High on Life in the Altitude of the Alps

The past week officially marked the halfway point of my time here. It feels like it has been much longer than that since I left Green Bay and have seen my family, but at the same time it seems like just yesterday I was meeting all of the people here I now call my friends (I think this feeling is something only a study abroad student can explain). I think these conflicting feelings have a lot to do with the fact that there never seems to be a dull moment here, and we are able to do so much with the limited amount of time we have. We are constantly learning new things, meeting new people, and traveling new places once the weekend rolls around. One of my most recent weekend travels was one for the books, and was the epitome of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities we receive as study abroad students.

Interlaken, Switzerland was the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life. I was somewhat dubious when booking this trip because one, I had never even heard of Interlaken before coming abroad, and two, I really hadn’t talked to anyone who went that could share their insight with me on their time there. The skepticism I had though disappeared with the first breath of fresh, crisp mountain air I took while stepping off of the bus.

Our first day in Interlaken was basically an open day without anything on our agenda. After being here for quite some time and having traveled with diverse groups of individuals, it is clear that everybody looks at this differently. Some people like to be very structured with their time during their excursions and maintain a very stringent time table to do everything it is they want to do. Others take a more leisurely approach by just “going with the flow” and allow themselves, and the group, to just do whatever comes to mind and make their own discoveries. One approach is not better than the other, but I tend to take the more lax approach and I could not be more pleased with the outcome so far.

We began our first day by exploring the city of Interlaken. I think the sheer silence of it caught us all a little off guard. Let’s just say it was like a ghost town compared to Rome. With that being said, it was most definitely a pleasant change of pace. We just walked around aimlessly bouncing in and out of local shops and even enjoyed some cappuccino on the patio of a café with a tremendous view of the surrounding area. No matter where we walked, the vast mountain tops that surrounded us were constantly staring down. It seemed like everywhere we turned, a photo could be taken and would be postcard worthy. We were very fortunate to have Mother Nature on our side too as she blessed us with blue skies and sunshine for the entire weekend.

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City of Interlaken

Not a cloud in the sky!

Not a cloud in the sky!

Eventually, we made our way to the shores of Lake Brienz. Here, we took countless pictures with the surreal scenery that the lake and snow covered mountain peaks provided us. After the photo-shoot was over, we just walked around the shoreline taking in the beauty of the nature before us. I even found myself reminiscing on my childhood days at my cabin in northern Wisconsin, as I skipped rocks across the lake. Being there was so peaceful and it really made me wish I had a fishing pole to cast out into the water with some country music playing in the background. I could have stayed there all day, but after a couple hours we left and finished our day with a nice group dinner.

The beautiful view at Lake Brienz

The beautiful view at Lake Brienz

Although we had nothing on our agenda for the first day, we did have one thing and one thing only on it for the following day: skiing! I had some mixed emotions in the hours leading up to skiing which mostly consisted of excitement and nervousness. I was obviously excited because I was going skiing in the Swiss Alps, but I was also nervous because I was going skiing in the Swiss Alps, for the first time in my life! I had never skied in my entire life before the Alps so all I could envision at the time was me constantly rolling down the mountain after every face plant I took. I was able to get out of that mindset though and it made for a very thrilling and memorable day!

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After a solid 45 minute train ride up the mountain, we finally made it to the top, where my first run of the day (and of my life) awaited. I started down the beginner hill, obviously, and tried to take it slowly. It did not take long for me to take my first fall of the day, but I managed to hop right back up and continue. We took a few short runs to help me get use to it and the girls were very patient with me throughout the day, which really helped me learn. Midday, we had a lunch break at the top of the hill and indulged in some quality mountain food that fueled us up for the remainder of the day. During our break and throughout the day, we had the opportunity to really get an idea of what the Swiss and skiing culture was like and let me tell you, it was definitely something I could get use to!

Top of the hill looking down!

Top of the hill looking down!

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As the day progressed, I built up my confidence, got the hang of it, and by the end of the day I was able to do an hour long run to the small town below. The entire day was an amazing learning and life experience I will always remember. People ski their entire lives and never get the chance to ski in the Swiss Alps. Now, when people ask me if I ski I can say, “No, but the one time I did ski, it was in the mountains of Switzerland!” To say I was high on life during this trip to Interlaken is an understatement. While sitting on top of the world I realized how lucky I am to be where I am today. It allowed me to develop a distinct appreciation for everything I am experiencing, everything I have experienced, and everything I have yet to experience in my near future.

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Zachary Dagneau is a student at University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee and an official API Student Blogger. Zachary is studying abroad with API in Rome, Italy.

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