By Fabienne Schneuwly –
I visited the United States of America for the first time at the age of 16. My trip led me from my home in Switzerland to a place called Menlo Park in California. I traveled on my own and stayed for a month. Everything was huge and exactly like in the movies: the houses, the beaches and even the yellow school bus. After this fascinating experience, it became a fantasy of mine to go back to America for a longer period of time.
I realized this dream last year after graduating from high school. My knowledge of languages includes German, French and Italian but English is by far my favorite language, and my parents allowed me to spend a gap year abroad in order to improve my skills before starting my university education.
My adventure began in September 2014. I boarded the plane in Zurich and landed in New York City eight hours later. A taxi drove me to Nyack, where my host family waited for me. I hardly slept the first night because of all the new impressions, and the next day it was difficult to get up early and cross the Hudson River with the bus in order to go to school in Tarrytown at EF. Everything started to get easier after the first week. I made a lot of new friends on campus from all over the world, and we explored the city together. It was just mesmerizing to see places like Times Square or Central Park in real life. I remember having a poster of the Brooklyn Bridge hanging over my bed in Switzerland and now this landmark was right in front of me.
The beautiful fall passed quickly and then came winter. I found it amusing when they shut down my school on the first day of snow because in my home country we are used to worse conditions. People told me about how bad the public transportation would be in winter, and unfortunately they were right. It was hard to get into the city by train or bus when it was snowing. I only went there occasionally and then, of course, when my family visited me for Christmas. We spent a lovely time in New York City and were amazed by all the decorations. It was also nice to see the candlesticks for Hanukkah everywhere. I had never heard of this festival before. My parents left after giving me a pile of presents and letters from the people back home. I returned to my host family and was now desperately waiting for spring.
The year 2015 started for me and my friends with several trips. I first went to Chicago for a couple of days, and it fascinated me. The architecture was stunning and everybody was really warm-hearted despite the weather still being cold. During my spring break, a childhood friend of mine flew over from Switzerland. I took her to Boston, where it rained during the whole time we stayed there. Our next destination was the capital: Washington D.C. with the most stunning museums ever. We had such a good time visiting all the famous monuments and sites. Unfortunately, we missed the cherry blossoms. On one of my last weekends in the United States, a girl from Belgium took me to Philadelphia for a day. We enjoyed a Philly Steak on the JFK Plaza and realized how much we both loved every single place in this country we had been to so far.
I went back to Switzerland on May 17. My family and friends were emotional when they picked me up at the airport because it had been such a long time since they last saw me.
This stay in New York City has profoundly changed my point of view on many things but one thing is still for sure; I will come back.
My thanks go to Rick Pezzullo and The Hudson Independent for giving me the incredible chance to further my writing skills and be published in a newspaper of another language. Becoming a journalist is still my goal, whether here in Europe or in the United States of America.