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Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Long Awaited Update

My last post was in December... It's now April...

As you can imagine, I have a load of things to write about.  I'll get through as much as I can in one post, but I may end up covering some things later on.  I'll also be working backwards chronologically in this post, so we'll be starting with the most recent things.

First up: handball.  For about a month and a half I've been going to handball practice with my host brother, Nando (for those who are unfamiliar with the sport, it basically takes the dribbling and possession system of basketball and combines it with the goal and keeper of soccer).  A couple of weeks ago, I got invited by the coach to come with on a international tournament in the Netherlands.  The trip was amazing, and I got to add a new country to my list!  I also met so many new people and made so many new friends!

Selfie on the bus!

One of my new friends, Andrina!

When girls get your phone...


Another thing that I've done a couple times now is skiing.  Last year, we had a Swiss exchange student at our school named Mathilde.  During the winter, I asked her what she thought of skiing in Wisconsin.  She told me it was fun, but it was nothing compared to back home in Switzerland.  I now understand what she meant.  Skiing in the mountains is amazing!!!  So far I've been on two ski trips: most recently a school sponsored day trip to Davos, and then a couple months ago for an entire week skiing in Zermatt.

One of my classmates, Fabio.

Skiing around the base of the Matterhorn.

Looking over the Italian side.

About a month ago I got my first opportunity to visit a country outside of Switzerland.  I went with my host family on a day trip to the city of Milan, Italy.  We went to visit my oldest host brother, who was studying there.

I'll close things off with New Year.  On New Years Eve I went with my host family and my friend Nikki (Canada) to Zürich.  We hung out and had a great time until 11:50 when we gathered at the shore of Lake Zurich to watch the fireworks at midnight.  It was an amazing display; a great way to celebrate the beginning of 2016!

Host mom (top left) and Nikki (top right)
Host brother Nando (bottom left) host dad (bottom right)

That'll be about it for this update.  There was a lot less writing than normally, but you know what they say: a picture is worth 1,000 words.  I am also about to start two weeks of spring break, so I should have some great things to write about going into that.  As always, if there are any questions about my adventure, please feel free to comment on the posts or write me an email!

Bis bald,

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Deutchkurs, Matterhorn, and a Fresh Start

Hey, it's been a while.

Now that I finally have some interesting things to write about, I can post something new here.

To begin, I've started the second German class in Zurich.  Most of the same wonderful exchange students from the first are still there, but there are also some new people who I'll have the opportunity to get to know better!  Just like in the last course, they gave us all a test on the first day and split us up into two different groups based on where we are in German.  Apparently I've come a long way in the past few months, because I tested into the higher level class!  Another thing that this second class will do for me along with giving my German a boost is to give me the opportunity to take a test for an official diploma.  While that doesn't sound all that interesting, I'm really happy about it.  If I succeed in earning it, it would be an official certificate saying that I am fluent in High German, which would be amazing for adding to a resume.

Another thing that's great about being in a German class again is it means that I'm seeing other exchange students again on a regular basis.  I find it pretty amazing how quickly and well exchange students bond with each other.  My guess is that it's because we are all in the situation of being in a country where we don't speak the language or know the culture, and the other inbounds are the only other people who are in it with us.

This past weekend (November 29-30) was the Rotary Matterhorn weekend.  It has definitely been one of the best parts of my time here.  All the Rotary exchange students in Switzerland came and stayed in Zermatt, which is the town just under the Matterhorn.  We had an amazing time doing all sorts of different activities over the two days that we were there.  On Saturday we got to explore Zermatt before having cheese fondue for dinner.  That evening we went to a restaurant/club and had a disco for a few hours, which was like a party without alcohol.  We went back to the restaurant where we had the fondue afterwards to have desert and do a bit of karaoke before heading back to the hotel and going to bed for the night.

The next day we had breakfast and packed up before heading out and taking a gondola into the mountain range.  We explored inside a glacier in the mountains, which was super interesting!  We spent some time up there before coming back down to have lunch.  After lunch we walked back through Zermatt to the train station and headed home.

Finally, the day that this is posted is the day that I've switched host families for the first time.  I'm now living with my second of three host families.  So far it's been great, and I love the family!  I have three brothers, although two of them are usually only home on the weekends.  My other brother, Nando, is in my class at school, so I already know him pretty well!

I do apologize that there are no pictures included in this post.  For some reason Blogger is not letting me insert pictures from my computer, so I'll have to find a way to fix that...  All the pictures that I've taken will be on my Facebook page with captions so you can find them there.

That's all for now, but I'll keep posting whenever I have something interesting to write about!

Danke, und bis Später!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Three Weeks of Updates

So, it seems to be almost four weeks since I posted last.... Plenty of stuff to write about, so hang in there, this is gonna be a long one...

The school week after my last update was pretty special.  Each year, many schools around Switzerland do what's called Project Week.  Basically, the students in the schools who do this get split into groups (the number of groups vary based on how many projects there are, which varies with each different school).  Groups have their own different project that they carry out throughout the week, most of which involve some sort of community service thing.  I got assigned to a group with a very interesting project: we got to hang out the entire week with refugees who are staying in Appenzell.  These refugees were from a range of countries, many of which were African or Middle Eastern.  It was an amazing time playing games such as soccer and frisbee, and doing different activities such as learning songs in other languages and exploring Appenzell. It was great to make more friends from around the globe!

Lunch during a hiking trip we took during the week.

Going down a really fun bobsled type ride with a friend from my class.

The weekend after Project week one of the other exchange students here came and stayed with in Appenzell with my host family for the weekend.  Her name is Cassie and she's from Canada.  On Saturday we explored the nearby city of St. Gallen, and then we went into Appenzell on Sunday.  It was also was the first time either of us had Swiss fondue, which my host mom made on Saturday evening.  Swiss fondue has definitely been one of my favorite swiss meals that I've had here.

In Appenzell with Cassie the weekend after Project Week.

The two weeks following Project Week we had off school, so there were plenty of interesting things that happened:

The Tuesday of the first week was very.... well... interesting.  The first Tuesday of October, Appenzell has what's called a cow parade.  The just of it is that the farmers walk their cows from their farms in the hills into town.  They wear very traditional Appenzeller Swiss outfits and the cows have the huge Swiss bells.  In town they have what's basically a cow beauty contest, and then they are walked back up to their farms in the evening.  My host dad's brother owns a farm and he brings his cows down to this every year, but this year my dad couldn't help because he had to work, so since one more person was needed, I got to help walk the cows.

On the way there it was pretty fun.  You have a wooden stick which helps you control the cows by corralling them and wapping them if you need to.  Once there we got to eat lunch in a restaurant and hang out for a while.  The way back is where it became substantially less pleasant.  As we left, it began to pour rain.  So I'm behind a group of cows in the pouring rain when the dumb things decide right then and there to... relieve themselves.  I just so happened to be in the unlucky position where much of the cow crap got on my pants.  After an hour or so of this we finally reach our destination and can dry off and go home.  Overall, I'm very glad that I was able to do it because I felt like I was part of a big Swiss tradition.  

Arriving at our destination

The next interesting event was the follow Friday.  There is an annual expo/festival in St. Gallen called OLMA.  It usually starts the first Friday of October and lasts for 10 days.  There's a massive area where they have pig races and contests for animals and different events.  I went with two other exchange students that first Friday to OLMA.  We didn't go in the main area itself since you had to pay just to get in, but we went to the carnival-like area surrounding it.  

Part of the carnival around the main OLMA center.

On one of the rides with a friend from Australia.

The following Sunday was a pretty big highlight of the vacation.  I left on Sunday with my host parents and host sister towards the rest of Switzerland.  We stopped in Luzern and saw the city, which was really cool, although it was very touristy.  From there we drove to an area where you can see an amazing range of mountains where we had dinner, and then we went to the hotel where we stayed which was next to Lake Luzern.  

The iconic bridge in Luzern.


This mountain is called Jungefrau.

The next day, we left for a town called Oberdiessbach where we found distant relatives who live there and own a hatchery and a mechanic shop.  I saw the farm where my great-great-great-grandfather lived and also got to see the surrounding area, which was really amazing.  We had lunch with one of my great-grandfather's cousins as well as his son, who owns the mechanic shop.  

Erb Mechanic

While visiting the area, we climbed this tower where you could see over the forrest and spot a mountain range in the distance.

In the tower there were these signs with the exact distance from that point to major cities around the world.

The farm where my great-great-great grandfather lived.

The relatives we met in Oberdiessbach.

The second week was a little more laid back after the trip to the west.  Last Tuesday I was in Zurich with another exchange student, and I made two more trips back to OLMA, once with exchange students and once with friends from school.  

Playing a giant chess game in Zurich with my friend Madison from Arizona.

At OLMA with my friend Miguel from the Philipeans.

As for upcoming plans, I don't know of much.  I plan on doing a second german class like the one that I had the first two weeks I was here.  When that starts I'll be in Zurich twice a week with other exchange students who are doing it.  I'm not quite sure when that begins, but I'd guess within the month.

As always, if there are any questions, please feel free to ask by leaving a comment or sending an email to

Bis Bald,

Monday, September 28, 2015

Hiking, City Exploration, and Food

The past two weeks have been fairly boring as far as super special events or trips go.  It's basically been me getting into the groove of school and making some friends.  The most noteable things that have happened have been the past two weekends.  Last Saturday and Sunday I was in the town of Alt (old) St. Johan with Rotex.  Just two days ago (Saturday, September 26th) I went down to St. Gallen for a small Rotary meeting with my German camp group.  Basically, to try and keep the post interesting, I'll talk about what happened these two weekends, and then also talk about some things that I've been asked about or told I should mention.  Also, sorry to those who try to keep up with my blog posts.  I imagine it's hard when the amount and times of posts are so unreliable, but there is something addressing that at the end of the post.

So for those who aren't familiar with Rotex, they are students from Switzerland who have been on exchange in the past few years and, now that they are back, organize trips and weekend activities for the inbound exchange students.   A lot of Rotary districts around the world have Rotex groups, including my district, which I plan to join when I return and become a rebound.  Last weekend was their first inbound event for the exchange students on the east side of Switzerland.

I left from Appenzell by train on Saturday to meet up with some other exchange students, then together we went all the way to New St. Johan where the rest of the group and Rotex was waiting.  We when by bus higher into this valley area until we reached Old St. Johan.  We took our belongings up to the dorm building where we would be staying and doing some of our activities, and then set out walking through the town, and then trekking through the hills.  Everybody from my German camp was there, but there were also many, many other exchange students who I hadn't met and got to know better.  When we got back to the dorm, we at dinner and then got split into groups for different competitions.  I got nominated to represent our group in Limbo, which I actually won!  Afterwards we got to hang out for a few hours.  I played different matchups of foosball most of this time, which was really fun.  I played with a Swiss guy who had stayed in the United States on exchange and had definitely picked up on our American patriotism.  We took on Canadians, Philippines, Australians, and plenty of others.  It was super fun, and we won... well, I'll just say we didn't lose all of the games and leave it there.

The next day we packed up our things, and then went hiking out to a waterfall in another part of the valley.  After seeing that and walking back through the town, we got our things and took the bus back to the train station in New St. Johan where we did one last activity with Rotex.  After we finished we all started to say goodbye and most people got their trains back home.  I stayed in St. Johan for about an hour with some of the Australians since most of them took the train back to St Gallen with me.

The American inbounds and the Rotex who had been to the United States on exchange!

When hiking into the hills on Saturday, we saw a house waving an American flag, which us Americans thought was pretty awesome.

The waterfall on Sunday.

Walking back into Old St. Johan.  It was a bit rainy, but still really nice!

This past weekend I was in St. Gallen with my language camp group for a Rotary meeting.  The meeting itself was pretty standard; they walked us through the travel rules in some detail and then split us into smaller groups and asked us different stuff like if we had been to visit our Rotary clubs yet, and how we were doing in our families.  Afterwards, most of our group decided to stay in St. Gallen and hang out for a bit.  We went up a hill overlooking the city and hung out there for a little bit before heading back down into the city.  After a little bit a lot of people left either going home, or going to hang out in Zurich.  The ones of us who decided to stay went and visited a huge church towards the middle of the city.  Now, I have seen quite a few large churches in the United States, on my Guatemala trips, and here in Switzerland, but this church was easily the most glamorous that I have ever seen.  It was very breathtaking.  We stayed around the church a bit before some of the others had to catch trains home and there were only four of us left.  We went and explored a plaza near the church before finding a place to eat and just talking for about an hour, and then catching our trains home.  

Hanging out on the hill overlooking St. Gallen

Some friends from German camp: Nikki on the left from Canada, and Saki on the right from Japan.

Walking through the streets of St. Gallen

The Church we visited.

I don't think that the pictures I took do justice to what we saw inside the church.  It was stunning.

One thing that I have been told I should talk about is the the food that I've been eating here.  There have been a variety of things I've had here, some of which I never knew existed.  There are the things I expected like Bratwurst, cheese, and the knock-your-socks-off-insanely-amazing Swiss chocolate, but there have also been things that were pretty interesting, such as a dish I had which was some sort of meat (if I had to guess I would say chicken, but I'm not sure) that had cheese and ham on the inside of it.  Another thing that is pretty big here is fondue, but that actually isn't something I've had yet, although I'm 100% sure I will while I'm here.  Yes, they have McDonalds here, and no, it's not super different, although they have potato wedges, shrimp, and you can buy flavor packets for your fries.  The last thing I want to say, is that, while they do have chips here, you a pretty much limited to two flavors: regular potato chip, and Paprika chips.  Now, when I first saw Paprika chips, I was somewhat of a skeptic, especially since this isn't something I've ever seen or heard of before in the United States.  They are amazing.  There's not much  I can say about how they taste other than that it's amazing and you should order a bag online to try for yourself.

Finally, I know there have been all sorts of people who have visited this blog, and some of them happen to be my old/current teachers.  To you: I would absolutely love it if you were to show some of the posts on this blog to your classes, and encourage them to send me an email asking any questions they have about the country, or being an exchange student themselves.  I know in some of your cases, this would even apply to your class!

It has also been suggested that I start a Facebook page, that way I can post pictures there, people can ask questions, and you could also be notified when there is a blog post.  If this is something you think would be helpful for you, please let me know by leaving a comment.  If I do start a page, I'll put the information on the blog.

If there are any questions about Switzerland or what I'm doing here, please feel free to leave a comment or send an email to me at and I'll be sure to answer!

Bis Bald,