Skiing on a School Day? Swiss Semester Gives Students Once-in-a-Lifetime Experiences

Elsa Gordon, Aiden Ragoowansi, Madison Recker, Matthew Meakem, and Lexi Guerin rest at a scenic outcropping during an invigorating hike.
Photographer unknown

Elsa Gordon, Aiden Ragoowansi, Madison Recker, Matthew Meakem, and Lexi Guerin rest at a scenic outcropping during an invigorating hike. Photographer unknown

Aizah Kamal, News Writer

Every year, Sewickley Academy sends a group of around 4-5 sophomores to Zermatt, Switzerland to study at the Swiss Semester program for the first trimester of the school year. This year, the students, Lexi Guerin, Elsa Gordon, Aidan Ragoowansi, Matthew Meakem, and Madison Recker, left on September 6th and returned on December 5th.

As soon as they landed in Switzerland, the five students were put right to work; the trip started by meeting their roommates, unpacking, and then being sent into town to buy school supplies.  The students were in school six days out of the week, and they all had a variety of classes and different roommates.

What a beautiful day in Northern Europe! Students from SA and other schools pose with the Swiss flag mid-way up a mountain. Jordan Taylor/Swiss Semester

“At Swiss Semester we had two ‘seasons:’ hiking and skiing,” said Meakem. “The change from hiking to skiing happened after 7 weeks of the semester.”

Meakem continued, “During hiking season we had four fifty minute classes in the morning followed by a long activity period where we were either on a long hike, short hike, a geology lab, or rock climbing. After this activity period, we had two more classes followed by dinner and study hall. Lights out was at 10:15.”

During the skiing season, the schedule had this same general structure. All the students had similar schedules, but they didn’t share classes or see each other very often.

However, some classes that are required to graduate from SA were not available to take in Switzerland.

“[Swiss Semester] didn’t offer the history classes from SA or Chemistry,” Ragoowansi said, “so I have to make up work for those classes.”

Guerin said that she took chemistry over summer break so she wouldn’t be behind in class when she came back. The summer chemistry course, taught by Dr. Zawacky, was open to everyone who was going to Switzerland for a semester.

Ragoowansi and Meakem both said that school in Switzerland was challenging, but it taught them to manage their time better.

All five students spoke of how much they learned from their Swiss Semester experiences, and how they wish that they could go back.

“My favorite part of the whole trip,” Gordon said, “was getting to know the people and growing with them while we were challenged academically and physically every day.”