My experience in Switzerland was truly one of a kind! I had the most hospitable host family and was given an entire room to myself in their home, while also being treated to the most amazing home-cooked meals I have ever tasted. Breakfasts consisted of fresh squeezed orange juice and croissants with fresh jam or Swiss chocolate Nutella, and lunches and dinners ranged from delectable mushroom pasta dishes to fresh Caprese with Italian mozzarella cheese and a glass of wine to top it off. I felt so spoiled.
It took a few days for me to get used to the structure of my days. During the week, while the mom and dad went to work and the son Riccardo went to school, I’d head to the city centre using public transportation and would wander around, plop myself into coffee shops for some writing, and enjoy the beautiful sights of Lugano. Unfortunately, I endured a random four-day rain spree, which apparently was an anomaly for May, so I was not able to do as much outdoor exploring as I would have liked. But Lugano has so many nooks and crannies, and there were always places for me to visit even despite the rain.
I’d usually get home an hour or so before dinnertime to teach Riccardo his daily English lesson. One of the things I learned quickly is that children in Switzerland know many languages. Schools in Lugano teach them three to four languages, starting with Italian and adding on languages as they mature. English is the last language they learn, and these lessons usually don’t start until students are fourteen. So, with Riccardo only being twelve, it was a very new experience for me to teach English lessons to someone who essentially didn’t know the language. It forced me to be creative in my approaches with him, but ended up being so rewarding when I saw how quickly he was catching on and how certain phrases would “click” once he understood the context. We’d even have mock conversations in English so he could practice believable day-to-day situations, and he learned so quickly.
On the weekends, my host family was gracious enough to drop everything and take me to some of the most beautiful places. The days were packed with driving and exploring new cities, and I loved every second of it. Some of my adventures included visiting Locarno, and walking around the colorful Piazza Grande and taking the trolley up to to Chiesa Santa Maria Assunta, which is one of most incredible views of Switzerland. I visited the quaint arched-stone bridges of Valle Verzasca and marveled at the clear turquoise waters that ran along the highway. I was treated to a day trip to Lucerne and spent time wandering the narrow, cobblestone streets of the city, and also got the chance to cross the border into Italy to drive around Lake Como, take the ferry to Bellagio, and eat fresh fish while overlooking the tranquil lake. Switzerland and Italy are absolutely stunning countries; every place I visited looked like it could have been on a postcard and I felt as though I were walking around with my jaw dropped to the ground in awe.
All in all, this program ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences. It was not without its challenges—any time you go to a country where you do not speak the language, it’s a bit of an adjustment—but I feel as though I learned so much about the culture and about myself and would certainly recommend this experience.