Challenges while in-country…
The biggest challenge I have faced while in Switzerland is probably the language barrier. Switzerland has 4 official languages: German, Italian, French, and Romansh. Unfortunately for me, I have only taken Spanish, so being in the German-speaking parts of Switzerland so far has been pretty challenging. Luckily, most everyone can speak even a little bit of English, and we have gotten by with some Google Translate to help! I have been super lucky to always have a group of nursing students with me, so we have been able to figure out any issues with language barriers together. If I were to give some advice to any future travelers on this program, I would say definitely brush up on some common German phrases. The Swiss have been really appreciative when we try to communicate in their official language first. It comes across as being arrogant when you expect everyone to know English, so take the time to learn at least a few phrases. Even just “Sprechen sie English?” and “Ich habe eine reserveirung” can go a long way! Overall, everyone has been patient and kind, but putting in that extra effort is (almost) always appreciated. I’m excited to go to Geneva because I know a little bit of elementary French, but I think I’ll be able to get by better than with German.
This weekend we are in Interlaken for a free day to explore and do some sight seeing. I would definitely recommend taking a day-trip here, if not a full weekend. It’s only an hour train ride from Bern to Interlaken Ost; from here you can hike, take boat rides, see spectacular views of the Alps, and take a dip in Lake Thun or Lake Brienz. Pictures will be at the bottom!
Another minor challenge we ran into is not knowing the cultural expectations. For example, on the train ride home from Interlaken, one member of our group had their feet up on a chair, and the train attendant came by and was quite angry. Back home, you probably wouldn’t blink an eye at someone having their feet up on a bus even though it is considered impolite. This wasn’t a big issue, but again, it is important to act with respect and good manners when in a new place.