Thursday 21 October 2021
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Elizabeth Takes On Europe! Elizabeth’s European Exchange Experiences

Why an Exchange Trip?

As someone who enjoys travelling, exchange trips are ideal for me to travel at a fair cost whilst also learning and developing myself. Recently I took part in both the Spanish and Swiss Exchange with my school and I can definitely say they were both a memorable and useful experience.  The purpose of the Swiss exchange was to gain chemistry- based work experience, alongside practising the language (German) and experiencing a new culture. Needless to say, shadowing pharmaceutical professionals in a foreign country was daunting but also intriguing.  The Spanish exchange, on the other hand, was more focused around bettering my Spanish and learning more about the culture.

From Skiing in Switzerland to Speaking with Spaniards 

On the Swiss trip I was in for a surprise when I learned that not only German is spoken in Switzerland, but Swiss German, French and Italian. I found this daunting, as this proved to be a challenge regarding comprehending what the professional was saying. Fortunately, the work experience was carried out with my Swiss exchange partner who translated for me when I had difficulties understanding. The work experience I took part in had me shadowing in an antibiotic, chemical production lab and biology lab. Spending time in the antibiotic production lab was intriguing and also taught me many things, particularly the importance of patience, as the professional I shadowed discussed how she’d spent months trialling chemicals before having a breakthrough. This is just one example of a skill I learned through my work experience. As well as taking part in work experience, the trip immersed me in the Swiss culture. Amongst learning about the history of Rheinfelden (the Swiss city I spent most of the trip in), I visited the Frey chocolate factory where I was surrounded by unique and delectable Swiss chocolate as well as the Andermatt mountains where I tobogganed a 5km route at an altitude of over 1500m! It’s safe to say that these activities go across the spectrum in terms of my comfort level, but they were all unique experiences. I definitely wouldn’t have had the chance, or the courage, to go on a ski lift hundreds of metres above the ground whilst being blinded by snow if I hadn’t had gone on this trip!

Living in the Spanish culture was very interesting, as although I have previously been to Spain, staying in a non-tourist area gave a very different experience. A major difference from staying in a tourist based area I noticed was that next to no-one spoke or understood English.  This meant whenever I went into shops or restaurants I had to speak purely in Spanish. Although my grammar wasn’t always perfect, it was useful being able to test myself on using what I’d learnt in class in real life. Going to Spain on an exchange trip also allowed me to see deeper into the Spanish culture. I spent time with my host family, where only my exchange student and her older brother understood English, and other Spanish students. This was very enjoyable, as they embraced me with wide arms.


Foreign Languages Are For The Near Future

Completing work experience in a foreign country is an experience that I’d recommend to anyone with a passion to learn in a new environment. Not only can one gain this experience, but also develop and practice their language skills, reinforcing what has already been learnt. From going on this exchange trip, I realised how important it is to learn foreign languages, as we live in an increasingly multi-cultural world where knowing and understanding more languages broadens places we can go and who we can speak to. Going on this exchange trip didn’t only provide me with educational experiences, but also life experiences!

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