This post was written by Eya Kharbech, an AFS student from Tunisia on exchange in Switzerland. Eya is one of the young deserving students who received the 2016 Investing in Africa’s Future Leaders scholarship to participate in a year-long school exchange program with AFS.
Hello, my name is Eya Kharbech and I am 17 years old. I am from Tunisia and now I am spending my exchange year in Fribourg, Switzerland. People around me say that I have a lot of positive energy that I spread whenever I go. That’s true because these months spent in Switzerland taught me to know who I am and I am proud to say now that I have this energy and mostly I love it.
My host family, my friends, cheese, chocolate and mountains. Just saying these words make me happy.
My host family consists of one member: my host mum Claudine or as everybody calls her LaClo. Honestly at first I was afraid to stay with her the WHOLE year, what if I feel bored? What if I feel lonely? But since the first weeks together I knew that she was the one. I only have her and she only has me so we do everything together: we travel, we discover, we cook, we go hiking, we go shopping and even more. She is so kind and fun loving. Besides, she always helps me when I am not feeling well. I am so lucky to have her.
I remember my first day when I arrived in Switzerland, I took the train from the airport with an AFS volunteer. I put my bag on the seat by her side and there was someone that wanted to sit there so I said “you can put the bag on the floor” in Arabic. It’s funny how sometimes we can’t control ourselves and I am sure that this happened to all exchange students.
Otherwise, I really like where I live, it’s near the city. I take the bus everyday then walk to get to school. I was surprised to see how modern my school is especially with the technology in it. I am not a friend with all my classmates but the ones that I get along with are the best. We always eat together at lunch time and even go out after school. I am also so happy to be able to answer their questions about my culture, my country, my religion and the Tunisian lifestyle. One of them was an AFS exchange student invited me once to go with her to an event organized by an organization. We cooked with other people from different cultures and then had a lot of fun at night. Another friend wrote about me in the local newspaper.
In addition I really like the weather here and I think winter was my best season. I saw snow for the first time and I learnt how to ski. It was the best thing that I have ever done in my life. I also did a lot of other activities like walking in snow and riding luge.
Food here is really delicious: there is a variety of local cheese and chocolate. I also was able to taste new things from the hunt season. I remember the bad smell of cheese in my first week but then I got used to it. In addition, I cooked a lot of Tunisian dishes and my host family loved it and last week my host mum invited her students (she is a high school teacher) to eat couscous I prepared. It was a great opportunity for me to show Tunisian dishes and talk about culture to other people, too. And of course the famous cheese Fondue and Raclette are the most delicious and cheesy dishes that I have ever tasted.
When I arrived in Switzerland, many people told me that I speak French very well but I told them that I was here to make it perfect and mostly to be comfortable with it. Before coming here I was afraid to speak French but now I can do it easily and I am so proud of myself. It helps a lot when you know the language because I was able to answer so many questions and that’s what it’s all about: sharing.
Thanks to AFS I was able to live a special experience and I really want other Tunisians to have this amazing opportunity. When I come back to my country I will be an AFS volunteer and I will work hard to help people be open to other cultures and travel abroad.