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.
Shanghai, is a multifaceted city; a mixture of traditional and modern, and a mixture of Asian and Western culture. The Shanghai University SILC program was the perfect introduction to this enchanting city. The business classes, culture classes, Mandarin classes, tours and free time were all excellent but my favourite part of the program was the company I had. Shanghai University is extremely accommodating, especially the staff members and student volunteers (mentors). Even before I landed in China, I felt welcomed by Shanghai University through our interactions via email and of course, Wechat. My fellow peers from UTS were of course the highlight of the program for me. All the UTS students on the program (all females coincidentally) quickly bonded and we had a great time exploring the city together.
On the weekdays, we would have Mandarin language classes with Fairy, business lectures with different lecturers on their specialised area of teaching, various cultural classes such as traditional Chinese music and tea ceremony, and tours around different areas of the city. The rest of the time after class and on weekends, we had to ourselves to do whatever we wished. We really enjoyed the nightlife over there although some nights we did stay in for “Chinese TV and chill” just to unwind, play games and get to know each other better.
The traditional Chinese gardens and architecture were amazing to look at. It was simultaneously relaxing and exciting to explore. I also enjoyed interacting with the locals. We all had a great time using the Mandarin we learnt but when all else fails, there is always body language and pointing.
The cool weather in Shanghai was a sweet relief in contrast to Sydney’s blazing heat. Although I did miss Sydney’s fresh air. Being over there made me grateful (not for the first time) for being able to live in a country where I have access to clean air and water. The differences in culture, language and lifestyles were interesting to observe and appreciate.
I was initially apprehensive that two weeks would be too short a time to explore such an exciting city but it was the perfect amount of time. It was sufficient enough for me to do the things I wanted to do but left me slightly wanting more. It was a good taster for the city. I will definitely visit again in the future where I will no doubt look back on this experience with amazing friends that I would never have met otherwise. I definitely recommend this program (or any other overseas opportunity) to fellow BUILD members.