As we invite students on our campuses for the new semester, we have some wisdom on how to enjoy your time in Switzerland at Swiss Hotel Management School and how to familiarize yourself with your home away from home.
Coming to a new country to live and study is an exciting, amazing experience that many people can only dream of doing. But it can sometimes become difficult to be away from home, whether that’s due to culture shock, homesickness, or simply being overwhelmed by all the changes in your life. Don’t worry; you are not alone. Swiss Hotel Management School hosts hundreds of new students every semester from all around the world. Here are five bits of advice that can help you get settled and make SHMS feel like home:
1. Create your own space!
As a starting point, you can decorate your room with memorabilia that is personal to you. The buildings of SHMS are historic buildings, which means that you cannot hang things on the walls, but you can have photos on your desk of family and friends, for example. Ana Fernandes, the F&B Manager at Caux Palace, offers the idea of having a cork or magnetic board propped on your table where you can pin up drawings, photos, and other things that make you happy and feel at home. You can also have stuffed animals, a personal blanket, or hang something small and nice on the bed. Have things around you that show off your hobbies and your personality. If you like to draw, have some of your work displayed, or if you play music, keep your instruments or sheets in view. You can also have a diffuser that both makes the room smell nice and gives you comfort, although if you have a roommate, please be considerate.
Creating your own space extends outside of the dorms as well. Find areas around campus and in town where you are comfortable to study and/or relax. Establish your regular places to visit, for example, a table in the dining hall that has a great view, or that restaurant in Montreux that you can’t miss every week. Be open to trying new places and things in the process, and remember to be patient with yourself and others around you as you all adjust to the new semester. Before you realize it, you will have your routine that feels familiar and comfortable to you.
2. Find and get to know like-minded people…as well as people who come from different walks of life than yours.
This advice might sound like two opposites, but they are two sides of the same coin. It is important to find people who can give you a sense of home and where you came from, and with people who share your ideas. This can battle homesickness and helps you realize that people are people no matter where you are in the world. As fellow human beings, we have more in common with each other than we have differences.
That being said, if you only stay with people who talk and think like you, it is like being trapped in the past—or in this case, you could end up feeling like your body is in Switzerland, but your mind is elsewhere. It is important to develop your comfort zone with people and a culture you are familiar with, but it is also important to expand that comfort zone to include others. Sule Güzelce Esen, the Academic Administrator who you can find at both the Leysin and Caux campuses, says that for her, it was very important to surround herself with good people who can be empathetic to your experience. As someone growing up with a multicultural background, she finds that it really is the people that make you feel at home more than anything else, no matter where everyone originates from.
Studying abroad at such an international school like SHMS is the perfect setting to embrace this multicultural spirit. Getting to know individuals from other places, with different ideas, will not only give you a sense of the world, but will get you to feel more at home with a more diverse group of people. Even if you’re shy, you can join a multitude of clubs and activities that can help you make friends. Malin Persson, the SHMS Program Manager for bachelor’s students in their second semester, recommends learning about the sports around campus. SHMS offers football, volleyball, tennis, and badminton among other sports clubs, as well as fitness and yoga classes. You can also find music clubs or join the school’s band.
On top of that, there are groups of students who organize excursions to hike, ski, or visit touristic sites. This is in addition to the school’s field trips included in your study program. Whatever you choose to participate in, get to know your peers and the school staff, because we are your family while you are here.
3. Make plans for your time in Switzerland as you study hospitality at SHMS.
You don’t have to do everything right away. It’s not every day that you get the chance to visit and live here, so take advantage while you can, but remember to pace yourself. If you make a Switzerland bucket list, it can keep you thinking about the things you actually want to do and keep your thoughts forward and positive. Before you know it, you may find yourself with a list too long to complete of fun activities and sights to see while studying in Switzerland. You can make travel plans, whether it is organizing a weekend trip to Zurich, visiting local sites like the famous Chillon Castle on Lake Geneva in Montreux, or taking a boat ride along the Swiss Riviera between Montreux and Lausanne, where you can get a great view of the terraced vineyards designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pro tip from SHMS Executive Academic Assistant Michelle Galvin, who comes from the UK: food is a big thing that really makes her feel at home. One thing that she does is to look up a restaurant in the area where she is traveling that has fish n’ chips, which is one of her comfort foods. You can use this “fish n’ chips travel” idea to plan your own trip and learn where to find your comfort dish either in Montreux or when you travel!
4. Establish good habits from the start.
Create a routine, whether it is adapted from what you already do, or a new one you are experimenting with as you navigate your time at SHMS. Stick to a study plan. Make it a habit to study with one group of people at a set time, or block off time to do some self-studying each day. Go to that meditation hour every week, or take time out of your schedule once in a while at the in-house spa in the SHMS Leysin campus to encourage self-care. Good habits will keep you on track and will keep your mood and health up. A personalized routine and schedule make familiarizing yourself with your surroundings a lot faster and have you feeling more comfortable and at home.
One of SHMS’s current students in the Master of Arts program, Josiel Torres, shares something he does regularly to make him feel more at home. “Back in the Dominican Republic, I often watched movies with my brother at home,” he explains. “So here I like to rent out the design studio to watch movies.” With technology that allows people from all over the world to watch TV shows and movies together, Josiel can watch content on Disney Plus with his brother at the same time, having regularly scheduled virtual movie nights.
5. Get involved.
There are always so many things to do. A hospitality school like SHMS constantly has events being organized by students, and as a student yourself, you can attend or volunteer. If you try participating in the basketball club but find that it doesn’t suit you, maybe give football a try. The Master of Arts Program Manager, Nektarios Lykopantis, loves long-distance running and organizes students and staff alike to participate together in a 10k run in Lausanne every year. Make sure to follow the plans made from advice number three and check things off your list.
When you are staying engaged and trying new things, you keep yourself out of wishful thinking or wishing you were somewhere else doing something else. It is true that you are still at school, so there will be times that are easier than others. Studying might become tedious, or exams might get you down. But having others around you who are going through the same thing as you, who can understand you, will help. Having other things going on in your life, like a fun event or the next basketball game, makes it easier to see the good things coming up. Outside of schoolwork, integrate into student life here at SHMS. The experiences you have at the school will be your own, and eventually, before you know it, you will find SHMS to be your home away from home.
Remember that you are not alone. The students and staff at SHMS are friendly, and we know what you are going through, so if you need any help, don’t hesitate to ask. SHMS is here for you and wants to see you succeed. To finish, here is some encouragement from the Dean of SHMS, Dr. Dominic Szambowski: “Be brave, and get out of your comfort zone,” he says. Even if you have a hard time at first, he believes that SHMS is well set up to embrace new students with a strong sense of community. At one of the schools where he was a campus leader, there was a place they called the “Corridor of Hellos” because the staff and students there were super friendly and would always say hello to everyone. “At SHMS, it’s not canned like that but it’s everywhere. We like to greet, say hi, hello, all over the school. We don’t have a corridor of hellos because the whole school is like that. So please, lift your head up, say hello, and engage—you’ve got this!”