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Life is a Box of Swiss Chocolates: Birthdays and Being Independent

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Life is a Box of Swiss Chocolates is a recurring column showcasing the life of a UFV student studying abroad. Jennifer is in Lucerne, Switzerland at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts this semester, and documenting the process as she goes.

I recently turned 25, and I had the best birthday here in Switzerland. Now, I should tell you that Swiss people are very private and not very fond of the whole big birthday display. So when I told a couple of Swiss friends that I wanted to celebrate my birthday weekend, they thought I was being kind of silly. It’s just not a thing people do here. But I figured 25 is a big deal regardless. I’m not around my family or longtime friends, so I wanted to do it up good.

Here it is: I started Friday with a Swiss gin tasting festival, Saturday was recovery morning, then prep to go on an overnight trip to the Matterhorn with my Swiss buddy. Saturday evening we took the three-hour train ride to Zermatt, Switzerland. Sunday we spent the day hiking, eating, and enjoying the amazing view of the Matterhorn. (If you don’t know what the Matterhorn is, it’s the mountain on the Toblerone bar and what the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland is based on.) The sky was clear, the weather was around 20 degrees; absolutely the best conditions for an amazing day. We left Zermatt around 19:00 and arrived back in Lucerne around 22:15. I went to my apartment and got ready for bed.

At midnight I heard many knocks on my door. I opened it, and there were about five of my roommates with candles, singing happy birthday. So sweet! Monday morning I met with an instructor visiting Switzerland from UFV, went to class, took a nap — then the real festivities began. I finished decorating the mini cupcakes I made and popped the champagne. We headed to a beautiful little park by my apartment and had what felt like a Marie Antoinette themed picnic with mini cupcakes, macarons, and champagne. Luckily, I didn’t completely lose my head, and was very aware of its presence on my shoulders the next morning. It was such a nice birthday weekend and I’m so happy I got to spend it with great people in an incredibly gorgeous country.

Despite having such a great weekend, it really got me thinking. I wouldn’t say it was a full-on quarter-life crisis but there were questions. I got thinking about my life, wondering if I’ve done enough, and what more I have left to accomplish. I would say that for the most part I’m very happy with the life I have led so far. I’ve taken quite a bit of time to complete school, but I have met so many people, gotten some really great work experience and opportunities, and ultimately learned a lot about myself in a safe environment. I don’t regret any of it and I am especially happy I had an opportunity to come to Europe before I graduate.

But a friend of mine said something the other day that really rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t think it was intended to, but it did. He said, “It looks like you’re having a great time there. If you find love, you probably won’t come back to Canada, right?” All I could think was why does another person have to validate this experience for me? If I like it enough here, I will stay on my own merits.

Sure, I’ve talked about dating while in Switzerland, but it has been more of a fun thing — to get to know people in the local community. It’s never something I have taken seriously here, mostly because I want to go back home and finish school. I’m not really prepared to let anything jeopardize that. I will definitely be applying for work abroad once I graduate since I have really enjoyed my time here and don’t have anything tying me down in Canada. But it won’t be for a guy. It will be because I want it.

I have always had strong inspirational women in my life who have encouraged me to follow my dreams. My dad too, has encouraged my independence. When I was little, I remember telling him that I wanted to be a hairdresser when I grew up. “Great!” he said. “We’ll build you the best shop in town and make sure you have the best run business.” My parents never said things like, “When you grow up, you’ll find a man who can support you.” This trip has really made me want to get to know myself again and be okay with supporting myself. I think I lost sight of this before because of the pressure I felt from society to get a relationship to make myself happy.   

I have always wanted to be a mom and a wife, and I hope one day I get that opportunity. But as I’ve had the time to really think about my future, I’ve realized I want a partner who is motivated and driven. Someone that I can share my successes and failures with. Someone who is open enough to share their successes and failures with me. I don’t want to just settle — I don’t need to. I was so worried before about how fast the clock was ticking, and started focusing on just picking someone and settling down, but that’s not fair for either person involved.

For my renewed confidence in myself, my abilities, and my future, I have Europe to thank. I strongly recommend if you are ever feeling trapped, or small and insignificant, just try to get out of your bubble and into the world some more. There are people out there that want the same things as you, and when you meet other types of people you realize the spark in yourself. There is no need to ever become complacent and not live the life you want.

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