By Odile Evans, Johnstown/Coolgreany Macra
Switzerland can only be described as beautiful. And what better way to see it than staying with farm families who work the land that makes the landscape so stunning.
Over a two month exchange in 2015 I stayed with three different families, all within the German speaking region. All three farms were dairying but with completely different sideline businesses.
If you are looking for a holiday, the exchange is not for you. I was busy milking cows, digging vegetable beds, raking hay (by hand), castrating pigs and covering grapes with netting to keep the birds off. That said, the more effort you put in to earn your keep, the more effort the host families will put in to show you a good time on days off.
I went out for the National Swiss day with the young farmers, sang in ski resort Adelboden with a country music band and sampled plenty of culture along the way.
A definite highlight was staying up on the mountain for two nights looking after the dairy cows and goats that graze there for the summer. Minus electricity and running water, it was the ideal break from all the trappings associated with our busy, modern, technology filled lives.
The organisation that co-ordinates your exchange in Switzerland, IFYE, is absolutely brilliant. It welcomes all the international guests with a weekend where you all get to know each other. Halfway through the summer you all meet again for a hiking weekend in the Alps, it’s a great chance to catch up.
I cannot recommend doing an exchange like this enough. It is truly the best way to get to know and understand another culture. Live with the locals, eat like the locals and work with the locals. On top of that you’ll make friends from around the world that you can go visit.
If you want to read more on my trip see below: