Students comment on challenges of program

January 27, 2023


Submitted by: Vivien Pihlstrom

Vivien Pihlstrom, Uma Bastodkar, and Leyla Lyu complete a two-day hike to the Trift Hut, above Zermatt. Other attendees not pictured include Obi Nwokocha and Sophia Peterson ‘25.

Although many students were ready to return to school on Jan. 3, Swiss Semester students came back to Minnesota from Switzerland for the first time in three months. Leyla Lyu ‘25, Uma Bastodkar ‘25, and Obi Nwokocha ‘25 described their experience in Switzerland and their subsequent return to school.

The students spent their school time as a resident of a school in Zermatt. For Lyu, her favorite part of Swiss semester was “skiing on the mountains.” Bastodkar says that her favorite part was “going to Venice, hiking, and climbing.” The students’ curriculum was heavily condensed to make room for activities. Because of the condensed classes, students only had a two-hour period to complete all their homework for the day. Nwokocha says this rigorous schedule developed his “time management since [he didn’t] have all the time from getting home after school.” Bastodkar agrees, saying she “developed really good time management because we had no time to do anything.”

Although those experiences seemed fun, Bastodkar reflects on some of the more challenging and surprising aspects of taking a Swiss semester abroad. “I didn’t expect it’d be tough and challenging… the hiking was ridiculously hard, and I realized I had a fear of heights.” She also adds the impact on her wellbeing, “My mental health was pretty much badly impacted because I was struggling every day… I would be crying every single night.” Although Bastodkar was heavily impacted by her trip, she says “it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life.”

Nwokocha says that the trip pushed him to try different things: “You’re in a completely different environment, and around different people… you get pushed out of your comfort zone a lot. Whether it’s the activity, or meeting new people.” Bastodkar also encourages students wishing to do Swiss semester to keep an open mindset, adding, “I was really just scared to do stuff and I wasn’t pushing myself, but later on I started pushing myself. But if I pushed myself, in the beginning, I would have gotten a fuller experience.”

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