Heading home. For so long these words would fill my soul with warmth – to head back to a place filled with family, filled with home cooked meals, filled with ease. Yet, now I am back, and though all of these sentiments have been fulfilled, I find myself reminiscing on my time in the land of majestic mountains and meandering streams. A country that made each day seem like a fairytale, with new adventures only a short train ride away.
The time passed so quickly. In the blink of an eye, what once was green was gold and what once was gold, white. The formerly lucid lakes are frozen now. Snow has settled on the surroundings, giving a sense of formality to even the children’s park around the block. It was harder than I imagined to leave. Though I knew I would be coming home to the warm embrace of my parents and siblings, the lingering thoughts of all of the memories I had made in my small little apartment in Givisiez kept flashing through my mind. The view from my balcony of the sun setting behind the mountains after a long summer’s day, the leaves changing into their rich gold and burgundy hues, hanging tenderly from the branches of the giant oak just outside the kitchen window, and the peaceful snowfall that gave a sense of calmness to my pre-exam jitters.
Though the landscapes made for an awe-inspiring backdrop to the semester, the people were the lasting rays of sunshine that never disappeared beyond the mountains at the end of the day. From the ever-amusing and joyful demeanor of the Aussies, to the cohort of Germans who each added a special touch to my adventure and left me longing to speak their language; to the Belgians who had an unquenchable sense of adventure and an immense love for others, to the beautiful harpist who helped me with my French language study; to the loquacious Ticinese ice-skater who introduced me to life in la Suisse, to my fearless and fun-loving Canadian and Icelandic friends, my lovely and kind French, Italian, and Chinese amis, and my fellow Americans who had a love for travel and a bond that automatically tied us together. It is for friends like these — friends who served to expand my cultural horizons, who pushed me to challenge my perspective of the world and grow more convicted in my beliefs — that I will look back so fondly on my time in Switzerland for the rest of my life. Though the natural beauty of Switzerland will continue to beckon me, it is the people and the memories that I’ve made with them that will forever be engrained in my mind’s image of those landscapes.
Looking back through the various pictures I’ve taken over the course of the semester, I find it hard to detect the change that has occurred within me. Stationary. Immutable. Frozen in time. Pictures are such. They do not share the dynamic character of a moment in life; however, they do bring forth memories. They may not revive the moment completely, but a bit of the warmth, a bit of the awe, a bit of the amazement continue to linger in their still frames. To others they may merely be beautiful photos, but to me they signify a season in my life – a season of growth, of new beginnings, of wonder.
From my first fondue among the cows to my fond(ue) farewell among friends, I’ve been saying “cheese” from start to finish. Smiles have abounded and the sound of laughter has continuously filled the air. Though it is hard to say goodbye, I know that the memories I’ve made are ones of joy, of elation, of pure happiness – memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life and will follow me wherever I go. After all, “Je ne quitte pas la Suisse. Je la prends avec moi” — “I’m not leaving Switzerland. I’m taking her with me.”