I am a few days away from embarking on my five-month long adventure in Europe! I will be an exchange student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (otherwise known as ETH Zürich) in Zürich, Switzerland for the fall 2018 semester. This will be my last semester of classes for my undergraduate Environmental Economics & Management degree and I couldn’t be more excited! Because of this, I get to stay for ETH’s full academic semester (September through January). I am the only University of Georgia student participating in the exchange this semester. I came to UGA with a lot of my high school classmates so I am looking forward to this type of challenge and am hopeful that I can learn a bit more about myself during those few months. I have a diverse course load with classes such as Corporate Sustainability, Politics of Environmental Problem Solving in Developing Countries, Carbon Mitigation, and Foundations of Ecosystem Management. I think it will be refreshing to learn from new professors and experience how a European university is structured and run. Two weeks before the semester starts, I will be attending a beginner’s German intensive course. The only experience I have with a foreign language is Spanish, which is extremely different from High German and Swiss German! If I make it out of the course knowing how to say “hello” and “thank you,” I’ll be happy.
The most stressful part for me preparation-wise has definitely been packing. I’ll be experiencing my first real winter in Switzerland and I want to be as prepared and comfortable as possible. I also intend on visiting some warmer places and taking advantage of all the outdoor activities Switzerland has to offer during it’s seasons like swimming, hiking, and skiing. Will I manage to fit everything into two suitcases? I’ll find out very soon. Outside of packing, I am nervous about my living situation and, of course, meeting people and making friends! Will my apartment feel like a home? Can I navigate the city easily? Will I be able to connect with my classmates and the people in my building? Will language barriers be a big problem? Will people be interested in traveling with me and doing some of the outdoor activities I hope to do? I’ll admit it’s been a bit difficult to communicate with my contacts abroad so there are still some unknowns, but the answers to all of my questions will come soon enough! Trying my best to enjoy the whole process and not get bogged down by the details and my nerves. Counting down the minutes until I get on the plane!