the headquarters of the World Health Organisation and Doctors without borders, as well as the International Museum of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. This was all in one day as these locations are all close by, Geneva is a small city with a big global story. On the second day, I explored Geneva old town, saw the location where the Geneva Convention was signed, and enjoyed the landscape by the shore of Lake Geneva. Closer to Lausanne, I went to the Montreux Jazz Festival with some friends one weekend as well. After class one day, some friend and I got the train to Bern where we then got another train to Kandersteg. Here we went on some toboggans at the top of a mountain. This was a good day.
My experiences in Switzerland will stay with me forever, the friendships I made are strong and I hope I stay in regular contact with them. This BUiLD abroad experiences has broadened my horizons and opened my eyes to the wider world out there. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity and I hope the skills I have picked up stay with me for life.
Hugo Franich – 98108780