Amedee Ngarukiye is studying Public Health, focusing on Health Promotion and Health Behavior. During Fall term, he traveled to Nyon, Switzerland, through SIT Study Abroad programs. While in Switzerland, he focused on global health and development policy. In this article he reflects on how his trip abroad helped him enjoy the little things in life.
We arrived on a Thursday and on Sunday, the day before classes began, we met our host families. Immediately after walking into the hotel, the meeting spot for our host families, they recognized me (and I them). After a brief in-person introduction, we quickly left the premises. They gave me a tour of Nyon, where classes were held. They provided me with a thorough run-down of the train schedule, and many other things. Though they lived about 15 minutes from the hotel, it took us about 45 minutes to get home because they gave me a presidential tour. To my surprise, it felt like a mere 10 minutes because we were talking the entire time. From Olivier’s bad English, to my broken French, we often made up words to fill in the blanks during our conversation and if it had not been for his wife Caroline, who is much better at the whole English thing, we would have had an even harder time communicating. Upon arrival, I was led to my room and given yet another tour. After confessing my previous night’s activities that resulted in 2 hours of sleep, I excused myself to take a shower and a nap. I thought Olivier’s response to my request was priceless, he simply said, “Have a pleasure”.
Olivier would say “have a pleasure” every time I was about to do something, literally anything, regardless of what it was. “Okay, I am off to bed, bon nuit”, I would say and he would respond “have a pleasure” without hesitation. “Je veux prendre une douche” (I want to take a shower), Olivier would respond “have a pleasure!” or “je veux faire mon devoir” (I want to do my homework), again he’d say “have a pleasure”. It never failed, regardless of how innocuous the endeavor.
It was during my forth week that the meaning of Olivier’s words became clear. It was the Thursday of a week that had been both academically demanding and physically exhausting. As we sat down for supper that evening, we talked about how our week was going. That is when they proceeded to tell me stories about previous students they had hosted and encountered through other host families. They told me about the girl who got a bit overwhelmed and nostalgic while working on her Independent Study Project and subsequently left the country to visit her boyfriend in the U.S. which resulted in her academic dissatisfaction. They talked about a student who was robbed by some French hooligans in Lyon after a night out. They brilliantly conveyed the story of the girl who never left the house. They imparted tales of students from other host families who were expelled for academic dishonesty. I spent the rest of the night doing homework and reflecting on their tales and Olivier’s words.
The following morning, I had a hefty breakfast in preparation of a long day ahead. As I was on my way out to the train station, Olivier was in the backyard tending to his garden. Had it not been for the familiar wish of “have a pleasure” I would not have noticed him. Ironically, his words seem to sum up my time in that strangely exotic land. I indeed had a pleasure. I was bored so I went to France with a friend just to have lunch, we had a pleasure. It is easy to be overwhelmed, especially in a strange unfamiliar land. That night, I came to conclusion that Olivier’s words were literal, an indication that I should have a pleasure regardless of what I am doing. I decided not to be caught up in one thing so much that it becomes overwhelming. In doing so, I needed to find a balance between my priorities and extracurricular activities. I decided to have a pleasure.
That weekend, a couple of friends from the program and I, along with our academic director hiked the Jura Mountains; I had a pleasure. The following weekend, I returned to the Jura Mountains for the festival of the “Cattle Descent from des Alpes Pastures”. At the end of September, around 400 cows descend from the pastures of des Alpes after the summer months, adorned with flowers and ribbons. Accompanied by the farmers and their cowherds, they are welcomed back into the village of St. Cergue by spectators from near and far. This was by far the most “Swiss” experience during my time en Suisse, well, at least according to Olivier. Upon my return from the event, Olivier knighted me as Sir Amadeus of Génolier. It goes without saying, I had a pleasure!
The following weekend we visited a chocolate factory! I had a pleasure. I had my first reclete; I had a pleasure. I had a taste of my first crepe; I had a pleasure! I played footy with Olivier and his colleagues on top of a mountain overlooking lac Léman under the night sky with a cool rain showering down and the moonlight shining bright (where I made a successful slide tackle); I had a pleasure! I conducted my first qualitative research which immensely inspired me; I had a pleasure. I returned to my home university with a 4.0 GPA for the semester; I had a pleasure. I embarked for Excellency by interning with two NGOs on separate continents and, you guessed it, I had a pleasure. Dear Beaver Nation, Have a Pleasure!