Kaylin- Outbound to Switzerland
How do I explain the best two and a half months
of my life in one journal entry? It almost seems impossible to me that it
has really been two and half amazing months in Switzerland. It feels like it
was just yesterday when I arrived in the airport to meet the family that I
would be living with until December.
When I said goodbye to my family in Jacksonville
I didn’t feel as sad as I had expected. I knew I was about to begin an
adventure unlike any other. However, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous. The
flight was long and really tiring. But I was really lucky to have Matt from
Connecticut to fly with me. When we got off the plane we were both beyond
freaking out. I was so nervous to meet my host family and see my new country
for the first time. When I walked out into the main part of the airport I
was feeling so overwhelmed. I was trying to push my 3 suitcases on a cart
that was taller than me; therefore it was really hard to see anything. I
couldn’t really hear anything either because everyone was shouting. My head
was spinning and I felt like I was in a movie or something, then all the
sudden I heard someone call my name and I saw my host parents for the first
time. They were holding a sign that said my name and they looked really
friendly. When I walked over to them they each gave me 3 kisses on the
cheek. In Switzerland the kisses are really confusing. Close friends give
one kiss on the cheek, family gives three, and then other people sometime
one, two, or three. Therefore in the beginning I always found myself
dreading the hellos and goodbyes because I was always unsure of how many for
each person. But after a couple months I got completely used to it and it
seems weird to not do it now. With my host parents in the airport were my
YEO, Bernard, and my friend Nina, who was an Inbound to Florida last year.
Bernard was extremely nice and it was so good to see Nina again. Having Nina
there made me feel so much more comfortable and it was also cool to see her
in her native country. In the airport was the first time I tried Rivella and
I’m not going to lie it was a bit strange at first. Rivella is a fizzy drink
but Swiss people drink it like Americans drink Gatorade. Now that I have had
it a few times I love Rivella and I find myself drinking it really often. My
first impression of Switzerland was that it is the most beautiful place I
have ever seen. Literally you can go anywhere and everything looks like a
My first encounter with difference in Switzerland was the doors. In
Switzerland the doors are very different. They are a little bit difficult to
close and they have an extra piece that covers the crack between the door
and the wall. Then, when I try to lock them I have to do it with a key and
it doesn’t always work... Then to unlock them it doesn’t work as well so I
can find myself helplessly locked in the bathroom.
• Everyone here drinks water with bubbles and most people think that natural
water is gross. However, I think water with bubbles is the so disgusting and
personally it hurts my throat.
• Everyone here smokes… really everyone. It is impossible to walk down the
street here and not smell smoke.
• There are cows everywhere in Switzerland and I have a strange fascination
with them so every time I see one I always want to go up and pet it and for
Swiss people the cows are like no big deal. Also the cows wear bells so you
always hear cow bells everywhere you go.
• Bread and chocolate are their own food groups in Switzerland and naturally
• Hiking is huge in Switzerland and biking as well. I have been warned that
biking is really intense here so I haven’t gone yet. But I have gone hiking
a few times and I don’t think hiking and I are the best of friends... All
the time I see really old people on the bus in hiking gear and I always
wonder how they do it... Swiss people are like superhuman.
• Nobody can really say my name properly here so it has turned into Kyleen
• Everything is really small and close together here which is much unlike
• Public transportation is huge here and one of my absolute favorite things.
Switzerland is known for their excellent transportation system. I can reach
any village in the whole country via public transport so cars are almost
unnecessary. The trains and buses are extremely clean and comfortable so
there is no reason to not use public transport. Rotary Switzerland purchases
a GA for all exchange students which allows us to use all public
transportation in the whole country for free. That has been one of the
nicest things for me here because it makes it extremely easy to make day
trips to see all of Switzerland.
• Public transport in Switzerland is also known for being extremely
punctual. Therefore, absolutely everyone in Switzerland must wear a watch.
People are always in a bit of a rush here to catch the next train/bus/etc.
• I think that for me the biggest difference between Switzerland and the
U.S. is the people. In the U.S, I see so many individuals. There are so many
different races and people with different styles of clothing. But in
Switzerland most people look relatively similar and dress more or less the
I have been extremely lucky with my host
family in Switzerland. They are so wonderful, I really love them. I have a
host sister who is currently doing an exchange year in Peru and I have a
host brother who is doing his Swiss military year and is home on the
weekends. In Switzerland every male is required to undergo military training
but since the Swiss military in not active all of the men in training are
allowed to come home on the weekends. My host brother is in a special part
of the military that plays music because he is a really good saxophone
player. So he trains for military while also doing all the military music
concerts. When I first found out that my host brother would only be home on
the weekends I was a bit nervous because I have never been an only child
before and I thought it might be a bit awkward. But I couldn’t have been any
more incorrect. I like my host brother, but I’m glad that I have had the
weeks with just my host parents. It has gi ven me a better opportunity to
form a great relationship with them. My host family is quite special because
on the right side of our house is my host dad’s father’s house and on the
left side are my host dad’s uncle, aunt, and kids. So I really feel like its
a little family community here. Also every Saturday the whole family gets
together and has coffee. I really like this tradition because I have gotten
to know the other family members as well.
School here is good. It is really different. In
school I was able to pick what my main subject would be so I chose economics
and law. I have 13 subjects which include Chemistry, Biology, Geography,
History, Math, English, French, German, Sport, Art, Media, Economics, and
Law. In school here I stay with the same people for every class which is
kind of nice because I have gotten to know all the people in my class really
well but it also not so nice because I haven’t gotten to meet very many
other people. My class was really welcoming and nice. My host sister from my
3rd family is in my class so I have gotten to know her quite well so now
when I live with her it will be nice because we already know each other.
School is a little difficult especially in the beginning when I didn’t
understand anything, but I had to give a presentation for a project in
German for Biology. That was embarrassing to say the least. In the very
beginning of school I had a German clas s that I attended for 4 weeks every
morning for about 3 hours and then I went to normal school. I found that
really helpful because I could learn German and still make friends with my
Learning German in Switzerland is really
difficult because they don’t speak the normal High German, they speak Swiss
German. Swiss German is basically High German if you take out all
grammatical rules and say words however you feel like with some throat
noises thrown in there as well. Now that I have been here for two and a half
months I can understand almost everything when people are speaking in High
German and I can understand some things in Swiss German. However, speaking
is really difficult and that is something that I am really going to have to
work at. It takes so much courage to say anything and that is something that
I definitely wasn’t expecting.
I live in Zug, Switzerland and it is a bit
different than other cities in Switzerland. Zug is really international so
when I walk around the city I always hear other foreign people as well. I
like it because it is different but it can also be a little bit annoying
because absolutely everyone speaks English here. Zug is also really small
and there is only one high school so all the exchange students are in the
same school. There are 11 of us in the same school and that has been really
nice because I have gotten to know people from all over the world really
well and we are like a little family. I have also made many Swiss friends in
my school and on the weekends everyone hangs out by the lake in Zug, which
is really beautiful. I was surprised at how quickly I made Swiss friends
because before I came I was told that Swiss people are more reserved and
harder to make friends with but I didn’t really feel that way. I felt
immediately welcomed so for that I am really lucky.
My Rotary club is here was also really welcoming
and nice. My Rotary club is a bit different than a typical Swiss Rotary club
because the club is entirely couples. I think it is really cool to have a
Rotary club of couples because it gives the couples something to do together
for the benefit of society. I have been to my Rotary club meeting twice and
the last time I went I was invited to the Swiss National Circus and I am
really looking forward to that.
I have had the opportunity to do many awesome
things while I have been here such as:
• I went on a boat ride on the lake of the Luzern with my host parents and
then we rode the steepest cogwheel railway in the world up the mountain
Pilatus. From there I walked up the rest of the mountain and I could see
what seemed like the whole country from the top. It was really beautiful.
• I went on a cave tour with the other exchange students and a Rotarian. It
was really cool to see the inside of the cave which was under a mountain.
The cave is always ten degrees Celsius and being a Florida girl, I was
• I got to go to the French speaking part of Switzerland to see my host
brother perform in a military concert. It was really nice to see the French
speaking part because it is an entirely different culture than the German
speaking part even though it is in the same country. People in the French
speaking part are a little bit more go with the flow than in the German
speaking part. My host brother’s concert was really cool because he
performed with bands from Russia, Scotland, England, France, and the
Netherlands. At the beginning of the concert they started to announce things
in French and I was thinking to myself oh no… But then when they started to
translate into German I felt myself really relieved. It was a weird feeling
to be relieved that the announcements were in German because before German
seemed so confusing. That weekend my host family and I stayed in a hostel
which I thought was really cool because I had never stayed in one before.
• I have already had one Rotary weekend where I hiked up a mountain with 60
other exchange students and then stayed in a house on the top. That was one
of the best weekends of my exchange because I got to know all of the other
exchange students and the view from the top of the mountain was
• During the fall break I got the chance to go to Italy, which has always
been a dream of mine. The food in Italy was so good and the culture is quite
different as well. While I was in Italy I saw the leaning tower of Pisa,
soaked up the sun at the beach, went to Florence, went to Portofino, and
went to Genoa.
• I also had the opportunity to go to Germany. I toured the beautiful city
of Frankfurt and had the chance to see my German friend that my family
hosted last summer. Germany felt the most similar to America that I have
been to yet. It was really nice to hear High German everywhere because I
could understand almost everything that was going on. While in Germany, I
went to a blind museum. It was such a cool experience. In the museum they
gave me a stick and then told me to go into a room with nine other people
that is completely dark. Then they simulate it to make me feel like I am in
a train station and other normal daily activities. The blind museum was
absolutely terrifying because well obviously I couldn’t see anything but I
also couldn’t communicate very efficiently either because the whole tour was
Being away from Switzerland made me realize how
nice it is. Switzerland is the closest to perfect I think a country can get.
There is very little crime here and the country is so clean. It is now the
end of my fall break and I will return back to school tomorrow. In November
I will take a trip to the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland and in December
I will move to my second family.
Thank you Rotary
for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime!
I'm in love with Switzerland.
Me on top of Mountain Pilatus.
French part of Switzerland.
Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy.
Kaylin- Outbound to Switzerland
So much happens in one year, especially in one year away from the place I
have been for my entire life. This is experience brought wonderful people,
experiences, and a new country into my life. I have eaten Italian pizza,
seen the Berlin wall, and hiked in the Swiss Alps. I have been to more
places than I ever thought I would be able to visit at age 17. I have gotten
to know a new culture that I respect and love. I spent Christmas away from
my family. I have gotten comfortable speaking to people in a language other
than my own. I have made friends who live all over the world and also a
close group in Switzerland. I have learned that in many ways people are the
same and also very very different. I have been shown how accepting people
can be to strangers by the ways home were open to me with welcoming arms.
This experience has taught me to appreciate my own family so much more and
to really enjoy every moment of time. Not every moment of any year is
sunshine and butterflies and of course there were some low points, but I
know that the low points were almost more important than the high ones. I
have gotten to know the world a little better and I can now walk around with
a sense of confidence that I can always find my way. I am no longer nervous
about new experiences and instead accept new challenges with ease. The time
goes ever too quickly, but I know I will return someday soon to my now
second home. I am really excited to see what is in store for me going ahead
and I will take allI have learned from this year with me into the future.
Thank you to all the people who made this experience possible for me and
supported me when things were hard.