I’m not sure how many hours I spent daydreaming about my year abroad, but, never in my wildest dreams did I picture working in a bougee swiss equivalent of St Trinian’s. My curated vision of devouring every carb possible in Pisa was quickly destroyed by Covid and so, endless job applications became the most structure I had during lockdown. I applied on a whim to Beau Soleil (a boarding school in the Alps) and, when two weeks went by, I had almost forgotten about the school entirely. I was reminded at Loch Tay with some friends when I randomly got service and saw in my inbox that I had been invited to interview the next morning. So, on a hotspotted iPad in the middle of the Trossachs, my year abroad finally started!
From the outset, it was a bizarre but brilliant experience. I arrived in Geneva exactly five days after the interview and was greeted by Pascal, one of the school drivers. I had initially agreed with my dad that wearing all my heaviest clothing on the flight to save storage space was a resourceful idea, but unfairly resented him when I found myself sweating pushing a trolley of 400 coat hangers through IKEA’s demo kitchens wearing hiking boots and three hoodies. This moment back in August was my first role at Beau Soleil and honestly, months later I am still not quite sure what my job is. The official title of ‘graduate assistant’ is somewhat ambiguous, as I am neither a graduate, nor am ever sure of where I am supposed to be assisting. One moment, I will be incorrectly trying to explain in French a law of physics to a class, the next apologising to one of the cleaners for the wine bottles spilt everywhere by the seniors, or for the silly putty the juniors have let seep into the carpets of their dorm.
Although Villars is a small place, where the prospect of going into ‘town’ to buy tampons without a student yelling ‘Tonks’ (a Harry Potter nickname given to me since I died my hair purple) at me is a dreamlike fantasy, when the ski season started the place was transformed and I could not have felt luckier to have been where I was. The snow-covered Alps made the decision for me that I would stop fighting Brexit and quarantines to try get into Pisa for my Erasmus term, but instead complete the academic year working here. Thinking back to the snowy pistes and hypothermic lake, memories of both the people and the place will be greatly treasured when I’m back in Durham this year.
By Maddie Sutton