When I was at Kenneth Kaunda International airport I couldn’t believe it. It was as if I was dreaming.
Oh yes! For the first time in my life, I was going to travel to Europe and to Switzerland for that matter. Something that I never saw myself achieving or doing in any short period of time.
I boarded my flight SA63 at 1:05 pm and arrived at Oliver Tambo airport in Johannesburg two hours later where I and my other colleagues had to wait for our Namibian counterparts for a connecting flight to Switzerland for the next four to five hours.
Around 8 pm we boarded Swiss Airlines and began our 10-hour flight to Switzerland. Thousands of miles we rode Swiss Airlines into the dark skies filled with stares of beautiful city lights below the 11-kilometre flight height.
The peaceful skies filled with silver cloudy nights and far away golden colours of lightening made my flight so easy and comfortable.
We arrived in Zurich around 07:10hrs in the morning and immediately my cultural shock started.
It was snowing, and the atmospheric conditions were as low as 3 degrees. The B360 president and mentor Sabina Balmer with her wonderful husband Chris were waiting for us in the waiting lounge.
We then proceeded to meet our host families who were so welcoming, wonderful and caring and it felt so like home again.
At first, I was a bit worried about my host family because I was a stranger in their home and a thousand miles away from home across many seas and landscapes.
I was worried about the meals, how to use the dishwasher and washing machine. My table etiquette and the role I could play when it came to be helping with the house chores.
It, however, turned out to be different. My host family Martin Feller and Jeannette Butcher were so good to me. They were very supportive and caring in both my professional and private life.
Their gestures of appreciation and how they would say thank you for even the simplest things amazed me, which was dissimilar to my culture.
They also ensured I was equipped with the technical and professional knowledge about living, travelling and working in Switzerland. They were literally my parents away from home.
Surprisingly, the winter had been sweet and brief in a period that the local people describe as not so decent weather around that time especially, for visitors.
In my travelogue experiences, I visited some of the country’s splendid sites and landscapes with a vivid picture of my General Abonnement (GA) ticket across many places it took me.
I went to the Uetliberg towers with its summit at 871 meters above sea level. From there I enjoyed the magnificent panoramic view of the city of Zurich.
The city of Lugano in the Canton of Ticino Southern of Switzerland and an Italian-speaking region gave me a Swiss-Mediterranean mix of culture closely related to that of Italy’s northern Lombardy region.
This mix is reflected in its architecture and cuisine and the city stands on the northern shore of glacial Lake Lugano, surrounded by mountains.
Its main square, Piazza della Riforma, is ringed with pastel-colored, neoclassical palazzi.
Bern, the capital city of Switzerland was one of my favourites. The City is built around a crook in the Aare River.
It traces its origins back to the 12th century, with medieval architecture preserved in the Altstadt (Old Town). The Swiss Parliament and diplomats meet in the Neo-Renaissance Bundeshaus in this city.
The city is also home to the historical house of one of the world’s best and intelligent physicists to have lived, Albert Einstein.
It also encompasses an eerie statue called the Ogre Fountain and the famous Bern’s Minster which is a typical example of Late Gothic architecture. The basilica with its three naves rises above Bern’s Old Town. The latter is Switzerland’s highest church tower.
The Minster is also famous for its magnificent architectural design and most importantly it’s Last Judgement portal which has about 217 figures on it with a depiction of the Last Judgement and the parable of the Wise and the Foolish Maidens which follows an old tradition observable on the main entrances of many Romanesque and Gothic churches.
Nevertheless, it would be unfair for me to forget to express how much I enjoyed the Swiss cuisines as well as understand how much they mean to the people of Switzerland.
Of course; the Cheese Fondue, Pasta Casserole, Cordon Bleu, the beer and so many variations of the cheese from the urban to the mountain types of it.
Being a first world nation, it truly is. From public transportation, the food, home and work setup; Switzerland is just amazingly organized. The people, public transportation and activities in general always seem to be ever on time.
It was however unusual for me to see not so many cheery faces especially in the trains, trams and buses. It was as if people were so busy, troubled or were just minding their own business. Which was different from my own culture.
At work; my workmates, supervisors and mentors were equally nice. They were always there to help and ensure that I never lacked any technical and professional skills.
They taught me how to communicate effectively and efficiently and why it was important for me to always ask questions whenever I wasn’t sure of my tasks.
This comprehensively aided me to improve efficiently especially with my professional skills as I am not typically effective when it comes to communication. Well, I am now!
The digital marketing world in Switzerland and at Mediaschneider has graced and groomed me with a lot of knowledge about Search Engine Advertising, Optimization, digital marketing strategies and how digital media campaigns could effectively change the business world.
It was, however, challenging to execute tasks on time, but I saw myself gradually improving all the time.
These are professional endowments I will forever be grateful for as it will help me transform as an individual as well as contribute to the young growing marketing industry of my country.
Sadly, I was not happy with how expensive things are in Switzerland. From clothes, food, electronics and other logistics. I always had to convert the prices to that of my own country which is eleven times more for every Swiss Franc incurred.
Finally, I would like to say we grow up in life mostly receiving as it is a part of our very upbringing. We take sustenance from our mothers, we take knowledge from our teachers and companionship from our friends.
But the love, support, help and care that B360 Education Partnership Organization, Mediaschneider, my host family, and the Department of Media Communication Studies at the University of Zambia showed me before and during the internship is something I would forever be grateful for.
I cannot manage to write down individual names, but they are all part of this endeavour that I have achieved. I will never feel superior for being given this opportunity or even feel inferior for having been supported from the beginning to the end of it. I am just delightfully thankful!
If I were to be asked around the world on what two finest words I would use to describe Switzerland, and its people I would just delightfully chuckle and say, “Ideal paradise”.
Tapela Lungu is an award-winning writer and former Media and Communication studies student at the University of Zambia who has a strong passion to write, read and explore. He was the Managing Editor for the online magazine. As a writer, he has a strong interest in human interest stories, community news and stories that impact human development and health.