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Hi from Canton Thurgau,
I arrived in Bern by train after spending a couple of weeks travelling by train from Turkey. My host father was working in Bern so I was able to meet him there and had the afternoon to explore the city. My first host family were the Ludars. Christoph, Manuela, Nadja 9, Adrian 6 and Matthias 3. They live at Graswil, about half hour from Bern and near the town of Solothurn. On the farm there are about 40 deer, a horse, a donkey, couple geese and some cats. Christoph works away from home, so I was feeding the deer of a morning, cleaning out the horse and donkey stalls, helping around the house, and playing with the children.

On the Saturday I went with the neighbour to the national yodelling competition. The competition was over by the time we got there, but I got to see the fireworks and there were groups of people yodelling and playing the Alphorn at different times around the city. There were a lot of people there, it was very difficult to move.

I attended the end of year concert the children had for school. There were 6 students who travelled to different countries and each class presented an act or song from a country. One class was from "Australia" and sang the twelve days of holidays, based on the Australian version of the twelve days of Christmas, with twelve Tasmanian Devils.

The week after arriving, the exchangee incoming weekend was held at Erstfeld, in the Canton of Uri, on a working farm. Upstairs over the barn is a kitchen bathroom and sleeping area for groups to stay. There are 18 exchangees in Switzerland from countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Northern Ireland, USA, Canada, Austria, Finland, England, Norway, Estonia and Cameroon in Africa, which is a new program. The weekend was about finding out about Switzerland, getting to know the other exchangees, and having a lot of fun. Certainly Saturday nights game of "honey I love you" proved to be a lot of fun, entertaining for those watching, and also provided some interesting photos.

Saturday we did a tour of the Gottard Tunnel. This is a 57km tunnel being built through the Alps and will enable a flat route through the Alps, thus increasing the freight carrying capacity on the trains. We didn't get the English speaking guide we were meant to get, so the powerpoint presentation and tour underground were translated by Madlin, this also made the tour long and a bit boring. Apart from that it was a good tour - it reminded me of the motto of the pioneers who built the Abt railway "we find a way or make it."

Sunday was pack up and a BBQ with host families that choose to come. After lunch the host families in groups had to complete activities the exchangees did the previous afternoon. Three exchangees were in charge of each activity and had to explain to each group what they had to do.

Back with the host family for another 2 weeks, helping round the house picking cherries, feeding deer etc., we had Nadjas friend Erika stay a week. Adrian decided he was sleeping in Nadjas room with Erika one night, and gave his lungs a good workout when the girls came home and found out what he had planned.

The international exchanges are organised by the International 4H (or farm) youth exchange, and each year there is a European conference for the alumni. This year was the 50th conference and just happened to be held in Switzerland. If the conference was as good as I have hear National Convention is, my fellow IFYE's and I were in for a real treat!

After church on the first day (Sunday) we were greeted by a cowbell parade. About 20 men and children each carrying 2 cow bells. The little kids with the little bells were in the front and the bells and children got bigger, with the men and the biggest bells in the back. They accompanied us back to Strikof. In the afternoon we had Swiss Fest where we were able to try different Swiss activities. This included carrying the Swiss bells, learning to yodel, blowing the alphorn and Swiss wrestling.

Monday we had a choice of 5 tours. I did the farm and beer tour. The dairy farm is near Basel and owned by an architect with a lot of money. The farm is rented out. The floor in the dairy can be raised and is perfect for myself, Aleta and any other person who is average height!! Also there is two stainless steel grain silos. The couple that rent the farm enjoy milking, so that is why there is no automatic milking (even through the owner could afford to have robotic milkers!). After lunch we headed to the beer factory (they also made non-alcoholic beer and the Arabian countries are their main export market).

Tuesday was exploring the Canton of Zürich on the public transport system in groups of 6. Each group had 4 things to find in the canton, my group managed to lose one of it's members. Wednesday was more tours - I did the tour to the Emmi plant. This is the largest dairy processor in Switzerland who makes yoghurt, cheese and coffeelattie, along with other products such as muesli and probiotics. While the tour was interesting, I felt it was another company that has become so big it no longer really cares about the farmers that supply it.

Lunch was at a fellow IFYEs dairy farm. (Lukas, IFYE to northern Ireland 2007). They have their own solar plant and produce their own electricity, they also have a little shop and make and sell their own produce.

Next was a tour of a dairy farm that also raises Ostrich for meat. When the birds are 100kg they are slaughtered. 100kg of bird amounts to about 30kg of meat.

Wednesday night proved that with team work girls can achieve anything. With the help of 3 fellow exchangees, we carried Lukas to his bed via the water fountain. It also took team work to prevent getting dunked into the fountain ourselves. Kylie, this is the Lukas that was in Northern Ireland with you last year.

Thursday was the general assembly of the alumni, a tour of the farm after lunch and team activities in the afternoon. Thursday evening everyone was dressed in their best for celebration dinner for the 50th Anniversary. Most of the IFYE Presidents were at the dinner and they were interviewed in groups. There was also 25 year pins awarded to those who had been on exchange 25 years ago and certificates to about seven people for whom it has been 50 years since their exchange.

My next host family was the Hubers, Martin, Margrith, Charlotte 18, Michael 15 and Johannes 13, who live on a dairy farm in Mattwil, an hour from Zürich and 15km from the Swiss German border, in the Canton of Thurgau. Saturday was departure day and for me, and although it was exciting to be going to a new family, it was sad that a week of fun, friendship, laughs and meeting new people was over.

Friday night was the last dinner together. I have had quite a few people through the week ask if I know people from Tasmania that they were on exchange with. Even a lady from France (Lucie) wanting to know if I knew a Brett Mackenzie (alias Boof) if anyone is talking to Boof, can they pass on the message that Lucie and her family are keen to hear from him.

Friday morning after two and a half hours sleep I joined the farm walk. This was led by Stefan who was also one of five of us that stayed in the bar until 5am. The tour included a visit to three different farms in the area. The first was a bio fuel farm, built by two farmers who also have 65 milking cows. Next was a horse farm and riding school. The owner also raises chickens, but we arrived a day late for the chickens and the owner missed out on some extra help. Then was a small 9 hole golf course, this used to be a dairy, but the owner decided to build the golf course when the agriculture industry was going through crisis ten years ago.

Accommodation for most of us was in the underground bunker located on the farm (bomb shelter) or jail cell. Each big room had bunks three high and 8 beds across. As Daniela and I were the only girls on the top bunks, it provided a perfect opportunity for Austria and Australia to have a missile war. The conference was held at Strikof Agriculture Farm near Zürich. With the incoming exchangees, there were 19 countries represented.

This is an update on the rest of my exchange to Switzerland.

After the European conference I stayed with the Huber's in Mattwil, 15km from the German border. Martin and Margrith have 3 children, Charlotte 18, Michael 16 and Johannes 13. The Huber's milk 80 cows, in a free stall barn, but do spend the morning outside when the weather is nice, and are brought inside at lunch. The cows eat silage mixed with maize. There is a lot of maize grown in Switzerland and it forms a large part of the dairy cows´ diet.

The cows are milked on the side and you face the back of the cow, so the front of the cups go on the back teats. In Australia the front of the cups go on the front teats, so I spent a week milking and trying not to put the cups on the wrong way!
The second and third weeks I was helping in the house and garden, and also had a trip to the Rhein falls (Switzerland's Niagara), Mount Santas, Stein on Rhein and also Zurich and Konstanz in Germany. I attended the regional ploughing competition with Charlotte, where the Landjugend were helping. I was speaking to a man who knew about the world ploughing completion held in Tasmania in 1982. Three weeks with this family was too short, and I was sad to leave, however I had two more families to stay with.
Next was family Wettstein in canton Aargau. Helena, Markus, Manuel 6 and Pascal 4. Markus is a contractor, so he's not on the farm during the day and Helena teaches 3 days a week. They have 150 bulls on the farm, and also make their own wine. I had 2 horses and a foal to look after.

The family had a girl who was helping in the house, so I was not given much to do. I stayed outside and cleaned up, and weeded between playing with the boys and looking after the horses.

One funny memory is when both brothers decided they want to play with me at the same time. Pascal tries to pull you up the stairs and Manual down the stairs. If you go up, Manuel starts crying and yell to his mum that you're not playing with him. So you go down, he stops crying, but then Pascal starts to yell to his mum that you're not playing with him. I just picked one, and hoped Helena found something for the other boy to do.

The last family I stayed with were the Tifenbachs. Ueli, Beata, Lukas 7 and Paulina 6. They say you leave the best till last, and I think for me this was the best family. They live in Studen in the canton of Bern. Beata is from Poland, so it was interesting to talk about how we find the Swiss way of life.

They have a small apple orchard and 17 cows. The cows are in a tie stall barn and you take the cups to each cow, plug them into the line and you have to bend over to put them on. I was sorting out apples in the morning and milking of a night. I enjoyed the milking as it was a new way to milk for me.

I had a lot of fun with this family, and wish I could have stayed longer. But now I have the opportunity to see some more of Europe and visit fellow IFYE´s who were at the European conference.
I would like to say thank you to all the members at home who host exchangees (you know who you are) without you, exchanges would not be possible and it is a worthwhile thing to experience. I am sure the exchangees we host appreciate you showing them Tasmania.

I know everyone who has been on exchange says "if you have the opportunity to go on exchange you should do it" and I know you have heard it all before, but I am sorry, I will join the club by saying the same thing. If you get the opportunity to apply for an exchange you should, it is a lot of fun and you meet heaps of great people. And it is the only way to find out what other exchangees are talking about. Then you'll come home and say the same thing.

Thank you to Rural Youth for providing me with this opportunity, and for sending me to Switzerland in a year they hosted a European conference. Also thank you to Australian Private Networks who sponsored my exchange.
Helen Gill.

2008 Exchangee to Switzerland