Small, mountainous and wealthy, with a population of just
7.5 million, Switzerland
is renowned for its enviable quality of life in a country that ticks along like
clockwork. Its products are sought after the world over, from its delicious cheese
and chocolate to luxurious watches whose timekeeping is as sharp as a Swiss
Army Knife, another popular export from this sophisticated Alpine nation.
Switzerland's famed political neutrality, financial power and isolated location, ring-fenced by breathtaking mountains, have enabled it to play a safe but central role in European affairs. The conveniently central location in the middle of Europe has also made Switzerland a favourite meeting place for conventions and international conferences - Geneva, for instance, is home to the United Nations.
Switzerland is not only a place for professionals, though. As a stylish tourist destination it offers such top ski resorts as Zermatt, Verbier and celebrity-studded St Moritz, while the white peaks of mountains set against blue skies make a wonderful backdrop for summertime hiking. The ancient capital of Berne provides superb opportunities for sightseeing, shopping and traditional folk entertainment while the largest city, Zürich leads the way in arts, design and nightlife, from opera and world-class theatre to stylish bars and nightclubs.
Switzerland's unique political model is based on consensus-building, and, considering that the country consists of several culturally different groups speaking different languages (Swiss German, French, Italian and Romansch), its peaceful domestic situation is admirable. And while the Swiss in practice have been neutral in foreign affairs for several centuries, they are increasingly willing to get more involved in world affairs and deploy the skills in democracy and diplomacy they have developed domestically on the international stage. Switzerland finally joined the United Nations in 2002, and signed the Schengen treaty in 2005, showing their support for the European Union.
With thanks to World Travel Guide
Since I spent my year in Switzerland every time I tell someone I was an exchange student I always get asked the same question. "What was the best part?" It’s the hardest question to answer because I have so many amazing memories from my year away that I can’t choose just one part, a year is a really long time to experience new things and create new memories.
I was lucky enough to live near Zurich and go to school in the centre of the city so there was always something to do from going out with friends to relaxing by Zurichsee.
Thanks to my travel pass I got to travel through Switzerland whenever I had free time and I got to stay in some beautiful places with host families, my school and Rotex. I got to holiday on Lake Lugano, hike up a Swiss Alp and snowboard down another, spend a couple of nights in a bunker and visit a few castles here and there.
On one particular trip to Basel with Rotex we went on a hike where we got lost, tried to create some Aboriginal rock paintings, I attempted to light a fire using only a stick and a rock (naturally I failed), had a giant water fight, got lost and eventually stumbled upon a “hippy cult festival” in a ruined castle where they let us in for free because we were “poor exchange students”.
I also had the opportunity to travel around other parts of Europe where I could have lunch in Italy or dinner in Germany, spend the day at a theme park in Germany, see world famous sites in Paris, Prague, Vienna and Venice and I even had the chance to meet the Australian Winter Paralympics team in Austria who were staying at the same hotel as me.
Throughout my year I became friends with people that now I can’t live without from other exchange students to people at my school and I’m so glad I met them and still have them in my life.
My first choice for the country I would go to was France but I am so happy that I got my second choice and I wouldn’t change a thing about my year..even if I could.
have trekked into a miniature grand canyon to hear the mating
call of these deers that make it only one time per year. There we had a fire
and ate raclette in complete darkness, listing to the deers call.
I have been to concerts and dance parties and met people from Austria, Sweden and Czech. I have been swimming in Italian waters and hung out in a boat 1 km out with Italian boys, listening to them trying to convince us to come and party with them.
I live my daily life in another language, this in itself is such a wonderful thing!
I have laid awake not being able to sleep, first because my bedroom was light as day, and secondly from excitement in discovering that the reason it was so light was because after opening my curtain and window, seeing absolutely everything was white. There is an eerie calm that comes from snow, you have to experience it to know.
I have had so many fantastic experiences so far, it is really hard to put into words the feelings I have about this year. Already I am being asked if I am ready to go home, when it feels like only yesterday I arrived. I can honestly say, that so far in my life, doing this exchange was the best idea I had, and I have no regrets. I now have contacts all over the world, and am welcome any time. Ask your average 18 year old what life experiences they have had, and who knows what you'll get. Maybe they have moved houses or schools several times, or maybe they have holidayed around the world.
I, on the other hand, have LIVED and TRAVELLED Europe for a year!