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Anna Holman – Switzerland

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Name: Anna Holman

Host Country: Switzerland

Host District: 1980

Host Club: Basel-Wettstein

Sponsor Club: Portsmouth

School: Fairfield Local High School

Hallo! My name is Anna Guita. I will be spending my exchange year in Basel, Switzerland. Basel is the third largest city, so it will be a big change from the rural area I live in, complete with backyard goats, and I cannot wait to experience the change and to learn from it. I am 15 years old and would be going into my sophomore year at Fairland High School. I practice ballet, painting, mixed martial arts, and pottery. I am very excited to learn Swiss German and all about the culture and ideas of the region. I will be attending Fachmaturitätsschule Basel-Stadt.

I cannot wait to take on this adventure and learn a lot while I’m at it, wish me luck! Auf Wiedersehen!


September 1

Hallo from Switzerland!

I’m having a wonderful time and am learning a lot, too. I am living in Reinach, directly outside of Basel, the third largest city in the country. Basel is also the meeting point for the Swiss, German and French rail lines, so when I commute to school in the morning, the platform next to mine could be departing for Paris or Berlin. It is wonderful to be in a city so full of life and culture. The history here is spectacular as well. From my room I can see not one but two castles, although one is a ruin and my host family and I are planning on visiting them soon, possibly Saturday! Every day I go to a language course in Bern, the capital and tomorrow my class is having a field trip of sorts to explore the city with our teacher. Sara, she asked us not to use her last name, is a wonderful teacher and in just 24 days I can have a basic conversation and feel comfortable reading signs and have learned an extraordinary amount in such a short period of time.

There are no words to describe all the emotions I am feeling now, the excitement of exploring a new world, the nerves of doing just that. I have one shot at this and I am ready to make the most of it and to live in this wonderful world I now have access to.  Thanks for this opportunity,


October 1`

Hallo! September, month two and so full of well, everything! I started school here and its wonderful, my classmates are nice and very helpful. I’ve done so much this month I’m not even sure where to begin, my host family and I went to England and the southern Italian speaking part of Switzerland over autumn break, my class took a week-long overnight camping trip to Elm at a ski resort of sorts, ROTEX took the inbounds on a weekend trip to Lenk and all the little, wonderful mundane things in between.

This month the thing that has stuck out the most to me has been the scenery. When you google Switzerland your screen is filled with pictures of breathtaking mountain ranges topped with snow, mouth-watering cheese and I honestly didn’t expect it to be just that. I assumed the pictures were of special places and not everywhere! So far it’s the mountains that I love the most. From far away they look like a jagged knife turned on its side, all silver and green, but up close they are giants with white-blue waterfalls of the melted snow, the deep green of pine trees mixed with the beginnings of yellow and orange top the deciduous trees, the cold grey cliff faces seem to hold the trees up on the tiny ledges that snake up the mountain side. Its so beautiful, but so impressive and it forces the air out of your lungs. Now I’ve spent most of three weeks in the

mountains and they never stop impressing me. It is such a stark beauty the way the greens and reds of low laying plants that can grow higher than the evergreen trees melts in with the snow and icy streams.

Thank you so much for making this possible, for letting me see these breathtaking views and meet the wonderful people.

November 1

So month three is over, and oh what a month it has been. So, the carnival is in town and the old city is poke-a-dotted with rides and games. And the food, roasted chestnuts, cookies with marshmallows and white chocolate baked into them, pumpkin ravioli, and the list goes on and on.

School is back to normal, and I love every second of it, my class mates are great, my teachers are funny and for one of my classes we go to the theater! Last week we saw an entire ballet based on the hidden meaning of cacti, complete with flying cat and a lot of clapping. All in all,it was rather entertaining. We also saw a ballet about Joan of Ark, and this weekend we are going to see a puppet show! Also, this weekend I am starting another German class in Bern, and this one goes until February.

Somedays I still wake up in awe and just stare at the castles outside my window or wander the chocolate aisle at Migros for a wonderfully awkward amount of time. There is something magical about the city, the old buildings melding with the new, the ancient bridge arcing across an green-blue river with the sounds of the theater spilling through the city streets.

Thanks so, so much for sponsoring me, and I hope to learn even more and get to know Switzerland and Basel even more!

January 1

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season this year. This has definitely been an interesting month, to say the least. The Christmas fair in Basel was even bigger than the carnival a few months ago. It seems so strange to use the phrase ‘a couple of month ago’, and think not of the crunching leaves in the Ohio woods, the smell of pine needles and hay in the goat barn, to not think immediately of the warm nature around my home in Ohio, but to think of the crisp city air. To hear trams and trains, to smell the ink of books in a bookstore where the books aren’t in English, to watch the sunrise over the train yard while walking to school with my friend. I have fallen into the rhythm of city life and the freedom that come with it. The best use is being able to Christmas shop without hinting to my mother what I am getting her by which stores she must drive me to. Nope, not here, now I can go during my lunch break at school on Tuesday, which is three hours, and eat out with Mara, buy a few presents and not a single surprise is hinted at. We still haven’t had any snow yet, but Basel rarely get snow, but it does get very, very cold, which I like very much. I love the colors here, in the morning I take the tram and then walk about fifteen minutes with Aline, our trip is normally very cold. But we have to cross the bridge that overlooks the train yard, all the empty carriages waiting to take people across the country, across the continent, and we always cross right at sunrise. The orange and red against the eerie yet beautiful black of the rocks around the rails, the dusty grey of the cars, and the bright lively graffiti along the walls below. I move host families on January second and will no longer walk that direction to school, but I will miss those colors and the way the light hits the world for those few minutes.

It is so odd in a sense to go back and read the words I wrote even from the beginning of this month, my journal is half way full and to think once I was in a plane frantically scribbling away at the first pages trying to organize my thoughts. Now I carry the little book, dark grey leather bound book with a black ball point pen clipped to the back cover, everywhere I go.

I have settled in here and feel so at home in the old town, the ancient cobble stone and arching wood doors. It is so beautiful here. When you google Basel, all you see are pictures of the river and the bridges across it. Yes it is wonderful along the river, but just a few blocks into the old city where there are little plaques with what year the house was build along the road. My favortite places are those where you can hear the music from the theater but the roads are so old that cars and bikes aren’t aloud on them. Sometimes I think I can hear the echoes of horses and wagons in the streets. The oldest house I have found so far is 1545 but one of my school friends insists that he once found one from 1464. But honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit. All the old melds with the new in Basel.

February 1,

So, a New Year and a new host family, new house, new bunnies, and I am enjoying myself and learning so much. My first Sunday with my new family was wonderful, we drove from where we live practically on Basel’s center, out to a small farm. There we played in the snow, my eight-year-old host brother, Eric verses my twelve year old host sister, Celine and I. Eventually we had to go home, I didn’t want to, but despite my gloves, my fingers were completely numb. This family is full of life and they laugh a lot. A lot.

Thinking about it, so much happened this month. We went to the zoo, the museums were open until 2am, I moved families, said goodbye to my oldies, welcomed one of the newbies, with Eric I chased pigeons with GoPro, even though shopping isn’t exactly my thing, Celine and I went and I bought a fluffy blue sweater which I will never wear in public, but is the most wonderfully fluffy thing on the face of this planet, found an antique bookstore, finally went up the church tower, took my first test for a grade in German (I got a B!!), and so much more.

I think this month was really not about building new ties, but strengthening the ones that were already there. I feel much more comfortable talking in class, and much closer with my school friends. It is rather strange being in a new house, but I am only three minutes walking to school, and I miss walking to school with Aline every day, but I think because of this it is kinda forcing us to do stuff together outside of school, too.

If I had to choose a word to describe this month it would be comfortable. Not overwhelming, not rushed, not overly challenging, but comfortable.

May 1

Hello! This month was insane. This month I want to focus on my relationships with my fellow exchange students here with me. Sometimes it still surprises me how much I have in common with them, and how different they are. We trust each other, have this mutual understanding that is priceless and terrifying and the sometime. Indea and I went on a ‘road trip’ across Switzerland this month, although does it count as a road trip if we are in a train the whole day? Two months ago we ordered hoodies online. They are the standard grey hoodie with a wonderfully huge pocket, and above the heart they have the Rotary Youth Exchange logo, across the back is a map of Switzerland with the Swiss flag across it.  In a circle around the map outline are oval with the flag of every country we represent here in Switzerland: the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Columbia, Argentina, Brazil, Finland, Russia and Japan.

So at the crack of seven thirty, Indea and I got on a train bound for Bern, then Fribourg, then Luzern, Zug, Zurich, Wintertun, St. Gallen, and finally after nearly fourteen hours in trains- Chur. It was a busy day. Several people said we were basically Santa but slower, I agreed. But it was so wonderful to see nearly everyone, if even for a half an hour in a train station.

There is something wonderfully confusing about seeing them all again, something that brings back memories of our first meeting all together back in August. It feels like a lifetime ago, its hard to believe it was only months, that I have 53 days until EuroTour and after that three days, then pop! I’m back. I can’t believe it. How can something feel so slow and yet so fast?