From Switzerland to College
A story about my first couple of months at college, with a life lesson for everyone at the end! Enjoy the read! 🙂
I was well travelled, had lots of international playing experience, I graduated from an English-speaking high school, I was ready to go to college in the US! Northeastern University, here I come!
Right, right, right. I guess nothing really prepares you enough for such a step in your life. I remember the day I left Switzerland like it was yesterday, but actually it was exactly 10 years ago. In August 2008, I packed my hockey bag and my suitcase and I boarded the plane to Boston. I was so excited and nervous at the same time. Did I know what to expect? Yes, I thought so. But yet, such a big step in my life, to just move across the Atlantic, leave my family and friends behind and just start an entire new life overseas.
I took a straight flight from Zurich to Boston that landed in the evening in Boston, perfect for overcoming jetlag. I sat down in the plane and started watching movies and looked at a couple documents from Northeastern University (NU), I guess I was too excited to even come anywhere close to falling asleep. The flight went by quick and upon arrival, I was picked up at the airport among some other international students that arrived at the same time than me. The first time I would meet freshmen (1st year students), would they become my new friends?
Once everyone was there, we got on the minivan and drove to campus, one after the other was dropped off at their dorm (freshmen housing), I was the last one getting off at White Hall. Getting out of the car, I looked at the building and told myself, this is where you’ll be living your first year. I would be lying if I said it was a great feeling, my stomach was cramping up. Home in Switzerland was different… ☺ Anyways, not much time to think about home, I had people coming to me with a “move-in bin” to put all my belongings in to bring to the room. I had no idea what that move-in bin was and I told them that I only have these two bags (hockey bag and suitcase) and I can carry that. Having lived there for 5 years, I came to understand why they have those move-in bins… ☺
Quickly, I had to sign up and get all the paperwork out of the way so that I could move into my room that I was sharing with another teammate. I knew that this would be the case, but being there, seeing the room, my stomach cramped up again. I kept telling myself not to worry, I’ll get used to it and since I’m from Switzerland, I am very spoilt. The room was completely empty except for a bed, a dresser, a study table and a chair. The Americans drive to university with a car fully packed with their belongings to make those rooms feel like home, and thus the need for the move-in bins… ☺
An empty room to share is the worst? No, the worst was yet to come. A shared bathroom with the rest of the people living on the same floor! I was definitely not excited about that, yet again, I told myself that I’ll get used to it. Now, that must have been the worst, right? I mentioned earlier that the room was completely empty, right? Well, so empty that there was no blanket and pillows there either. That meant I had to spend a night on a bed without a blanket and pillow! I was not impressed. My roommate was so kind to let me borrow one of her pillows for the night, but it goes without saying that my first night was not a good one.
The next two days, I had international student orientation where you meet other international students and get a campus tour and sign up for your classes for the 1st semester and so forth. I also got to know the athletic department in Cabot, a building that I spent most of my freshmen year in. However, it was during that orientation a guy came up to me and asked me if I was not the one on the flight from Zurich to Boston last night, which I was. Turns out the guy’s name was Jeffrey and he sat one row over from where I was sitting on the airplane. What a coincidence! It felt great knowing another Swiss person there, it was a relief, to be able to complain about freshmen dorms and so on to somebody with the same origin. ☺
On the first day there, I had my first team off-ice practice. I therefore met the team officially for the first. It was so great, it was so much fun, right until practice started! ☺ Damn, that was the moment when I was wishing I would have worked out harder in the summer, done more weights, more conditioning and so forth. It was tough! Real tough! I was sore, I was sore the first couple of days… and we weren’t even on the ice yet.
After the two days of orientation, classes began. I was officially a university student, or even better, I was a student athlete at Northeastern University (!). Now, was the English language an issue? Mostly not, until I sat in my first ever university lecture, macroeconomics! Oh my goodness, it was everything but fun. I had an incredible hard time understanding and following the professor in addition to not really understanding macroeconomics… I knew right away what that would mean for me, lots of studying, and English – German translations!
As a freshmen student-athlete we had to sit at study hall for 5 hours every week. Study hall was taking place in a room at Cabot, where the athletic department was at. During study hall, students basically just do their homework and study in a (mostly) quiet environment. I enjoyed going there, as I would be able to meet other athletes and get my school stuff done. It was there that I learnt about tutoring. I had no idea that you could request tutoring for every class (for free!). The tutors were always other students, which at first was weird to me, but trust me, I came to love these tutors, they were so much help, from explaining macroeconomics to just proof-reading papers!
In addition to study hall, every student-athlete was assigned a athletic advisor that we would have weekly meetings with. They always made sure that you were keeping up with school and were attending class and everything. They were incredibly helpful with everything. Even after my freshmen year, when these meetings and studyhall were not mandatory anymore, I dropped by there a lot.
I’m writing too much about school, am I? Well for hockey, we first had only off-ice practices due to some NCAA rule. Then once we were allowed to go on the ice, the first practice was a ‘captain’s practice’. Now what the heck is that? Basically the coaches make the drills for practice, but are then not coming on the ice, instead they are in the stands and evaluate the players. At that age, that was just weird to me, but now I fully understand the meaning behind this.
After captain’s practice, we would then start official team practices and after I 1 exhibition game, the season started. My first college game, an away game at RPI and a 3-2 win!
At this point I had been in Boston for over a month and guess what? I was terribly homesick! I was so homesick because I was struggling so much with my housing situation and the classes, I just wanted to quit and go back to Switzerland. On the way back from my first road trip, I called my family, who was luckily up already due to the time difference. I was crying and telling them that I’m coming home… My family knew better though, they knew that if I’d quit now, I would regret it for the rest of my life. So, instead of me flying home, my mom came to visit me and spent a lot of time with me outside of classes and hockey. It was a game changer!
When my mom left again, the situation was not better, but I decided to stick it out until the end of the first semester, Christmas break, when I would fly home anyways. It was during these weeks before Christmas break, that I finally got used to the university lecture and the English language. I did not have to study until the early morning hours anymore to just understand a topic. So when Christmas break came and I flew home, I actually got excited to go back, not because of the housing, but because of the hockey, my teammates, my friends and my education!
5 years later, I graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. 10 years later, I’ve had the best time of my life while being at Northeastern! At Northeastern, I learnt what real life is all about. I was able to develop on and off the ice and received all the help and support that I needed to become who I am today!
So, long story short. Going from Switzerland to College, is extremely difficult. But sometimes in life, it’s really good to stick it out during the hard times in order to experience the best times!
However, no matter whether this is about going to college, or at a workplace or at any difficult time in life, stick it out and don’t give up right away, it’ll make you a stronger person!
Life is like the ocean. Every time a wave knocks down your sand castle, you build it again.