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It was the best of times, it was the Swissi­est of times

Hello! Bonjour! Guten Tag!

I’ve been in the charming city of Chur for the past three months and have thus concluded:

1. Switzerland isn’t that cold

2. it’s not expensive

3. fondue tastes bad

Thank you for your attention, I’m Chan Aleksandra Melbye (22) and I’m an exchange student from Norway.

Okay, so obviously, I’m biased. But Norway is a lot colder than Switzerland. This is based on very scientific data, aka phone calls to my friends and family. I didn’t need to bring out the cold cream for my chapped hands until late November(!). Back home I would have it on standby right as the leaves started falling to the ground. The cream, by the way, very useful if you don’t own it already. Either that or start wearing gloves before the temperature drops – which I’ve of course never done because I’m a proper Norwegian who likes to suffer (“It’s not that cold yet!”).

Speaking of, gloves, a good investment if you don’t already own them. As is winter boots, ideally before the first snow, so you don’t have to wade through the wet mud in your pretty, but impractical sneakers. Additionally, a warm winter coat. Seriously, buy stuff before you need it. That’s just common sense.

Next up, the prices. In Norway, things cost money, and I gather this is normal. In Switzerland, things cost almost the same. Clearly, it’s just that the rest of Europe is cheap by comparison1. The only difference is that when I shop in Migros or Lidl, I can’t tell the good brand of washing powder from the bad ones. Therefore, the cheapest will do. With that mentality, suddenly everything’s a bargain!

Also, a quick sidetrack for the Scandinavian readership, Coop has some gløgg2 on offer (no relation I think, to the Norwegian Coop brand). But even mixed with a berry sirup and additional water, tastes nothing like the real thing (as confirmed by both me and a Finn). Solution: go to a Christmas market when ‘tis the season and you’ll probably find one (1) stand with “Scandinavian Glühwein” which will be okay, but with a strong taste of alcohol (a plus or a minus depending). If you’re lucky, you’ll actually find ‘gløgg’ on the sign, and that’ll taste just like home.

That’s one thing I’ve discovered, spending so much time away from my home country. Anything, and I mean anything, that reminds me of Norway suddenly becomes a lot more exciting. Like salmon! Or biathlon3! Even the occasional menu alternatives in English! (Honestly, if you don’t understand smatterings of German, be prepared to have google translate4 on standby). 

And lastly, some final comments before I get assassinated (for going over the assigned essay length and for slagging off the national dish):

  • Fondue actually tastes fine, I was kidding (kinda). I won’t be having it again, but the others loved it. Raclette, however, was divine.
  • We all got assigned an exchange buddy by the local ESN group. Mine was lovely (Hi Dorit!), and had lots of useful tips, especially with regards to expectations of what it would be like in Chur (very useful when packing). Contact yours!
  • Back home I’m studying Library and Information Science, but here I’m doing Multimedia studies. Can’t therefore say too much about the quality of the media subjects (having never had similar subjects before) but I can say: Don’t be afraid to try new stuff! Save up some money if you can and say yes to some (or all) new experiences when you can. It’ll be a bit terrifying, and you’ll most likely suck at some stuff, but it’ll be something new to break up the monotony of life!
  • Lastly, I live in Konvikt student housing – which you can arrange through the International Office. Tips: Be nice if you can, polite if nothing else. You live with these people; you’ll all see each other in all kinds of conditions. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy your stay!

That’s all from me! Read some of the other blog posts here for more (or actual) useful tips and tricks, they certainly helped me. Thanks!

1 Haven’t travelled much outside the European continent, so my apologies for my narrow frame of reference...

2 Gløgg in English is called ‘mulled wine’ or ‘spiced wine’. It’s a hot drink, usually with a red wine base and then added spices (for example: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon, orange peels etc.). Moreover, you can add raisins and almonds that adds some variety to it. Worth a try!

3 That’s the skiing where they also shoot targets with a rifle. If you’re unsure if you’re watching the right telly program, Norway can always be seen on the podium, receiving the medals.

4 Other translation apps and services are available! Deepl has been recommended to me many times, and you can plop a whole word document into it.

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