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Placer grad gains wanderlust from Switzerland visit

Exchange program is through Auburn Rotary
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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A year in Switzerland has turned into a pursuit of travel and adventure of a Placer High School graduate.

Isaac Tripp spent 10 months last year going to school in Switzerland through the Auburn Rotary Youth Exchange Program. He is now attending Sierra College and is considering majoring in international studies, but he hasn't always been interested in the international populous.

"Now I kind of have the itch to go out in the world and see different things and I want to base my career around that," Tripp said.

The Rotary Youth Exchange Program requires prospective students to go through an application process. Students then have more than 20 countries to choose from where they can live with around three host families over the course of 10 months, according to Mike Wilson, youth exchange officer with Auburn Rotary.

"We want students that are very interested in learning about a foreign culture, but are also anxious to share our culture and to represent our community and our nation," Wilson said.

Tripp said he went into the exchange program interested in Switzerland because most of the country speaks a specific dialect of German he was interested in learning. He was also interested in the transportation system.

"You're not dependent on a car over there like you are here. It's a lot more efficient," Tripp said.

Tripp would eventually find that he had more to adjust to than the language barrier that surrounded him all day, everyday. After attending Placer High School for three years, a school of 1,300 students or more, Tripp was dropped into a school in Schupheim with a student population of about 200.

"They don't have any school sports or clubs. It's a very academic environment, but by the end of my exchange I made some great friends and had a great time," Tripp said.

He added that the education system surprised him in that teenagers are given the choice of either attending the school he went to or choosing a trade to learn.

"In America everyone from Kindergarten to 18 it's mandatory that they go to school, but over there they have to make that decision," Tripp said. "I found that to be kind of young, personally, to have to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life."

The language presented problems of its own. Tripp said when he wasn't trying to use sign language to communicate with his first host family he would spend hours listening to them have conversations.

He also took two classes while he was over there to pick up German and the dialect spoken in Switzerland. Within five or six months Tripp was able to hold conversations comfortably.

"It's really tiring because your brain is trying to decode everything everyone says, so I would sit there at dinner and listen to the entire conversation and by dessert I'd be ready to pass out at the table because my brain was so tired," Tripp said.

It wasn't all school and adjusting to a language and culture. Tripp got to visit Vienna, Austria, and London with his first host mom and leaned how to ski from one of host dads.

By the time he transferred to be with his second host family, he could converse comfortably and went skiing in the Alps with the family for five days. Tripp also enjoyed traditional Swiss dishes, like fondue and a cheese and potato dish called raclette.

Despite all of the adventures he had while in Switzerland, Tripp said he still missed Auburn from time to time, especially in the beginning and around Christmas.

"All of a sudden I was with a different family and in the beginning it was overwhelming, but I was happy to be there even if I had a lot to deal with and understand," Tripp said.

Now that he's back home and attending Sierra College, Tripp is still trying to nail down what to major in, though he is leaning toward international studies so he can keep exploring other cultures and broadening his horizons.

Going to Switzerland "changed me in a positive way and changed my perception of the world and how I look at things," Tripp said. "I'm not as close-minded and can see how someone else might look at a situation and not just how someone from my same background would look at it."

Contact Amber Marra at amberm@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.