Category: Stories from International Students

 

Adventuring in Switzerland

By Jocelyn Forrest, Sophomore Student from British Columbia, Canada

(Editor’s Note:  In May and June, Jocelyn traveled to several European countries to see and learn about new places and to reconnect with current and former Castleton students along the way.  She wanted to reflect on her experiences by writing a series of stories for the blog.  This is Jocelyn’s second of three stories.)

 

I don’t have much to say about Switzerland since I was there for just over three days, and I only visited one place.  However, I can tell you why I fell in love. I first fell in love with this country when taking the train from Zurich, a main city of Switzerland, to Interlaken, a small town and my desired destination. Almost the whole ride I was entertained simply by the mountains that stood a short distance away from the train’s view. It was hard not to look.  When I arrived in Interlaken, I was in awe. It is completely surrounded by mountains. I compared these mountains to tall buildings in big cities- that’s how close they were. The only difference being that you can hike up or take a cable car up any of the mountains. I arrived in my hostel in Interlaken late at night and it was hard for me to fall asleep because I was too eager to begin adventuring Switzerland.

Interlaken is built on a narrow stretch of valley, between the emerald-coloured waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, and it has old timber houses and parklands on either side of the Aare River. In addition to its surrounding mountains, it has dense forests, alpine meadows and glaciers, making it an easy and desirable attraction for adventure travelers. Many travelers go there to do adventure activities offered such as paragliding, skydiving, canyoning, mountain biking, hiking, white water rafting, bungee jumping, paddle boarding, snowboarding, skiing and more. My first day I rented a stand-up paddleboard which took up the first half of my day. After that I went canyoning, which is the sport of exploring a canyon by engaging in such activities as rappelling, rafting, and waterfall jumping. It was by far the best thing I did in Switzerland and one of my favourite memories of Europe.

Later that evening back at the hostel it was karaoke night. Balmers Hostel is one of Europe’s first and most famous hostels. It has pool tables, ping pong tables, a life-size chess board, an enclosed backyard with hammocks, a bar, and a club. The atmosphere is amazing and the staff is great. Each night, there is a different themed party. This particular Tuesday night it was karaoke and it was a blast. People from all over the world got up to sing whatever they wished. I even got on the floor with two other Canadians to sing the Canadian national anthem and everyone was really into it!

The next day, I went white water rafting with a group of 40 people, which I had booked through the hostel. We rafted on emerald-coloured glacier water along mountains and small villages. The two-hour rafting trip ended with an opening to a beautiful lake and we settled there for a while. Switzerland isn’t as hot as Italy, but it was still hot for a Canadian, so jumping into the lake felt amazing. While I was there, the temperature was around 26-28 degrees Celsius.  Therefore it was a bit hotter than I was used to but not too hot, another reason I really liked Switzerland. For the remainder of the day, I relaxed on a hammock and walked around Interlaken. That night, it was beach night at the hostel and this was one of my favourite nights in Europe. I met people from Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Nova Scotia, Switzerland and the U.S. for a total of just fewer than 20 people. We exchanged travel stories and desires.  I learned a lot from them.

It was during these moments in talking to other travelers when I was reminded how important it is to travel. My destination before Switzerland was Amsterdam, which I absolutely loved, but on the last day there and en route to Interlaken, I had a lot of fallouts and hit a breaking point of feeling homesick. But this feeling ended when I arrived in Switzerland because it was very similar to home. I’m from British Columbia, Canada, which is surrounded by mountains so the scenery in Switzerland brought me comfort. Also the people I met in Switzerland were very relaxed and kind people, like Canadians. Switzerland is in my future as I hope to play pro hockey there once I graduate from Castleton and if that doesn’t work, I will go there anyway because sky diving from atop the Swiss Alps is on my bucket list. To end this, I will finish with this quote I stumbled upon: “Switzerland is a place where they don’t like to fight, so they get people to do their fighting for them while they ski and eat chocolate.”

Jocelyn Forrest

Slowing Down in Sweden

By Jocelyn Forrest, Sophomore Student from British Columbia, Canada

(Editor’s Note:  In May and June, Jocelyn traveled to several European countries to see and learn about new places and to reconnect with current and former Castleton students along the way.  She wanted to reflect on her experiences by writing a series of stories for the blog.  This is Jocelyn’s first of three stories.)

 

Earlier this summer, I began my five-week European trip in Sweden, and I immediately fell in love with the country. The Swedish people are very kind, classy, and gentle. It is a nice change from the more outgoing and “loud” nature of us North Americans. Everyone dresses very nicely there, at all times. What they consider pajamas, we consider a normal day outfit such as leggings and a loose t-shirt. The majority of the clothes worn in Sweden are navy blue, black, grey, or white—-in other words, you don’t see a lot of colour. Most of the vehicles are made by Volvo, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Volkswagen- even their semis are Mercedes Benz. There are no trucks and not many “not nice-looking” cars there.

I love Sweden, and I blame this on my newly acquired addiction to coffee, thanks to Fika. A Swedish tradition, Fika’s basic meaning is: “to have coffee“, often accompanied with something sweet.  It is more about socializing than drinking coffee. It happens at least 2 or 3 times a day and, trust me, the Swedes are shocked if you turn down Fika or even a coffee. I barely drank coffee before my trip, maybe one or two times per month. However, by the time I left Sweden, I was used to drinking at least one or two cups per day, which is a big change for me. I really like the concept of Fika in that Swedes will take time out of their day to sit with their friends, relax and talk, no matter how busy they are or how many things they have on their mind. I think this practice needs to be incorporated into North America, as we have a tendency to rush through our days and invite unnecessary stress into our lives. As a result, we pick up something quick from a fast food place before returning to our hectic day.  We do this despite the reality that in fact, we do have time to sit down and socialize and still keep our day intact.

I could go on and on about Sweden, but I will stop here so I can write about and share with you my experiences in two other wonderful countries–Switzerland and Norway. Stay tuned!

 

 

My First Year of University: Getting to Know the “Castleton Spirit”

By Frank Wan, Sophomore Student from Nanchang, China

I cannot believe I finished my first amazing year in Castleton. I am missing my first year of university every day of summer vacation here in China. When I look back at my life in Castleton, I appreciate so many friends, professors and “families” there.

When I arrived at Castleton for the first time in August last year, I found everything to be new, everything to be different from China. I was totally attracted to this beautiful small town. My first impression about Castleton was “green”— everything is green there. Also, everything is healthy and dynamic. People said “hi” to me, even though they did not know me. They were also willing to offer help to me if I had any problem. I call this the “Castleton spirit”, which means: people live together as a strong community, everyone is willing to help one another, people respect each other, and there are no arguments. I knew that English was the most significant thing that I had to focus on, but I was afraid of speaking to people because my English was not as good as it is now. However, I was surprised that there were so many students who wanted to be involved in our English program, by being conversation partners with international students. My conversation partners helped me build my confidence when we were talking together, and took me hiking and skating during the weekends as well. At the beginning, it was hard for me to be social in the school because we have such different cultures and languages.  I did not know how to start a topic with others, but my partners taught me how to do this with lots of patience.

Castleton has so many perfect professors, and Professor Waara is one of my favorites. She cared for me just like her own family. Many professors, like Professor Waara, treat us like family.  This summer, Professor Waara came to China to travel, give lectures and do research.  She came to visit me as well, which made me both surprised and delighted. We are eager to get to know each other’s culture, and I believe this is also part of the “Castleton spirit”.

Loneliness is the most common problem that international students meet in university. Our families and friends were not at Castleton and I felt unassisted.  But then I met my host family, Mr. Bill and his wife, Nancy.  They always took me to their house for family dinners and playing with their cute dogs, Maisie and Angle. They even invited me to stay in their house for Christmas break. They helped me understand the real American culture thoroughly, and they gave me the love like my own family in China. I did not feel so alone because they accepted me as one of their family members.

I changed a lot since I came to Castleton, thanks to my friends, professors and host family. They all made me stronger than ever. Now, I am looking forward to meeting more new students next semester.  I will tell them all about the “Castleton spirit”.

Christmas with my host siblings. December 2016.

With my conversation partner, Marissa, at Spartan Arena. February 2017.

With Professor Waara in Nanchang, China. May 2017.

With my host parents at my farewell dinner. May 2017.