“A New Chapter” – by Allison Mackey
I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. About six months ago, my whole life was uprooted from underneath me as my family and I moved to Zurich, Switzerland. Since then, I feel like my life is completely new, due to the new places, cultures, and wonderful people around me. It has been quite an adjustment, but I have learned more in these past six months about myself and the world than ever before.
I remember the first time my mom told me that she had been talking to a company based in Zurich. I had barely even heard of Switzerland, and I pictured it to be a random snowy place in (basically) the middle of nowhere. (I now realize how far that is from reality). While a small part of me was excited at the thought of getting to move to a new place and travel all around Europe, I was horrified at the thought of leaving the only people and places that I had ever known. But these hushed conversations of living abroad soon became screaming realities as me, my parents, and my brother packed our bags and headed off on a new, crazy adventure.
I now attend an international school in Zurich, where I have met so many interesting people from all over the world. I had never attended an international school before, so this was my first time being surrounded by people from such a wide variety of countries. This has proven to be one of the most valuable things that I have gotten out of this move so far. Everyone proudly represents their own culture, provides their own insight, and shares new ways of thinking about everyday situations. I feel like my understanding of the way the world works has broadened immensely since I came here, and, though I obviously still have a lot to learn, I already feel like this experience is helping me evolve into a better version of myself.
Moving here also means that I have gotten to visit some really incredible places and see things that I had previously only ever seen in postcards. For instance, just last week, I had the privilege of going to Milano, Italy to participate in my first Model United Nations conference. It consisted of only international schools, which was incredibly interesting as the people there voiced a wide variety of perspectives on various issues. If I had not moved, I would not have had the opportunity to realize my passion for international relations and diplomacy. I am so excited to continue Model United Nations and gain a deeper understanding of how to solve different world issues, as well as to develop my skills as a public speaker.
While moving has led to some of the most enlightening experiences of my life, it has also been the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I have been privileged to grow up in a community in which I am comfortable and surrounded by those I love. However, when I moved, I had to quickly learn what it means to be independent and how to build a new community around me–skills that I did not learn in Georgia. This transition has involved some of the loneliest, saddest, and most confusing times of my life, but has also brought me amazing new friends, the privilege of being able to travel to new countries, and wonderful times that I will remember for the rest of my life.
The differences between Atlanta and Zurich can be overwhelming at times. For example, the language barrier and my lack of fluency in Swiss German often cause some stressful situations, but I have learned to make Google Translate my new best friend. Another huge difference is public transportation, which in Switzerland can get you anywhere and everywhere. Not to mention how expensive everything is here. (Tonight my family went out to dinner and paid a total of $18 for water alone!) But while the differences can sometimes be shocking, this place becomes more comfortable as I get used to all of its quirks. Learning to adjust to new environments is a skill that I am very grateful to have, and I know I will be able to utilize it for the rest of my life as I continue to explore the world.
My experience has also presented me with the question of whether or not I will live abroad in the future. I have always planned on going to college and living in the U.S. after high school, but now, I am not positive about anything. As I am constantly getting more comfortable living in Europe, I am starting to open up to the idea of possibly staying here for college and maybe even my professional career. I find myself fantasizing about studying in London or Madrid, while simultaneously missing America and all of its familiarity. It is terrifying for me to be so uncertain about such a monumental decision. I am constantly reminding myself that I have time and I don’t have to know all the answers about the future in order to be at peace with my life right now. After all, that’s life, right? All any of us can do is just roll with the punches and do our best to keep up with everything life throws at us. Moving to this new place has taught me to take each day as it comes, and to be grateful for all the good things in my life, even if life itself isn’t perfect.