Hello! Or as they will say in Switzerland, bonjour! My name is Peter CampoBasso, and I will be writing this blog over the next twelve weeks about my journeys, trials, and tribulations in Switzerland. Why so dramatic about the trials and tribulations? I have never been abroad before! This will be my first time ever leaving the safety and comfort of the United States, unless you count my family’s one trip to Niagara Falls, where we were on the Canadian side for less than twelve hours. We didn’t even need passports back then! Thus, tomorrow will mark the first time in my mind that I have ever left United States territory!
Why did I choose to study in Switzerland? I was looking for a program in Europe where I could have a truly authentic European experience, but also where I could speak French. I chose this program in Lausanne over another in Paris because this would be an exchange program, meaning I would be studying at a European university with European students, rather than an American-run program with other American students. I thought this would help me to better practice the language, which is ultimately the real reason I am studying abroad. No better way to learn French than to be in a Francophone country! I am a Leadership Studies major with a concentration in Urban Studies, and a French minor along with an Education and Society minor. The classes I had to choose from at this University that I could take in French all seemed to fit most in line with my interests. Plus, I am enrolled in a three-week long French immersion program to prepare my language skills for the university classes. This was one of the biggest draws to the University of Lausanne, because no other universities that I was looking at offered a comparable program.
If I attempted to say that I wasn’t nervous about going, I’d be lying. Yes, I am looking forward to speaking French every day to the point where my brain hurts, yes I can’t wait to have a beautiful view of both the Alps and of Lake Geneva (or Lac Leman as I understand the locals call it) every day for the next five months, and yes I can’t wait to eat absurd amounts of Swiss chocolate. And not to be stereotypical, but I am so excited to live at Euro-sophistication status while I am away. But again, this being my first time leaving the US, this is bound to be a memorable experience.
The first day that I land will be one that I will never forget. I will land in Geneva after a nonstop flight from New York City, and have to navigate the Swiss rail network on my own to get to Lausanne, which is about an hour train ride. I hope I don’t get lost! I have this recurring nightmare that I will ask someone for directions, misunderstand them, and end up on a train to the Principality of Lichtenstein or something. Assuming I get to Lausanne in one piece, I will have to find my way to my hotel where I will spend the first two nights, and spend the rest of the day trying to entertain myself. Maybe I’ll do something productive like get things I need, such as bedding? Definitely not. I’m going to explore, the second that I drop all of my bags off in my room. If there’s one thing I learned from packing tonight, it’s that suitcases can fit far more than any suitcase company wants you to know. Every single empty air space in mine is packed with something. I was pretty impressed when I finished!
My biggest fear is honestly language. I feel pretty confident with my French language skills, but what if the Swiss have an accent I cannot understand? What if I can’t find the words to express something I want to say? Will I just have to speak English? I started taking French my first year at U of R, and two and a half years later, I find myself on the eve of leaving for the real test of what I’ve learned. One of my major goals is to speak as little English as possible so that I can improve my French immensely. I am confident this will happen.
In any case, I am as ready as ever to get on that plane! After seeing the Inauguration on Monday and having a stereotypical American dinner of burgers and fries, I can safely say that the past few days have been especially America-filled.
I’m ready for my journey. In my excitement to go abroad, I have been checking the weather in Lausanne every day for the past three months. I expect it to be around freezing with some snow on the ground. I am going armed with my new pair of boots I got in expectation of more snow than we could ever imagine in Richmond. It sure is a good thing that I grew up in New England and love winter! Be on the lookout in the next week for my post about my arrival! I will report on how well (or miserably) my first day goes, and have some pictures of the scenery! À bientôt!