From Samy who spent the year in Switzerland
I left the United States crying my eyes out, hugging my family, and wondering, in the clearest of words: “What have I gotten myself into this time?” I did not know, at that teary-eyed, made-for-tv-moment, that I had gotten myself into the change of my life. I was also, blissfully unaware, that my entire worldview, self-image, and hopes for the future could so dramatically change in the span of one year. In short, I had not fully comprehended the tenacity of a Rotary Exchange Student.
Upon arriving in the Zürich airport; I stared blankly at the crowd of people waiting outside for the arrival of a friend or family. It was then that I heard the voice of my first host mother, yelling out, accompanied by my host father and sister: ‘Sääääämy!’ I smiled up at them and gave my first host family a huge hug despite my jet-lagged exhaustion. On the car ride to my new home, I was desperate to show off my (depressingly minimal) German, and stuttering through my words I managed to say that I had a father, two brothers, a stiff mother, and two stiff sisters. My first steps into the German language were greeted with friendly laughing that I happily joined into, thusly teaching me my first lesson of living abroad: don’t take yourself too seriously.
My first month in Switzerland could easily be renamed: “Sämy-Acts-Like-A-Tourist”. I believe my camera shutter blinked more often that I did. It passed by quickly and without much thought, but after about a month I got the thing every Exchange Student knows about but likes to pretend does not exist: homesickness. I cannot say exactly why it hit me so suddenly, however I can pinpoint the moment it cultivated itself — a simple request from my hostmom to keep my shampoo out of the shower. Somehow, this resulted in me shortly-after going to my room and crying my eyes out. I was left with two choices: a) continue crying, call home, complain or b) get up, go help my host mom in the garden, and get my mind on something else. I chose ‘b’, learned how to pick lima beans, and allowed my resolve to be stronger to not over react to unimportant things in the future.
Not too shortly after my arrival, the election for the United State’s president came about. Naturally, what preceded, was, in short, me getting interrogated about who I prefer, why I prefer them, and what I think about our last president, George W. Bush. I easily answered their questions on the big issues: health care, taxes, the economy. But, it was with the more obscure questions that I began to notice that the world was more than just the United States. That people in Switzerland really could care less what we were doing with OUR healthcare but more with what we were going to do to improve relations and help third world countries. And in the short period, I allowed myself to become all-that-more politically informed.
The final, and probably most drastic change was that now I can say I have a rather, well, clear ideal of what I want to do with my life. Before I left, I had some vague idea: help people, do something good, change the world. Now, I know my dream career (CNN correspondent), and I can take the first steps to getting there.