Hi, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Nicholas Gauthier. You may know me as Nick who plays basketball. I went to La Chat for the past 4 years but left this summer to return to my home in Philadelphia, USA. Coming to Geneva was my first move and a big one as you can imagine. I was born and raised to the age of 12 just outside of Philadelphia and didn’t really know anything else. It was very scary while being very exciting, I had no idea what to expect, all I knew was that I was in for a change.
I remember noticing upon my arrival and first few days in Geneva every little nuance about the culture and atmosphere in this foreign land. I was pretty ignorant at the time, I thought to myself: “Why does everyone smoke cigarettes, why are people so standoffish?” It confused me that they closed stores so early and didn’t open on Sundays. It was weird that I had to say “Bonjour” to people at the stores before speaking and that they didn’t make it a point to address me when I walked in, or ask to help me.
At La Chat the little things shocked me at first, like the language. Although we all spoke English it wasn’t really the same. I had trouble understanding the many British people I met and the international version of English that other kids from across the globe spoke. I would even try to correct people before I caught on and realized we say a few things differently. I’d often check the dictionary to find out that there were multiple pronunciations for words like lever, and apricot. I’m sure many Americans and Brits at La Chat constantly have arguments over which is the correct way to say or spell certain words; well you are both right. One memory which will never leave me, is spending 5 minutes on a CAT test in math(s), attempting to figure out the sentence: 4 tyres were on a lorry. I had no idea what that meant because I would normally say 4 tires on a truck. I didn’t understand until Mr. Collinson came over to help and translated for me. This was a small part of my experience with culture shock that I know every newcomer at La Chat experiences in their own personal way.
Even though the first few days can be daunting and surprising to some, you adapt over time and learn to see the value in your privilege in attending an international school. La Chataigneraie is a diverse community whether you realize it or not. It’s easier to see how valuable it is to your way of thinking and level of acceptance once you’ve left. You then notice the difference between people who haven’t shared your experiences and how different their perspective of the world is to yours. It’s a hard thing to explain but something I’m sure you will notice.
I personally had an amazing time at La Chat, and the friendships I’ve made are really irreplaceable, there are a few people I know I will keep in touch with all my life and that’s what makes La Chat so special. Miles or kilometers away the bonds you make there are forever. It’s an environment like no other. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to say goodbye to most of the people I became close to over the years, and that moment though sad, is a moment that sticks and gives you closure. It’s a moment where you can really think about how valuable your relationship is with that person and gives you a chance to reminisce and rejoice.
My experiences and memories from my time in Switzerland at Ecolint, will stay with me wherever I go and I appreciate the value they have.