Lust Auf Abenteuer! Switzerland is more than just chocolate and cheese, more than the Alps and the seas, it is more than dairy cows with ringing bells, and it is more than one can imagine.
I landed in Switzerland on June 25 to a place that I was lucky to call home for the next 2 months. I stayed in four different homes and become a part of four different families. Two families were in the canton of Bern, one was in the canton of St. Gallen, and my last host family was in the canton of Basel.
My first home was a bed and breakfast with goats, chickens, and a garden. It was in the rolling hills in Bern. My second home was an organic dairy farm in the Bernese Oberland Alps with views of the Thunersee and Mount Neisen with a garden and sheep that were in the alps for the summer. My third home was a laying hen and apple farm with a view of the Bodensee from some areas of the farm. My last family that I was able to be a part of was an organic beef farm with a family restaurant that completed the farm to table experience. They also had a beautiful garden, rabbits, and chickens.
My time in Switzerland was inspirational in several aspects. It is a very interesting thing to get off of a plane and be greeted with a smile and a board that has your name written on it and then hop on a train to go stay with a family that you have never met before, in a place you have never been to, in a language that you can’t comprehend. My families were all very loving and engaged me in daily activities and took me to see the beauty of the culture of the country from an insider’s perspective. I am very grateful that at least one member of all my host families were able to speak English and were very patient with me when there was a language barrier. The love of being welcomed into a home with open arms inspired me to believe in the good in people again.
Spending time in the countryside was magnificent and beautiful and I was so lucky to stay in the families and homes that I did. The landscapes were amazing and varied in such a short time span from being mountains, valleys, foothills, seas, rivers, and waterfalls. The way that the people from the culture used the landscape was beautiful as well, such as going for hikes every week or thinking about the environmental impacts of their farming practices. I felt like the agricultural system of Switzerland was more incorporated into the everyday life of people in the country and people cared about what they ate and where it came from. This can be seen through the wanderweg’s (hiking trails) that ran through pasture fields and the mutual trust of the farmer’s and the walkers.
I learned a lot about myself, my interests, and the Swiss culture during my two months. Here is a list of some of my favourite things about this country that could each have a paragraph about how wonderful they are in this country and culture: flowers, wooden houses, cheese, chocolate, bread, cows, cowbells, friendly people, language dialects, landscape, small family farms, wanderweg’s, patience, biodiversity, and care.
I recommend if you get a chance to apply for an exchange with Junior Farmers because you get to see a part of a country that you may not necessarily get to see, you gain families, and you learn a lot.