School in a foreign land

In the summer of 2001, my family moved to a mountainous area in Binenberg, Switzerland where my Dad was leading a short-term missions program with the people living in the village. We planned to stay there for 3 months until my Dad finished his assignment. Meanwhile my brother Micah and I were going to continue schooling in a German town, about an hour trip across the border. I was in the second semester of first grade, while Micah was in third grade. Although we were only two grades apart, we were put in separate school buildings. I was a fairly out going child, and at the time, rather optimistic, but this side of me was about to drastically change.

It was almost the same as the first few weeks of Kindergarten, except this time around it was a new school I was attending, a new country we were living in, and a significant language barrier that I couldn’t see a way around.

“Dominik, Dominik! Wake up bud.” Knowing that it was 5:30 A.M., and that I didn’t want to go to this foreign school in the first place, she tried putting a soft tone in her voice while she woke me. I pulled the blankets even closer to my body, trying to avoid the frigid draft from sneaking in and stealing my warmth. I reluctantly agreed by sitting up in my bed. It was the first day of our classes, and we had to prepare for the long car ride.


This day was the first of many miserable ones to come. After we completed the long drive and dropped my brother off at the “older kids school,” it was my turn. My parents came in for a little while, and tried as best they could to get me semi-comfortable. Then they left.

Since my Dad grew up in Germany and was full blood German, I could speak some, just from what he taught me growing up. The amount I could communicate just didn’t cut it. Most of the other children either ignored me, or were too afraid to try to connect with me, and I had trouble understanding and learning some of the simplest ideas in class. Since I felt I needed to get decent grades to satisfy my parents, I resorted to cheating. Eventually the other students figured this out, and that was the last straw. No one liked me.

I continued to struggle. Day after day, I would come home and cry to my parents, but I had to keep going. Every time a weekend arrived it would feel like a vacation. Then a Monday would arrive and it was like a huge speed bump.

Eventually, this gradually started to change. I don’t remember a specific reason for the change of attitude everyone had towards me, but I was treated different. I personally think that the other students in the school realized the situation I was in and started to become more empathetic towards me. I started to do better with my grades, and even had a few children whom I called “friends”. By the end of the 3 months, I still wanted to go leave and go home, but I felt comfortable with the school, teacher, children, and even the language.

When we left Switzerland in the summer of 2001, I had a new outlook on life. Although I was only 9 years old, I still learned a lesson that showed me that there is a way to adapt to unaccommodating situations, and that some things just take time.





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