When did you arrive in Switzerland and what was that like?
I arrived in Switzerland in the Summer of 2021 after spending four years in Kabul. It was certainly a drastic change and I still find myself getting used to the peace and quiet here. I had visited Switzerland several times over the years, mostly to support clinical work with AsyLex, a legal aid organisation working with refugees and run by my best friend. After leaving Afghanistan I knew that I wanted Switzerland to be my base, and I’ve since joined the University of Basel to complete my PhD where I have been given the opportunity to conduct some really interesting research on the mental health of refugees. Whilst the move here has been challenging, I’ve begun setting foundations here and it’s really starting to feel like home.
Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from just outside of Boston in the US. I grew up with a very close knit family and loved the sense of community there. When it was time to head to university I knew I wanted to explore, and so headed to Columbia in New York City. I loved the diversity and openness of this city, and the fast pace of life there. This led me to travel further after graduating and I ended up working in India, Peru, South Africa, Greece and Afghanistan. I’ve always been interested in exploring new places, but love going back to Boston to see my nieces and nephews whenever I can.
What are some of the things you enjoy about living here?
Switzerland is probably one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever lived. I enjoy the peace and quiet, the friendly locals and even the public transport! I really enjoy hiking the mountains, nature and generally being outdoorsy.
What do you find challenging?
The slower pace of life here in Switzerland was something I had to get used to, but I now fully embrace it! I find myself learning so much from my experiences, whether it’s taking the train in the wrong direction or struggling to open a bank account, even things like walking across the cross-walk is a stark difference to how things are done in cities like Kabul or New York. I definitely had an adjustment period and found it difficult to slow down and take a breath after the chaos of Kabul. Bridging the gap between research and applied clinical work has also been somewhat of a challenge, as I don’t have so many opportunities to work in the field. That said, I find myself thriving in the peaceful and organized nature of Swiss society, and appreciate all the opportunities coming my way.
What is one thing about your native culture that you wish you could access here in Switzerland?
The spontaneity of Americans and the confidence to challenge norms is something I wish I could transport to Switzerland.
Do you have any words of wisdom for new arrivals?
We can get caught up in our busy lives all too often, especially when you move to a new country, perhaps you’re trying to impress your new boss or struggling to learn the language. Just remember, being okay with failure and allowing ourselves to make mistakes allows us to grow. Finding time to enjoy yourself outside of the stress of work is so important for your health and well-being. Go out and explore your new city, go into nature and take advantage of the mountains on your doorstep, and embrace the slower pace of life in Switzerland. There is a huge expat community in Switzerland, find some friends and also try to connect with Swiss people around you – people are always friendlier than you think!