As we return from Easter holidays back to our classrooms in Kew, one of our grade six students is having a very different school experience – in Switzerland! Owen has kindly shared with us a little about his life in Switzerland.
Hi my name is Owen and I left Kew Primary in July last year to spend a year at school in Switzerland. I came here with my mum and dad and my older brother Sam. The school I am at is up in the Swiss Alps and is very small.
The town that the school is in only has a population of about 1000 people and there are only 45 students in the school which goes from Prep to Year 11. It’s all different here, so although I was in Grade 5 at Kew, I am in Year 7 here. I have eight kids in my class, and Sam who is in Year 10 here has only two!
It is an International school so the children come from lots of different countries like Russia, Brazil, Italy, Greece, Canada, America and England. There is even another family of Australians but they haven’t lived in Australia for a long time. Some people board at the school and come to learn English. The Swiss have three main languages, French, German and Italian, but the school is an English speaking school. My school is in the German speaking part of Switzerland but three minutes away is the French speaking part. We learn French at school and try to practice speaking in the shops.
The school year starts at the beginning of September and we only have three terms which are called the Autumn, Winter, and Spring Terms. Because we are in the Alps, we do a lot of outdoor activities throughout the year. In the Autumn term we did lots of hiking and went on an overnight hike to a glacier. We stayed in an alpine hut just below the glacier and then walked down to the nearest village the next day.
The subjects I do are English, French, Maths, Science, Geography, History and Art. Sam did rock climbing as a school subject! At the end of the term we had a Christmas concert where I played some songs on the violin and my dad had to learn to sing Silent Night in four different languages in the choir.
We have just finished the Winter Term which is all about snow. It was a fantastic term but very tiring. It started snowing at the end of December and there is still an enormous amount of snow on the mountains now in April.
The best thing about living right next to the mountains and going to school there, is that we do skiing three afternoons a week with the school as a big part of the curriculum. We are put into groups with the same skiing ability and have a special instructor who teaches us. We go in lots of races for the school and some others on the weekends which is fun. I didn’t win anything but Sam got a few medals. Sam and I have gone in about 15 races this term.
I have really improved and have even learnt to do some big jumps. We also did a bit of outdoor ice skating with the school and had an afternoon Curling, which is a bit like Lawn Bowls on ice. We now have three weeks holiday before the Spring Term starts.
There are a few differences between going to school at Kew Primary and here. One is that we get lots of homework which is a bit annoying, but you get used to it (when I mean lots of homework I basically mean a project every week). There is no canteen but we have a hot cooked meal at lunch time which we eat at the boarding house. This means my mum doesn’t have to make my lunch everyday. Traditionally Swiss school children go home everyday for lunch and this still happens where we are living.
We also do lots of things with some of our teachers out of school time, like going skiing with them on the weekends and having lunch with them. They have become friends to our family. Something else that is unusual is that my best friend here is Swiss and Sam’s best friend is Brazilian, and lots of our classmates speak two or three languages fluently and can easily switch from one to another. Also because it is such a small school we know everyone in all the classes and there are lots of friendships over different age groups. It’s a bit like one big family. One more difference is that the classrooms are in a beautiful Swiss chalet and the boarding house is also a chalet.
There are a couple of special things I have done while I have been at the school. One is that I am an ambassador for my house. We meet at school at 7.30am every Tuesday to discuss and plan future events. The other fantastic thing I have done is speaking in a presentation at the United Nations in Geneva. Our school has been involved in raising money and gathering hand prints for Red Hand Day which tries to raise awareness of the issue of child soldiers in many countries. A few of us were chosen to do a presentation to the Director General of the United Nations. You can see some of it on YouTube – I am the second person speaking. Maybe Kew Primary can get involved as well.
I love being at this school and being in the mountains, because nowhere in Australia could I get to experience what I have done here and meet the people I have. I really miss everyone at Kew Primary but when I come back I’m going to really miss everyone in Switzerland. They are both great schools and great countries and I’m very lucky to be able to experience both.