IT’S a big leap from Guyra, Australia to Glarus, Switzerland and Briana Merritt took the trip at just 15-years-old.
The Presbyterian Ladies’ College student was approached by one of her former Guyra Central School teachers to apply for an adventure she will never forget.
Merritt was accepted for the Rotary Youth Exchange program that began January of last year and didn’t speak a word of German at the time.
“When I went over there I knew how to say hello and that’s about it.
It was really daunting at school on my first day, they’re all speaking Swiss-German, so a different dialect than normal German and I had to get my host family and school friends to translate for me,” she said.
After two intensive language courses Merritt began to pick up the language and from there created lifelong friendships with students at her school and her host families.
While on exchange Merritt lived with three different families over the course of the year and attended Kanton Schulz Glarus.
Merritt said the experience was truly incredible.
“It was the most amazing experience ever, I earned my independence going over there and learnt more about myself and that there’s life outside of Australia.
I’ve got so many new friends now it’s amazing, and my host families are like my second family now and Switzerland is my second home,” she said.
The trip marked the first time Merritt had travelled overseas on her own.
“It was really different because Guyra is so small and everybody knows everybody and when you go to Switzerland you have so much freedom.
On public transport you can jump on a train and in two hours you’re in France or Italy whereas people that travel to Guyra are like, ‘Oh my god, it’s seven hours to Sydney!’” she said.
The year in Switzerland changed Merritt and she believes she is now a far more confident young woman as a result.
“The trip gave me more courage and now when I’m at home or I have to go and ask a teacher for something or people ask me about my trip I can just speak about it.
It’s the most amazing experience I’ve ever had and I’d recommend it to kids that are shy or want to learn another language, it’s important to go and see the world,” she said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.