The Things We Leave Behind: The Road to Switzerland

It’s a surreal feeling. In a week, I’ll be leaving behind the comfort of familiarity. It hasn’t quite hit me yet but I can feel a certain weight inside me as the countdown ticks, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0… And then the inevitable will be surging me forward into the unknown and the foreign.

I don’t know if there’s much that you can do to prepare yourself for such a dramatic life-altering event in your life. Some people take it better than others. There was a time when I almost caved in to the insecurities and the fear of the unknown.

The only thing that really kept me going with the ‘Road to Switzerland’ was the fear of the alternative- the what if’s. What if I didn’t go through with it? Would I have been in a constant state of regret as I finished university one year earlier and with one less degree? Would people be disappointed that I had hyped up my going to Switzerland to study for a year only to have it fall through because of this immature, gripping fear? If anyone would be- should be- disappointed in that outcome, it would have been myself.

My decision to stick it out has led me to complete a never ending list of to-do with a pinch of frustration and anxiety.

  • Apply for the host university, check.
  • Apply for a student visa, check.
  • Apply for student accommodation, check.
  • Apply for the pre-semester French program, check.
  • Apply for the OS-help loan, check.
  • Pass French, (barely) check.
  • Resign from work, check.
  • Re-apply for the OS-help loan (stupid government), check.
  • Send an e-mail in English to the accommodation manager only to get a reply back in French, check.
  • Reply back to the accommodation manager with a curt Merci pour votre réponse, le jeudi est parfait. Bien cordialement, check.
  • Procrastinate practicing and revising French, major check.

Well, I won’t bore you with this endless to-do list with a pinch of frustration and anxiety. You get the point. I mean, I figured from the beginning that there would be a ton of paperwork needed to be completed and filed and sent off to various places- but I just never knew how endless and inconvenient it was. The whole process had kind of left me feeling a little spiteful and sour.

But whatever, this is meant to be the year of my life, right? I don’t doubt it for a second. I know that once I settle in Switzerland and the initial wave of culture shock and homesickness subsides, I’ll be revelling in the beauty that is Europe.

Right now, my room is a mess, my e-mails and French correspondents are giving me a headache and I’m still debating how many shoes I really need to bring. I’ve also lost all motivation whatsoever to sit down and open my French exercise book and study. It’s okay though, I’ve got the basics covered:

Désolée, mon français est mauvais,
c’est possible si nous pouvons parler en anglais s’il-vous plait?

I think it’s interesting how in the last month of my time in Australia, I’ve started taking notice of the little things; like how I’ll miss playing the piano and how nice it is to have a queen-sized bed. How the sky is so impeccably blue and how the tree in the backyard that I can see from my bedroom window sways gently in the summer breeze, playing shadows on my blu-tac’d wall. I’m leaving it all behind, and I’ll miss it gravely. I never knew how much I loved Sydney until now. Or perhaps it’s the familiarity and comfort that I love. There’s no way that I can prepare myself for the homesick-pang that I’m already feeling. I just have to persevere, march on, and be brave.

2014; the year of challenges, as I’ve labelled it.

Now, I just need to figure out which items in my wardrobe are going to make the trip to Switzerland with me (a harder challenge than I ever imagined).