Sometimes I swear I forget I lived abroad. Other times, I can feel the way my times in Switzerland impacted my present life, particularly my days attending international school as a young teenager.
Here’s a list of my Top Ten (no particular order) memories from attending my international school in Francophone Switzerland:
1. Having friends and classmates from what seemed like EVERYWHERE.
“You know, my friend from my school in Switzerland who lives in France but she’s actually half British half Caribbean…”
“No, the one who lived in Fiji after Sudan but we met in Switzerland in between.”
2. Going on field trips to the Swiss Alps, France, Morocco… etc.
While all of my American friends back home got to go to Washington D.C. for their 8th grade field trip, I went to Provence, France with my classmates. The next year, in 9th grade, I got to take an unforgettable trip with other students from different grades to Morocco for 8 days.
3. Hearing different languages every day.
From Korean to French to Spanish to Russian to Arabic… oh and let’s not forget English…
4. …And with that, being taught random phrases in these languages.
At fourteen or fifteen I learned how to swear in both Italian and Russian. I haven’t forgot since!
5. Exploring a new identity as an American.
I never thought of myself as an American until I was surrounded by those from so many other places on a daily basis.
6. … And navigating the identity of being an international student on top of being an American.
It was a surreal time, because not only did I have my identity as an American, but I had to try and understand what it meant to be an international student– an American abroad. My international student identity is what connected me to all of my foreign classmates. We were all so different in our upbringings and this was the one thing that tied us together.
7. Not taking anything too seriously at school.
I’m not sure if it was all international schools or just mine, but schoolwork was a low priority for most of the students. Fun seemed to be the main focus, and perhaps this was because of the constant uprooting. Most of the students had no idea how long they’d be there or where they’d be next, so homework didn’t seem as important as exploring and goofing off.
8. Eating all kinds of foods.
“I’ll give you my grilled cheese if you give me a bite of your sushi…”
9. Taking the train to Geneva from school.
My school was located in Versoix, Switzerland. It wasn’t too far from the city of Geneva, where, as 9th graders, many of my friends and I were able to hop on the train which was a brief walk from school. We would walk around Geneva and explore (and as we got close to the young drinking age… drink) and enjoy the freedom of being an adolescent in a place with public transportation.
10. Not having to be politically correct… at all.
You could call someone black, white, gay, American, Russian and use all the stereotypes in the world and no one cared… mainly because most of them were true. And even if they weren’t– it was never meant in a hateful way, but rather just a way of identifying in the chaos of an international environment.