“Study” Abroad


This past Friday was the orientation day for exchange students. It started with a bottle of local red wine at our free lunch but then ended with a free tote bag full of brochures and papers.

For those of you who don’t know, I haven’t even started real classes. The first day of class is the February 18, but even then isn’t the real first day of class. For the French (as a foreign language) classes, we will be told on Monday after an interview with a professor, what classes we are allowed to take. For the regular university classes, the first day of class is basically an info session on the class. These classes are just two hours once a week. (If you’re feeling any jealousy, stop right there because I need to take SIX classes total.) We have three weeks to decide our schedule for these classes too. It’s been almost three months since I’ve been in classes so hopefully I remember how to study.

Les Truffles


Les Truffles

     After chillin in this amazing cafe called Cafe de Grancy for a few hours, I popped over to this little tea shop across the street. I was honestly just looking for some cookies, but when I didn’t see any I was guilted into buying something. (This was already after I had a chocolate croissant for second breakfast and a hot chocolate at the cafe.) Four francs later, I had three truffles: rum, amaretto and caramel. As you can see, I ate one before I took my camera out and it was definitely the rum one because I could distinctly taste the rum flavor. I died a little it was so good. I also spotted a poster in the tea shop that for vermicelli ice cream. It’s vanilla ice cream that looks like pasta and then is topped with strawberry sauce and shaved white chocolate. Looks like I know where to go once it’s ice cream weather!

Faux Francophone

Before I left for Switzerland, I was prepared (eh hem, petrified) to enter a completely Francophone world. Lectures, tests, roommates, friends. I expected the Swiss French culture to consume me. I was ready to be tossed into the ultimate language test of sink or swim. Thus far, it hasn’t been like that. Maybe it’s because I’ve mostly met Americans, Canadians and Australians. However, even from the other students in my class or people I’ve met, English is the default language. During my first week here, several specific statements about language stick out in my mind.

You’re lucky you speak English. My second night here, my Swiss friend and I got drinks and he dubbed me lucky to been a native speaker of English. Apparently it’s the language of opportunity, the language of success. I find this unsettling for two reasons. First, it reinforces a belief that coddles Americans into thinking one language is all you need. Second, he finds my language skills fortuitous, but I’m the one jealous of his ease at speaking German, French and English with some Italian and Spanish classes mixed in there too.

French is harder to learn than English. For the longest time, I remember hearing the English is the hardest language to learn after Chinese Mandarin. According to a Swiss German girl in my French course, that cannot be the case. She’s been studying French and English since first grade, but finds the former to be much more of a struggle. For her, English is easier because it dominates popular culture. Even as I walk throughout the city, I find it extraordinarily true: posters for Django Unchained, ABBA playing everywhere and English phrases plastered on various goods.

I don’t speak any of the national languages. Taking the bus back from our class tour, I was talking with one of my classmates in English. A man sitting next to us introduces himself as an Englishmen preparing his PhD at the technical school next to our university. After we mention that we’re here to learn French, he chuckles and says that he cannot speak any of the national languages. He’s been living here since October and still operates solely under the King’s English? That amazes me. I would expect a little more from someone growing up on this side of the pond.

Have you met anyone who speaks French? This morning my flatmat asked me that. I don’t know which is more sad: that that question even needed to be asked or that I easily responded with a no. Instead of having French being forced upon us, I guess we will have to force it upon ourselves.

Twist of Fate or How I Spent My 21st Birthday

Usually, I don’t like my birthday. Between too much attention, January not being in pool season, girl drama, losing my piñata bag, and a debilitating back injury, my birthdays are never outstanding. I was prepared for my 21st birthday celebration after only 7 days in Switzerland to be rather lackluster. My only goal was to not spend it alone in my room, drinking wine and watching a movie.

To my surprise, it was easier to work into conversation that my birthday was coming up. “How old are you?” “I’m 20 now, but my birthday is on Thursday!” Thus, plans were formulated. My birthday was also the day of our class’ tour around Lausanne, which I was excited for as well. It was going to be a full, day but a good day!

The day before my birthday, I met some international students who were going to the bar where I was to meet my friend at 5:30 for my birthday. For some reason, the bar closed before 9 so our night was still very young. We decided to go back to a girl’s apartment to keep the tiny party going. Apparently cooking and eating after 10pm is a thing here because they decided to make pasta when we got there. I wasn’t hungry because I ate at six like a normal person, but ate to be polite. And that’s how I got food poisoning.

I’m well aware that puking is part of the rite of passage for turning 21, but usually it’s from alcohol, not from undercooked meat. The morning of my birthday I felt like merde, but stubbornly thought that I needed to go to school so people didn’t think I skipped just because it was my birthday. I stuck it through the entire day and even through the walking tour of the very hilly city. At 3:30 I made it back to my apartment and there I stayed for the rest of my birthday. No night on the town, no drinks at 5:30, no little cake with a candle.

Surprisingly, I’m not completely distraught from my 21st birthday being overshadowed by my first case of food poisoning. Maybe it’s because I’m so chill or because I always keep low expectations. Maybe it’s because everyone was so nice: my professor gave me a bar of chocolate, a girl in my class gave me candy, the exchange students here said we’d celebrate when I’m better, my WU friends said we’d party when we’re reunited, the little cake and with a candle from my Swiss friend, the silly e-card of a cow from my parents.

Nevertheless, stay tuned for “Jordis’ 21st Birthday: Round Two!”

Mountain Views and How Do Ya Do’s

The other night, a Swiss guy told me that the only reason to come to Switzerland was the mountains. While he also said the best season is winter because you can do anything even though you freeze, I think I’ll trust him on the former.

Today was the first day of my “studies” at Lausanne. Before the three-week French intensive course begin, everyone takes a three-part placement test: written, listening, and oral. With nerves consuming me, I arrived at the testing area, listening to the Shazam remix of “We Are The People” by Empire of the Sun and “I Get All The Girls” by Calvin Harris to get me pumped up.

I was shocked by the dozens of people that came filing into the lecture hall where we were to meet. I was more shocked at the rapidity of some of the French for the listening section. After that came a quick break, a quick info session, and then an hour and a half for lunch. (They really like extensive lunch breaks here.) After whipping out a pick-up line of “Are you Americans? I can tell because we’re the only ones wearing backpacks,” I found myself exchanging phone numbers with these new people.

The suspiciously easy oral part of the exam ended surprisingly early and I was greeted with clear blue skies and warmish temperatures. With my spirits uplifted from conquering my first real day here, I decided to go for a run and venture around the lake. In about a ten-minute jog from my apartment, I finally stumbled upon the Ruines romaines on the lakeshore. After a quick burst along Lac Léman, I realized the views were just too gorgeous. I ran back to my apartment, grabbed my camera and headed back that way.

Even though the temperature was slowly dropping as I meandered along the lake, the Alps were just too memorizing. Some scenery and selfie shots later, I headed back to my apartment, rather pleased with my day. I had survived my first day at a new school, made (two sets of) birthday plans and snapped some amazing shots at the lake.