While not TECHNICALLY at the half-way point of my stay in Switzerland: with my return to Scotland for Christmas and the Year End Shutdown at work it feels METAPHORICALLY as if I’ve reached the 50% complete point. …Gosh, really?
Thinking back to my first year of university…my year in Philadelphia…and my ongoing year in Switzerland. All follow the same trajectory.
- Month 0: Arrival
The very start of the year is quite hectic and exciting. You’re busy with culture shock, exploring your new area, checking out what’s on offer. There are the tricky bureaucratic hurdles to navigate (registration, social security, setting up bank accounts) that take up stupid amounts of time. You might be frustrated, happy or homesick…but you start forming definite plans about how you want the year ahead to pan out.
- Month 3: Struggle
One quarter in is ALWAYS the roughest part. I reckon the unhappiness experienced at this point is entirely under-pinned financially: you’ve had to spend a lot of money & time on “start-up costs” (rail passes, language classes, stationary) and you’ve yet to build up any income surplus from work. Waiting until payday becomes torturous, you feel trapped at home and isolated. Surviving until the next month seems hard work…how do you intend to survive until the end of the year?
- Month 6: Cruising
At about the half-way point (a) most of the financial issues have been resolved by your prudence (b) you’ve been out of the house long enough to meet people and start cultivating social circles. You’ve got a much better idea about how to survive the rest of the year: you can see yourself making friendships and doing exciting/interesting stuff. Planning becomes a clear process once more.
- Month 9: Sorted
By this point you’ll have formed the friendships that will last you beyond the first 12 months. You’re now feeling fully integrated and at home. It feels like you’re actually “living” rather than “settling in” or “surviving”.
- Month 12: Leaving