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Culture shock: journey to Switzerland

The Institute of Education Sciences says studying internationally has a lifetime of benefits because students learn more by being exposed to a different culture.

Senior English major Meagan Dagnan is currently in an international studies program in Fribourg, Switzerland. Dagnan said she grew up in the mountains around Chattanooga and  felt  moving to the mountains of Switzerland would be an easy transition.

Dagnan said her initial transition to Switzerland was not as easy as she may have thought, and the fact that English is not spoken regularly was hard for her to get used to.

“My parents exposed me to a lot of travel and other wonderful experiences and that fueled my adoration for adventure,” Dagnan said. “We visited Italy, Scotland and Ireland as a family and I traveled to other countries such as Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and Ecuador.”

Dagnan is primarily studying English literature and French while she is in Switzerland. The courses she is enrolled in are Southern American literature and African-American culture.

“I am enrolled in my regular classes, but they let me sit in on various classes so I am taking advantage of that,” Dagnan said.

The cost of studying abroad varies depending on the program of study.

“I’ve actually been planning to study abroad since my junior year of high school, and I was lucky enough to earn scholarships in high school that are helping to pay for my experience,” Dagnan said.

Despite her financial planning, Dagnan arived in Switzerland lost and confused.

“I had no idea how to do anything, and I got to Switzerland two days early due to a paperwork error and had to fend for myself,” Dagnan said. “I did not think that the culture shock would be a big deal, but I was very wrong.”

After a few days Dagnan was able to settle into her new surroundings and started traveling outside of her main university city.

“I recently traveled to Interlaken, which is about two hours from my university town by train and it was incredible,” Dagnan said. “This city has massive lakes to all sides and was surrounded by gorgeous mountains.”

Dagnan said the Swiss people could easily identify her as an American based on her accent.

“When people find where I am from they want to talk about Trump, and they feel the need to tell their opinions of him,” Dagnan said. “The pastor of the church I attend here told the congregation that humankind is meant to love and support one another despite the difference we may have, and America was not doing that.”

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