Some people have been wondering why I haven’t posted in so long. Well, for the past 2 weeks I have been at a Rotary language camp for the January Swiss inbounds and there was no wifi and hardly anyone had a swiss sim yet! There were 26 of us altogether, aged from between 14 and 18. There were 17 from Australia, 5 from New Zealand, 3 from Argentina and 1 Brazilian. Here is the weirdest part: there were 3 Jaimees (including me)! I don’t think I have ever met another female Jaimee! The first time I met one of them she said ‘there is three of us’ and I replied ‘yep there are drei of us’ which is 3 in german. But Jamie thought I was speaking in english and was so confused as she thought I was saying that we were dry! So now we have a joke where we say that we are ‘pretty damn dry’ and that drinking water might make us moist not dry!
The camp was located in a small city called Bischofzell in North-East Switzerland. The town is home to a lot of factories used for food production and many people kept complaining about the smell that lingered in the air. Each day after lunch we were allowed to go exploring the town which was lots of fun. There were heaps of super old houses that we took cool photos with and we spent heaps of money buying junk food at Migros and Coop (which is like Woolies and Coles).
We stayed in a large building with a kitchen, common area/dinning room, 2 classrooms, 7 bedrooms and one large music room. We were put into rooms with exchange students who lived close to us in Switzerland. Each room techniqually had 1 massive bunk beds with 8 matresses and we were given sleeping bags that belonged to the swiss army so they ere extremely warm (some nights we had to open the window because it was so hot)! Below is a picture of my room which was taken on our last night so not all members were present although we had another girl sleeping-over (which was not allowed but no one cared because it was our lastnight together!)
Speaking of last night, we were all super sad to say goodbye to each other which to other people might seem super weird having known each other for two weeks. But there is somethign special about the relationship between exchange students that is really hard to explain. Past students often try to describe it but you don’t actually know what it feels like until you spend 12 days with literally no privacy attempting desperately to speak a language with each other that you do not understand one bit! They have all become my second family here in Switzerland which is such an amazing thing! Each night after dinner we would all hang out in each others rooms (trying not to fall asleep) eating chocolate and telling funny stories. That was my favourite time of day where everyone just was so relaxed and I felt like I was surrounded by brothers and sisters.
The 26 students were split up into 2 classes. I was put in the larger class with 15 people who are easily a group of the funniest, friendliest and most hard working people I know. Every day we had about 6 hours of lessons with short breaks every couple of hours. At the beginning of the language camp we were given a textbook, a workbook, a notebook and vocabulary book and we filled them up very fast with the amount of german being shoved in our heads! The first few days were mainly just going over the basics that most people already knew like counting but in the last week we covered topics such as past tense. The hardest thing that we learnt was definitely the nominative, accusative and dative. This is a hard to explain when you aren’t learning German so I won’t even bother but it was very challenging and I still don’t fully understand it! Every night we were so exhausted after lessons especially the first few days where half of us were still Jetlagged (some people at arrived a week before the camp others, like me, had arrived 2 days before). The teacher (who is one of the best teachers I have ever had! We were all super sad when she left) did not speak to us completely in German but often she would say a task and we had to try and translate it. At the beginning of the day she would go around the classroom asking people really basic questions in German so that we could practise answering (i.e how old are you, where do you come from, what is your favourite colour). Below is the only picture I have that was taken in our classroom but it is pretty funny. It is a drawing of a girl called Chloe (who is from Australia and goes to my school here) which was drawn by Holly. She drew this when we were learning about body parts so that we could label a diagram.
Breakfast was super unhealthy (mum: you would not approve!) but it was really good. We had bread with nutella, yoghurt, cereal, hot chocolate and other beverages. We ate breakfast in the common area next to the kitchen where their were rows of tables and chairs. But breakfast was served at 7:30-8 everyday and after a few nights of going to bed at 11+ half the people weren’t bothered to get up so in the last week lots of people missed brekky.There are some pictures which again are not very good pictures as they are just photos that someone took from my phone when trying to figure out the portrait mode
Lunch was in one of the food factories that I mentioned earlier and we ate where the other workers ate. Ok, that sounds kind of gross but we got to eat in the event room upstairs and it was definitely the best food we ate all day (chips, meat, vegetables, rice, pasta). That is of course if you exclude the pizza that we had for lunch one day! Oh my gosh it was good.
For dinner we ate at a retirement village and most nights the food was completely wacko. One night we just had soup and bits of bread with tuna and gherkins which I took an extremely aesthetic photo of (not!). See below! One night we just had fruit pie for dinner. One night we had curry (which was good) but there were slices of pineapple and peaches on the side. On the first night the vegetarian people were served french toast with sugar and pear.
In the breaks between lessons everyone was peckish so we would often go down to the common room for a snack. They offered hot chocolate and bread with nutella :-)! We could also nibble on our own chocolate stashes that we kept in our rooms! So if you haven’t picked up on it yet – we are all about 10kg heavier now!
During our first week, we had a night full of singing. Unfortunately I was sick with a temperature and headache on that day so didn’t enjoy it so much but if I hadn’t been sick it would have been lots of fun! We sung some swiss songs that apparently were songs that every child learnt when they were young. This included yodelling: hooladoli doolidooli hoolidolidolidolidoli!! This was something that every one sang for the rest of the camp. We also sang some Mamma Mia songs which everyone loved. And finally at the end each country had to sing their national anthem. They were all amazing and luckily Australia had the most people so we were nice and loud! I have a video of us performing except it is too large a file to upload on my blog 🙁
One night, to practise our german numbers we played a massive game of bingo. Problem was each time someone got a row (which wasn’t very hard) they won an entire block of toblerone so by the end we all felt sick from so much chocolate. Some people got about 4 blocks! Each time we got a row of Bingo we had to read out all our numbers in german so it was very good practise.
On our last day at camp we had a flag parade where we walked in order of country. The person at the front held a frag from the respective country and at the back of the parade were students carrying rotary and swiss flags. We also performed a swiss song for the host families that were picking up their kids.
Whilst on camp we went on two day trips. On sunday we all hopped on a bus and drove for an hour to a place called Rhein falls which is basically just a massive waterfall. It was super cool! We went into a castle sort of thing and then walked down the (many) steps to the different lookout points right next to the waterfall. On the way back a couple of people including me were not told that there was a lift so we all walked up the stairs and were completely puffed and everyone else just walked out of the lift casually. Then we went into a museum for the Rhein falls and finally had a lunch of chicken nuggets which everyone was excited about because chicken is not common here.
Later that day we drove to a small town called Schaffhausen where we went into another castle and stood on the roof which had a very good view of the whole village. Then we got a little bit of free time and drove home for dinner.
Our second trip was only half a day to a bigger town called St. Gallen. We caught a train there that took 20 minutes and we had the most beautiful view of the Swiss countryside and the woods. Eleanor (a 17 year old from Australia) and I plan to go back there and walk along the trails. In St. Gallens we went inside the most amazing library I have ever seen. It is one of the oldest libraries In the world and it is hard to describe how beautiful it is. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures but you really would have to see it with your own eyes to understand how awesome it was. There were these gorgeous detailed paintings all over the roof that were just so amazing and then you were surrounded by thousands of really old books and manuscripts. After the library we went to a cathedral that was just as cool with heaps of amazing artworks and religious statues. Then we got a few hours of free time where basically everyone went shopping to all the cheap shops. I only bought a belt but most people bought 10 pieces of clothing.
A random point:
This is just one weird thing about switzerland that I thought I would mention. The bells! Bells are ringing all day everyday everywhere in switzerland and Bischofszell was even worse then my home town. They ring for so long at a time and they ring not even on the hour; just random times! It’s so strange and is sometimes pretty annoying cause they wake you up at night but most of the time I like them. My house in Biel literally has about 4 churches with bells surrounding it!
Anyway sorry for the really long post. But watch out because I have about 3 other blog posts coming so get ready for a post about my trip to Zermatt, my first few days at school (which have been good in case you were wondering but you will hear more next week when I have holidays) and after this weekend I will tell you about Rotex Winter Weekend!