Eighth grader gains independence while in Switzerland for three months

The winter term students look at a village submerged by snow during a ski safari in the Swiss aplines. During his time in Switzerland, Nick Zirinis would ski everyday, and also work within his apprenticeship at the local grocery store (photo by Nicholas Zirinis).

On January 5, most students were wrapping up their winter breaks and getting ready to head back to ASL for the start of the second semester. But I flew alone to Zurich, Switzerland, and took a bus to a small remote village called Lenk in the midst of the Swiss Alps. For the next three months, I would be living in a mountainside Chalet with twenty other boys, with no electronics and a stack of stationery as our only means of communication. This was a program called The Winter Term. 

“The first week will feel like a month but the last month will feel like a week.” This is what the Winter Term counselors told my classmates and me when we arrived. I would eventually learn that they were right. The first few days were strange, as I was adapting to new people, a new schedule, and an entirely new lifestyle, but as a few weeks went by, I grew accustomed to it. 

I made many new bonds and friendships that I know will last for much longer than my time there. Without video games, social media, and constant texting, the days felt twice as long. I found many new interests and hobbies to fill this newfound free time; we played cards, went sledding, and learned to knit. I even found the time to do an apprenticeship with the local grocery store. 

Each day began with breakfast and chores. Once the chores were complete, everyone went straight to class. Unlike at ASL, the classes at The Winter Term were only forty minutes long, which was definitely a nice change for me. This was because I did not have to strain my concentration and could stay engaged. Our classes were followed by a lunch at 12:15 and then skiing. Luckily, the chalet I lived in was right on the slope. We put our skis on and headed down the mountain. Like most of my classmates, this was my favorite part of the day. I had always loved skiing but now with such close proximity to the mountain, fantastic instructors, and great friends to ski with, my passion for the sport intensified. Our skiing groups changed every week, along with our instructors, and were based off of weekly tests. I think I improved quite a bit, and the hard work was worth it. 

After skiing, I either practiced Spanish (the language I was studying), or participated in other outdoor activities such as hiking. An hour and a half later, we were due back at the chalet for dinner. Dinner was followed by study hall and then another evening activity. We were almost always back in our rooms by ten and asleep by ten thirty. Although it may seem like there was not enough time for classes, I always managed to finish my work. 

Reflecting on this experience, I truly realised what an amazing time I had. I like to think I have grown much more independent, which has been very helpful since my return to ASL.I have been asked many different questions about my time there, but the one I have heard the most is, “Was it worth it?” Although it was difficult to cut off communication with the outside world, and adjust to a completely new way of life, I could not be more grateful for this experience. I can confidently respond to this question with the answer, “YES.” 

About Nicholas Zirinis ('23)

Opinions & Arts Editor (2018-19)

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