I Found My New Favourite City

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Château Chillion

I think I’m jealous of my own life. Is that possible? I’m not sure exactly how to explain it but it’s like today was so wonderful that I’m jealous of my former self. I can’t go back and live today again so I’m jealous of myself today. I have no idea if that makes any sense at all but it’s not a bad feeling. You know you’re doing life the right way when you wish you could redo your day right? Looking through all these pictures makes me want to rewind!

So today I went with my host parents (Amen had to stay home and study again *sad face*) to a town called Montreux. which is on the edge of Lake Geneva and faces a group of mountains. It’s absolutely breathtaking. I’ve passed it on my way to other places at least 3 times now, to and from Berne, to and from Zurich, to and from Sion. And every single time I’ve had the same thought; I have to go there before I leave. Today was finally that day and it was even better than I imagined. It’s the first place that I’ve been able to see myself living so clearly. All day I was thinking “I want to live here one day. I can see myself living here.” That and “Holy cow I’m blessed. Is this real life?” Haha, it’s an adorable little town and I loved it. Apparently it has an amazing jazz fest in the fall too. It’s probably one of my favourite places I’ve visited right up there with Dublin and Old Quebec City. One day, even if I don’t get to live there, I want to visit again 🙂

There’s also a famous château called Chillon right on the water that I went and walked around in with Laye. It’s amazingly well preserved and you actually feel like you’re in past. The best was the incredible views of the lake and the mountains you got when you climbed to the top of the tower! We also had a picnic lunch by the lake and then drove to the next town over, Vevey which (fun fact) is where Charlie Chaplin died! I know, I should let other people tell me they’re fun. If you didn’t get that reference, we can’t be friends sorry. Just kidding! 😉

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Me and my good friend Charlie

 

In Vevey we walked along the water front some more, visited the Food Musuem (yes, that is actually a thing) and competed in the fork contest. There is a giant fork in the lake and you had to take a picture with it…here’s mine.

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So anyway, that was my lovely day. I hope you all a had a lovely day too. I took a lot of pictures but I’ve figured out this fancy new way to display my pictures in a pretty gallery so I hope you enjoy them! If you click through, you can see the captions I’ve set for some them. Montreux and Vevey were both incredibly picturesque and worthy of having lots of pictures taken! There are also a few from yesterday when I went for a horseback ride at a farm and for a walk downtown to take typical touristy pics with the famous Geneva fountain! That’s all for now, school tomorrow which I don’t  think is something to be jealous of! But hey, make the most of everyday right? 🙂

Spring in Suisse

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Normally, I would say spring is my least favourite season. I might even go as far as to say I hate it. But Canadian spring is not like it is here. In Canada, spring is wet and muddy and cold and gray. The snow melts and then we get more. And then you start to see grass and the next morning it’s covered in frost. We kind of skip over any kind of nice springtime and head straight to summer by the time the weather warms up. Spring here in Switzerland is the kind of spring Canadians dream of. It’s warm (most days at least) and sunny and you can see the regrowth everywhere. It’s fresh, it’s full of new life and it just makes you happy because everywhere you turn there are flowers blooming and trees budding and literally birds singing all the time. Walking to school is like walking through a rainbow, the blue sky, the green grass and trees and flowers in yellow, purple, pink, orange and white. Add in the mountains in the background and the old looking houses with iron gates and I feel like I’m in a fairytale. All. The. Time. Nope, actually scratch that, Heidi. I feel like I’m in Heidi. I’ve always associated mountains with that story. #BookwormProblems (By the way if you haven’t read Heidi, go read it. It’s by Johanna Spyri and it’s a classic, wonderful book)

Suffis to say, the weather has been amazing and I’ve spent countless hours reading out on the back porch (in French of course!) and going for long walks in the sunshine. Even this weekend when it rained I didn’t really mind because spring rain is a special kind of rain which much to Amen’s chagrin, I love! The sound of it hitting the ground and the roof, the warm earthy smell, the warm, humid air after it stops is just wonderful. And again, much to the shock of my host family I went for a walk, in the rain. I can’t explain exactly why  I love it but it’s like the earth is getting refreshed and I am too you know? I’m not sure if that even makes sense. Overall, what I’m trying to say is that I’m loving spring.

Image The view from the balcony

This weekend I went to the Geneva Museum of Natural History with Amen and the did a little bit of shopping on Saturday. On Sunday I went to the Botanical Gardens which were amazing. I only got to see part of them so I am definitely hoping to go back. I took so many pictures! Also today, I went for a run/power walk which I know will be a shock for everyone who knows how lazy I am. But seriously, with a view like this, how can you complain?

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Believe or not, this is right in the middle of Geneva, the second largest city in the country. I discovered it completely by luck, walking straight out of a residential area into what appears to be the middle of nowhere!

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So, to sum it all up, it’s been a good week. Here are some of my favourite pictures. I hope you’re having a lovely day, until next time my friends 🙂

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Museum of Natural History

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Central Park and Botanical Gardens 

 

20 Differences Between School in Canada and Switzerland

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Hello everyone! Today I am writing about all the things I’ve noticed that are different about high school ( or collège ) in Switzerland than they are in Canada. I’m obviously not going to explain the entire schooling system because it’s very different from ours and a bit complicated (it’s taken me this long to get it all straight) but there are some very obvious dfferences! Sorry if it’s pretty random, I’m just writing them as I remember. Also, none of these things are meant to be negative. Different doesn’t mean better or worse,  just…different! 🙂

1. Number one is the reason I’m sitting in my bedroom on a Thursday morning at 11 am writing this blog post! Forget supply teachers, if a teacher is sick, class is cancelled and the students are free to study in the library, go home or really do whatever they want. No French class for me today!

2. So that last sentence was a lie, I actually have FOUR hours of French on Thursdays so I only got out of two. Why only on Thursdays? Because in Switzerland, your “program” changes everyday. Unlike in Canada where (if you go to a semester school like me) you have 4 classes at the same time everyday for 5 months, in Switzerland, you have different classes everyday of the week! It can be pretty confusing. For example, On Mondays I have art, history, French and English. Then I’m done with art and history for the week! Thursdays to contrast are English, French, Gym and French. (I have French almost everyday “yay”)

3. HALF DAY WEDNESDAYS. The absolute best thing about school here. At 11:30 on Wednesday, school is over and all the students are freeeee! It’s actually great because it’s like you start school on Monday and then it’s only two days until Wednesday. and after Wednesday, it’s only two days until the weekend! It make the school week that much more bearable.

4. Long hours. Enough said. No thank you, I would like to finish school before 4:30 in the afternoon. However, because of the changing programs, you can sometimes get out at 2:30, or not start until 10. My program however sucks and I don’t get any of that. I just love having more classes than my exchange partner! *not*

5. The actual school itself. Obviously not all schools are the same here or in Canada, so this is a direct comparison between JOA and Saussure. My collège here is pretty strange for me. Basically, if you disconnected all the hallways in JOA and stacked them on on top of the other, stuck the cafeteria underneath and the gym underground, you would have an idea of what Saussure is like. It is in total, 8 stories high and you can take the stairs or use the student elevators (just don’t use the teacher one by accident like I did, oops!) There are 4 gyms, and the library takes up most of the 3rd floor. It’s very different and easy to forget what floor you are on as they all look very much the same.

6. Gym class is taken so much more seriously here. Like I’ve been climbing ropes, doing handstands off a meter high board, flips, and balance beams and swinging on loops hanging from the ceiling. Cause we’re all gymnasts right? Also, it’s obligatory for all four years of school. Here are some pictures of my class.

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6. Speaking of obligatory, the kids here basically have no choice in what classes they take. You choose between German, Art or Music and you can pick Spanish or Italian. That’s really the extent of it. Enjoy chem, physics, math, english, french, geography, history etc for all four years. Collège itself however isn’t mandatory however and you have to have certain grades to get into high school. Otherwise, you can go straight into the workforce, get an apprenticeship etc.

7. You start/finish school one year later. I’m in a third year English class and they are all 17 and 18 (as opposed to 16/17 year old gr. 11’s in Canada)

8. You are with the same class all day, everyday. While the program changes everyday, the kids in your classes do not. With the few exceptions of art or Spanish (one of the few options) you are with the same group of students for every class for the entire year, much like elementry school. This makes catching up if you’re away easier I guess but if you aren’t in the same class as your friends it could be pretty sucky. There’s also the issue of gender imbalance as Amen’s class has only three guys in it and her friend’s has only 3 girls…who made these classes???

9. The marking system is odd as well. No precentages, you get a “note” between 1 and 6. Why 6? I have no idea. But you can only get a whole number or a half number. For example, you can get a 4 or a 4.5 not like a 4.8 or something. Strange but I guess it works for them. Oh and there’s no credits so you either pass or fail the entire year. About 40% of students repeat the last year at least once!

10. I know I already said gym was super serious, but honestly all the classes are. These kids do homework all night, every night, the workload is seriously crazy. If I ever hear anyone at JOA complain again…

11. Teachers are way more respected and have a lot more…authority I guess you would say. You would never talk back to a teacher here. All the kids sit quietly and listen and don’t talk in class. If you are talking, the teacher can just tell you to get out, I’ve seen it happen. In Canada, a lot of us (depending on the teacher obviously) are almost friends with the teachers, you can joke around with some of them and have fun in the class. There is definitely none of that here. It’s really strange. The only teacher I’ve meet here even close to acting like a teacher back home is my English teacher who I really like. The rest are very…cold I guess is a good way to put it towards the students and the students treat them extremely respectfully. Teachers show up 5- 10 minutes late all the time too and the class just waits but if you are late, the prof doesn’t have to let you in. Also, my French teacher looks exactly like John from Lost. That is all.

12. This is pretty irrelevant but they don’t really ever use lined paper. It’s all graph paper. And it (the binders) have only two holes, close together in the middle. As I said, irrelevant but still something I noticed.

13. Almost everyone smokes. I hate it. But there are little balconies on either side of the building on every floor specifically for that. It’s also legal to smoke and drink at 16, just thought I’d add that. But you have to be 18 to drive so haha!

14. No lockers. There are a few but they are less then a square foot and you have to pay to use them.

15. Because there are no lockers as mentioned, the walls are bare (okay not bare, they’re actually covered in student paintings which is cool) and so everyone just sits down in the hall. People walking just step over/around. It’s completely normal for an entire class to just be chilling on the floor outside the class.

16. “Poses”. I love this. Halfway through class, a bell rings and everyone gets up and leaves for a few minutes to get a drink, use the bathroom etc. It’s great because you get a nice little break. However, because of that, you can’t ask to leave in class for anything, you have to wait for the pose. AND THE BELL IS LIKE IN GREASE. Sorry, side note. The bell is like ding, ding, ding! Just like in the movie Grease when the principal wanted to make an announcement! Anyway, I like that.

17. No uniform! This only applies for Canadian Catholics school kids like me but is still awesome enough to mention!

18. The caf sells fresh pastries. Enough said #painauchocolate

19. PDA is over the top. Ew.

20. And finallllly. Everything is in French! Shocker! Sorry, I just didn’t want to have an uneven number of facts :p

So that’s about all I can think of for the moment, although I’m sure I’m missing some. Some of these differences are big and some of them aren’t, some are probably specific for JOA or Saussure and some could probably relate to every exchange student. Overall, school here has a very different atmosphere. Much more serious and in some ways I think students here have less freedom than back home. I know this was a longgggg post and some of it probably wasn’t very interesting…and no pretty pictures, sorry ’bout that! I’m still new to this blogging thing! Hopefully you made it that far and are left feeling grateful for the education you got/are getting because that’s what being here has made me! While I really like being here and school is interesting for a few months, I miss JOA and have come to appreciate the school system back home a lot. We have a lot of choice and are more allowed to be individuals.

Anyway, that’s the end! I’ve got to get back for gym class soon, pray I don’t break anything! Also shoutout to my sister for being awesome! If you’re reading this, I miss and love you a lot Mal! Have been thinking about you today and how proud I am to call you my little sis! Can’t wait to get back to our Thursday night sister dates, annoying each other, talking about life and forcing you to hug me 🙂

Hope everyone has a great day today 🙂

P.S. I’m reading Harry Potter en fracais and am rattled by the fact that “Hogwarts” has been changed to “Poudlard” Not impressed translator man, not impressed

Just An After School Trip To Narnia

Okay so maybe it’s not exactlllly Narnia, but today after school I went and had a look around the neighbourhood…turns out there’s a forest and gorgeous river at the end of the road! It was absolutely beautiful and it did feel like you were in some kind of fairytale or fantasy world…like Narnia! I’m not the greatest photographer and back home it’s not something I even really do but here, everywhere I go is just so breathtaking that I feel compelled to try my best to capture it! Hopefully you can at least get a sense of how amazing Switzerland is! Anyway, this is one of my new favourite places in Geneva 🙂ImageImageImage ImageImageImage Image ImageImageImage ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage ImageImage ImageImageImageImage

Today, I Fell Down A Mountain

Salut! Wow, these last two weeks have absolutely flown by, I’ve been super busy. Not even busy per say, more just settled into life I guess which is always busy. There have been however several occasions that probably called for their own blog post but I’ve just been lazy/unmotivated/otherwise occupied to write. So here it is! The summery of the last two weeks, abridged! (And then you can laugh at today’s embarrassing story)

First was my birthday on the fifth. One of the best things about my birthday was that even though I wasn’t at home, I had a bundle of letters and cards to read through from some of my friends and family which made it extra special! Thank to Mom, Dad, Auntie Susie, the Quinns, Moriah and Victoria, you guys rock! I also came home after school (half day Wednesdays are amazinggg) to a special lunch and presents from my host family! 🙂 Skype with some family back home and lots of Facebook messages made it an overall great day! Seventeen and still can’t drive hehe #SamProblems. Then again, I AM in Switzerland, not a #SamProblem There was also a joint birthday picnic by the river for me and Yandira on the Saturday which was lots and lots of fun.

On another note, can we just quickly address the fact the BAGELS DON’T EXIST IN EUROPE. Personally, I think that’s a tragedy so I made some for my host family, they were both confused and amazed and wanted to know why I was boiling bread and putting holes in perfectly good rolls. Now however, they love them and I have a feeling I’ll be baking them again soon! (Also, you can buy yeast in a gas station in Europe)

I also went on yet another adventure this week, by train and with a bunch of people who, for once, speak English! Woo! Who you may be asking? The other exchange students of course! Wow, that last sentence sounds way lamer than I thought it was going to but I’m leaving it in anyway wanna know why? It’s my blog and I can sound lame if I wanna, lame if I wanna. Okay, sorry. Please don’t leave and never come back. I’m getting to the funny story about my public humilation soon, I promise. So right, Bern! Or Berne, depending on if you speak French or German. Which for the record is a very interesting sounding language.

I got to meet up with a bunch of the people I had met on the flight, SPEAK ENGLISH for a whole day (!) and basically catch up on everyone’s experiences while touring the Capitol City of Switzerland. Combine that with getting to miss school for the day and you get a good trip. I feel bad for everyone else who was in our train car because a bunch of kids who have been barely able to communicate for weeks are VERY loud. We all were talking over each other and yelling every time someone said something relate able! There was also a Harry Potter incident that resulted in tears…

To sum that day up, English, friendship, laughter, cathedral, museum, more laughter, more English, shopping, Toblorone McFlurries, bread, annnnnd to all of you who wanted to be mentioned, Sarah, Olivia, Grace, Michael, Owen, Alex, Chelsea, Eva, Valerie, Tori, uhhh yep think that’s everyone 🙂

And finally the moment you’ve all been waiting for (I hope you all realise I found a productive use of my embarrassment by making you all read my blog heheh sneaky). Today Amen and I went to France to do some skiing. With my florescent pink snowpants, and Canadian mitts, it should have been a great day. But then came the too small ski boots dun dun dun duhhhh. I told the guy they didn’t fit but did he listen? Noooo. On second though, maybe my French is just so bad he couldn’t understand “trop petit!” But I decided to trust the professional. Afterall, I hadn’t work ski boots in years, maybe they were supposed to be that tight? Right?

Wrong. I could feel my feet by the time we got to the top. After only 2 runs my legs were literally giving out on me from lack of blood (When I later took the boots off, my feet and lower legs were actually blue). But I didn’t want to ruin the day so I just grinned and bared it. Until I couldn’t. Because although I realized today that I actually still am quite a good skier,  when your feet are numb, it’s kind of hard to keep control. And so down I went. Please keep in mind this is not Snow Valley. These are the freaking Alps. But you know what I was okay. I stopped grabbed the ski that had gone flying and tried to put it back on. And that, my friends is when I REALLY fell. Like head over heels, half rolling, half sliding, unable to stop and trying desperately to hold onto my poles and remaining ski. I crashed into one guy and he went down, crashed into another which send me going backwards. Wanna know where I finally came to a stop? In front of the packed ski chalet, where there were probably 50-80 people staring at me and laughing. Yep. I probably have the worst luck ever. Amen came and helped me up after she finished laughing and some guys had picked up my dropped equipment for me. For the record, not hurt haha so that is one bonus. And that was the end of my ski day. I returned the stupid too small boots and headed out. Sorry, one tumble like that is enough for this girl!

I was pretty frustrated that my day hadn’t gone as planned but you know, everything happens for a reason. I will never know the reason God didn’t want me up on that mountain this afternoon, but it was probably a good thing with my track record haha. Anyway, hope you guys back home are all doing well 🙂 Missing you, but having a good time. That’s all for now, enjoy your snow and this large and random assortment of photos from the last two weeks…take a look a what I’m expected to do in gym class, handstands and balance beams and front flips oh my!

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Sam In The City

So the plan was for today’s blog post to be about my first week of school butttt I went on an adventure today and I figured that was much more interesting anyway! School can wait…

I have to say that today has been one of my favourite days in Switzerland so far. The sun was shining, the sky was the perfect shade of blue and it was cool but not cold. So, after lunch my host parents Laye and Shif and I went to the Old City of Geneva and took a look around. Amen, unfortunately has a couple of tests tomorrow and had to say home and study 😦 We went to the Saint Pierre Cathedral and Laye and I climbed up…and up and up and up and up to the highest point in the city. You can walk all the way around and get a panoramic view of the city. It was magnificent! Seriously, so incredible. And like I said, it was a perfect day for it, nice and clear so we got a good view of the mountains, the famous water jet, Lac Leman, and all the pretty old buildings.

After the dizzying decent all the way back down the narrow spiral staircase, we kept walking through the old, narrow, cobblestoned streets. We stopped and had “marrons”, roasted chestnuts in a little paper bag and then we got to the Swiss Museum of History and Art. That’s right folks, I got to go to a museum! Most people probably think that’s super lame, but those of you who know me know that I loveeee museums. And it was super cool because it was free to the public, you just walked in and looked around as much or as little as you wanted. One wing was all cool historical artefacts, mostly from Geneva or at least Switzerland. Swords, armour, etc. One area was set up like a 1500th century “château” and I loved that!

The other wing was all Swiss/French artwork which was slightly less interesting for me but still very cool. Especially the stuff by Pablo Picasso because he was the only name I recognized! Not going to lie…his looked like they were drawn by a 4th grader. But you know what, I’m am not by any means an art critic and I still liked it!

So yeah, and then we walked back through the village to the car and drove home for a croissant and a cup of tea . A very lovely day by any standard. Now I’m just relaxing and writing and then tomorrow is back to school…maybe I’ll also write about school tomorrow. Who knows! Until then, enjoy these photos of my wonderful day! I hope everyone else’s Sunday was just as great 🙂 Blessed to be having this wonderful experience with such a great family in such a beautiful country and city!

Ps….only 3 more days of being 16 whoo!

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