COLUMN: Far and Away

MHS student visits Switzerland in foreign exchange program


Mandy Petkovich, Foreign Correspondent

I just had my first months in a foreign country on exchange through Rotary. I have had ups and downs, but I have been strong through the help of my friends and family. Although I have missed the U.S., there are amazing things about Switzerland.


My first host family was amazing; they were patient as I learned German and fed me as much as I want, which is good because the food is so good here. My first family consisted of my host mom, Rita, and host dad, Andre. Livia is my younger host sister who is like a time capsule to when I was 14. My host brother actually went to Columbia on the second day I was here. My entire family was really good with English, which helped a lot.


For the first three weeks, I went to language school in Lucerne which helped a lot. German is also a good language to learn because words are almost always pronounced as they are written. There are a lot of rules to German, also; or maybe it has just been a while since I went over English grammar. Since I started going to school my host parents thought they should start talking German 24/7. Regular school is going pretty well, even though I can only understand every other word. I can already hear and see the improvement in my German understanding and speaking. It’s weird to think that three months ago, I couldn’t understand anything.


I miss home a lot more than I would like but when it gets really bad is when I’m doing something cool, like when I went to the tallest mountain in Switzerland or when I rode a gondola, and I wish my friends and family could be there with me. I am usually busy with school, Rotary, or friends/family. There are always times when I am in class or my family is talking that I feel alone and wish I could talk to my mom. I also miss American food like pancakes or pizza but not as much as I miss Mexican food. I only called my mom twice in the first month, which is weird to think about because I always tell my mom everything. Especially since all of my friends back home are in school it’s especially hard to know that people are doing things without me.

Culture Shock

I was told to think that things here aren’t good or bad, they’re just different, which has gotten me through a lot. An example would be how small the cars and roads are, and there are even smaller roads in the mountains, which makes no sense to me. Another one would be how many people bike on the side of the road with no worries about the cars. Also, there aren’t a lot of street lights so you have to trust the crosswalk, which is different. They don’t even have school dances, which kind of sucks, but at least my second host family owns a winery. I’m sure I’ll know more later, and I’ll let you know.

Overall, I still have so much more time and so much to do. While I do miss everyone at home, my new friends from all over make every day exciting. To everyone at home, keep me in your thoughts and keep me updated.