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How I Came to Love Switzerland
Posted 01/27/2017 03:00PM

Bryan Soh on the slopes

By Bryan Soh ’18

Just a little over two years ago, I was an emotional wreck as my family packed all our things up and the house started to look as barren as a desert. I had tried convincing myself that this was all mere speculation, or maybe just a really late April Fool’s joke. But it wasn’t. It was all-too-real. Having lived a full 14 years of my life in Singapore, it was all I knew and all I loved. But now we had to leave everything behind—friends, memories, places, and all the dreams I planned on realizing in my home country. It was the start of a new beginning, however brutal it might have been at first. I hugged all my friends as I bid an emotional farewell. Tears never stopped flowing for the next 10 hours. It was the 24th of December, 2014.

From Singapore to Switzerland. An 11-hour flight, a 7-hour time difference. The biggest difference, however, was the environment. I hated it, to the core. I missed my friends so much that I hung up every picture we had, wore every piece of clothing they bought for me (including a paper-thin hoodie that I insisted on wearing everyday despite the fact that it was winter), and video-called them on a daily basis.

Then came my very first TASIS experience: Ski Adventure.

In Switzerland, an hour’s drive can take you into a place that speaks another language and has a whole different culture.

Ski Adventure was reputably “the best TASIS experience any student could have,” or so I heard from the teachers that persistently pressed me to go, despite the fact that I knew no one and that it would be the very first time that I was going to ski. I was extremely reluctant to go, but my parents were very optimistic that it would be a “wonderful experience.” Somehow, by some divine miracle, I dragged myself to school that morning and boarded the bus of very much boisterous students. “Oh boy,” I whispered to myself.

To cut a long story short, my instincts were right. It was not the best TASIS experience I had, and I certainly did not enjoy my time there. No friends, no fun. Little did I know that this very special start to my TASIS journey would be the door that led to my eventual appreciation of Switzerland’s beauty. I picked up snowboarding for the first time—and I haven’t looked back since.

After finding this love for snowboarding at Ski Adventure, I begged my parents frequently to bring us to a ski resort so that I could have more lessons and get better at it. My parents, being avid travelers, agreed. Our first resort was Engelberg (and yes, we took the full three-hour train ride despite the fact that I was the only one who knew how to snowboard). The list only grew longer and longer as the months went by: Laax, Splügen, Livigno, St. Moritz, and then Crans-Montana when the next Ski Adventure came along.

I soon fell in love with the different ski resorts and their natural beauty. The famous San Bernardino Pass that goes to Splugen and Laax always captivates me. The first time I saw it, my face was pressed against the window of the car, with my palms at each side, like a five-year-old child looking into the window of a toy shop while staring in awe at the toy car he yearns for. The grandeur of the mountains and the elegance of the bridges create such a delicate view. Jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring.

I have fallen in love with this stunning country, and its beauty has only made me feel like this can be my second home.

All these ski resorts were individually unique, yet equally beautiful in their own ways. What was even more attractive was the cultural diversity. You see, in Switzerland, an hour’s drive can take you into a place that speaks another language and has a whole different culture. An hour’s drive from TASIS can take you into the German-speaking area of Switzerland, with its schnitzels and intricately-designed houses that look like they were trapped in time. An hour’s drive down south takes you into Milan, the heart of fashion and shopping, with its rich history preserved in monuments like the Duomo. A four-hour drive west takes you into the French-speaking part of Switzerland, with its saucissons and raclette (its cheese fondues are also popular in the others parts of Switzerland).

Snowboarding has taken me from the Italian canton of Ticino into the other two major parts of Switzerland: French and German (it is hard to find a good ski resort in Ticno, as the weather is too warm). I am still extremely grateful for learning how to snowboard as it is the vehicle that has made me learn how to appreciate the beautiful country I live in. This winter I plan to travel to France and Austria to explore other ski resorts in Europe.

And that is how, two years later, I have fallen in love with this stunning country, and its beauty has only made me feel like this can be my second home. Moving wasn’t so bad after all. 

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