Learning online for Wilson from Switzerland

I wake up at 10, get changed, eat breakfast, and leave the house by 11. Maybe I’ll go on a hike, or a bike ride, or even into the city, and come back to the house around 2. After showering, I’ll do homework, and start school at 3:35. How is this even possible?

It’s all because I’m doing distance learning from my dad’s apartment in Horgen, Switzerland. I’ve always lived in DC with my mum for the school and gone to my dad’s during the summer and winter break. Yet, an opportunity arose to stay here in Horgen for three months, and I took it. Horgen is a small town just outside of Zurich, set on a lake, around an hour from the Alps. The time difference between Switzerland and the USA is 6 hours, so 6 a.m. in DC is lunchtime here.

When I was in DC, school was my whole day. I’d wake up, attend online classes, eat lunch, do more work for school, eat dinner, and then sleep. I know I have the same amount of school here, but it almost feels shorter since I have the whole morning off. Starting at 3:35 allows me to have a whole day before I have to join my first period call. Some days I do nothing and hang around the house, maybe working out and making some food. On Wednesdays or weekends, I’ll go hiking with my family or go skiing. Other than that, my day doesn’t look much different than that of any other teenager.

It’s not that difficult that school ends late—10 p.m.—because I naturally go to bed around 12 anyway. Furthermore, COVID cases in Switzerland are not as high as they are in the US, although there is definitely still COVID here. This means I have more freedom to go and do things such as go to a chocolate factory (no joke, there’s one 10 minutes away from my dad’s apartment) and go out for dinner. 

My teachers also all think it’s pretty cool that I am not in DC. It’s undoubtedly weird to join my first class and see everyone still waking up when I’ve already been up for 6 hours. I’ve had a couple days where my dinner ran late, or I had to eat in my third period, but I’ve found that my teachers don’t mind and it rarely happens anyway.

Although the time difference can surely be an upside, it has its negative consequences too. I am in Model Congress, and the competitions generally go quite late, even by DC standards. The issue is that 11 p.m. DC time is 5 a.m. Swiss time. A recent competition was in the middle of the night for me, which definitely made it harder. Our first day, the opening ceremony began at 2:30 a.m. and I didn’t get to bed until around 5 a.m. I slept in until 1 p.m., and then repeated the process from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day. I survived on copious amounts of coffee bought at the local store and plenty of naps throughout the day whenever I could. In the end, it all paid off, since I won best delegate for my committee.

Nevertheless, it’s a small sacrifice for the great opportunity I have in coming here. I am incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to leave the US and still continue my education elsewhere, and I would never want to come off at gloating or better than others.

This pandemic has produced unique situations for all of us, both good and bad. I’m excited to continue being able to stay in Switzerland and continue school at Wilson, but I do hope we can return to in-person school sometime in the coming months.