This past February I went to Switzerland, to the town of Lausanne to study French for three weeks. While the classes were greatly beneficial, albeit quite difficult for me, the more memorable experience was the lifestyle I had while living there. I was lucky enough to meet a family – through my Aunt – who live about twenty minutes outside the city centre so I stayed with them for the three weeks I was there.
The Dad is dutch and the Mum is French so it probably wasn’t what you would call a typical Swiss experience, but it was lovely nonetheless. The three kids were aged 5, 11 and 12 and it was these three that really made the time so enjoyable for me.
Alyssa – the youngest – was studying ancient Egypt at the time, and she goes to an international school so in the afternoons I would help her with her presentation. We had so much fun learning about Tutankhamun and his tomb. She also showed me her skills in ballet. They pronounce the ‘t’ because they think it is how you say it in English, I tried to teach them that we use a lot of French words and so we pronounce them the same, but Alyssa couldn’t get her head around that idea.
Sarah, the eleven-year-old, was the first of the children I met. The day I arrived the other kids were away for the weekend so Sarah and I had lots of fun playing with her rabbits and going down the hill on their fancy BMW-branded sledge. Unfortunately, I was too heavy for the sledge and we lost control and hit a tree, breaking it completely, not a great start to my stay.
The oldest child, Tim, was a very much a boy. Always playing tricks on his sisters and parents and always keen for a wrestle. We had fun walking to his school one day and just having a chat.
Being the youngest child of four, I never had younger kids around me when I was growing up, so I never experienced the joy of being proud of younger siblings. My trip definitely changed this for me, though. I came away with a new family and three younger brothers and sisters.
I went to Switzerland hoping to improve my French and have a nice time away from the normal routine. And I certainly experienced both of those things. But the time I spent with my new family is a time I will never forget.
Matt van Geldermalsen