Switzerland is a place I wish every person had the opportunity to visit at least once in a lifetime. It is comparable to… paradise. The city I visited for a study abroad program is actually named Lugano Paradiso (in Italian), which means Lugano Paradise. From Milan I took the train through the northern Italian countryside into a picturesque destination. The sun shown down on the mountainous ravines displaying their splendor. The lakes below glistened as it reflected the deep forest greens and sun rays were in its purest form. I was captivated and as the scenic views reached inside of my heart…. I could have sworn my heart skipped a beat.
As a first generation African American college student, I made certain to thank God consistently and to carry my parents with me on every adventure. I didn’t really know what to expect. And, having read up on the human trafficking of young women traveling alone, I grappled with fear quite often before the trip. My friends and family would ask me how I felt before my departure date, after clamming up I would tell them I didn’t know what to expect, after a few laughs many replied, “ just go and have fun”.
Some would probably say, “if you were that afraid, then why did you opt to go?” Well, was not always a childhood dream to visit Switzerland. It kind of just happened. One day in class, we were learning about peaceful inter-relations. The textbook mentioned how Switzerland was one of the most peaceful places on Earth. Then it proceeded to mention how there were three races and languages of people. I was astonished and began to wonder, how? How is it that in Switzerland they can have such peace and we here in America cannot?
As time continued on, I began to ponder which led to further research. In Switzerland, there are the Swiss French, Swiss Italian, and the Swiss German. In America there are African-Americans, Latinos and Caucasians. What made things so different there versus here? A few months later, there was an advertisement posted at school for a scholarship opportunity to study abroad in Switzerland! I knew it was God. So, I leaped towards opportunity by submitting the application and won.
Fear and Faith intersected many times before and during my adventure but each time I prevailed unforeseen obstacles by staying aware of my surroundings at all times just like someone advised before I left. That, plus my handy, dandy LIVE FEARLESSLY perfume from MaryKay was a great daily reminder.
We hiked mountains, rode the talked about train system, visited charming little mountain villages; many of which encapsulated stunning waterfalls! In Valle Verzasca nearly every window seal had a pot of flowers that were perfectly in bloom and colored in bright red, orange and yellow hughes. I wondered what kind of people were privileged to live in such a place?
Bellinzona (in particular) the capital of the Canton Ticino, was a diamond in the rough. We got up early one Saturday morning and took the train down to Main Street where the marketplace was full of vendors and town’s people shopping for household items and fresh vegetables. It was the one time a week where families would casually stroll through the city socializing with one another. As I strolled through the crowd, there were young Swiss Italian families perusing the streets and interesting groups of elderly women huddled together sipping on wine and eating fresh fruit in the cafe’s. The large sounds of the band echoed through the cobbled stoned streets leaving an invigorating yet calming effect to my mood.
I didn’t know what quite to expect at Castlegrande but I dashed down a darkened cobblestone streets finding myself standing in front of a tall stone wall with a small entrance between two majestic rocks. It was dark and cool like a cave. Once on the main level, the entrance placed guests in a grassy courtyard and from there it was a maze of beauty. There were hidden walkways, an underground tunnel and a tower bell. The most precious was the overall view and placing of the mideval castle. It peeked higher than any other constructed area from the city floor earning the name as a grand castle indeed.
For the duration of our time, we continued our travels into Zurich, Geneva, Lake Lucerne and even Venice for a weekend get-a-way. With all of the traveling, there was little time to pack in our heavy school workloads which encompassed us learning about Swiss life, education, and government.
The US could learn a lot from the Swiss. The Swiss have one of the highest qualities of life in the world. While there, I noticed there weren’t really any homeless people. And, the more I learned in class about Swiss life and the wealth distribution I came to understand the true issues of America; poverty being the root. There in Switzerland, the average salary is around $50k a yr. And, many people prefer to rent instead of placing their money into large expenses that comes with home ownership. Knowing our country’s history and how it was built on slavery, I came to a new understanding as to what was going on in the states. After doing a little more research I began to understand how education influenced poverty on a greater level. The Swiss education system operates more co-operatively but still allows room for autonomy within cantons (geographical regions; similar to states in the US), families, and students.
From this experience, I now see and understand how Switzerland is no only able to live, but thrive peacefully in an environment where they have been surrounded by war. Yet, I believe it starts with education and economically opening the gates to equal and equitable education to where a child can escape the grasps of poverty. If an individual can focus to escape the grips of poverty there would be less people perpetuating the life of crime, drugs, early, and unwanted pregnancy, etc. With a national focus becoming more-so endowed with purpose driven careers on the forefront of economics I believe the fight to the top most Americans endure in the corporate arena will dissolve, because truly more people would be living from the stance of purpose and finding much more fulfillment; not living through competition.
To find out more insights from my daily life in Swiss Country and how they’re manifesting change here in America; keep reading. And, enjoy the journey!