Name: Melissa Miller
Hometown: Oro Valley, AZ
Varsity Sport Participated in: Women's Tennis
Study Abroad Semester and Location: Spring 2015 at Université de Fribourg, Switzerland
What is a common food there? Best meal you’ve had abroad?
Pastries are absolutely everywhere here, and there are too many kinds to choose from. Fribourg is a border city between the French and German areas of Switzerland, so we get the best of both worlds with chocolate croissants and Berliners. The best meal I had was actually in Florence when I visited a friend. We had dinner at her host family’s house and I got to enjoy homemade pesto and try chicken liver pâté. The experience of eating in an authentic Italian home and talking about American entertainment with a group of Italians was pretty awesome.
What do you miss most about home/Beloit?
I miss how easy it is to make friends at Beloit. You can sit by someone in the library or in Commons and nobody will look at you like you’re insane. At Fribourg, the friend “groups” among the regular students are pretty well established and it’s hard meeting people from the area because a lot of them, in a way, disassociate from exchange students and only talk amongst themselves. It was much easier for me to make friends with the other exchange students because a lot of us had that similar feeling of being excluded.
What is the most unexpected thing you have encountered so far during your off-campus study experience?
I didn’t expect to be turned down for a bank account. The Swiss and American banking systems aren’t too happy with each other, which means that Americans have a requirement of at least 6 months stay in order to have an account. My stay is only 5 months, but I wasn’t aware of this rule, and was pretty upset when I had to go to the International Relations Office for help getting a bank account. I had to wait until they made a deal with a cantonal bank, and even then I had very specific instructions of what I can and cannot do with my account.
How were you able to stay in shape or stay prepared for your sport while you were off-campus?
Walking and hiking were very common. The university was a 20-minute walk from my apartment complex, and of course, it didn’t own its own fitness center. I couldn’t afford a gym membership, so I would use the trails in and around the city to do some fun hiking. I especially liked the hilly walk around the local lake, and hiking up the side of the canyon to get to the monastery. It’s steep and not exactly safe, but rewarding.
Has the time you spent abroad changed the way you think about your athletic experience or your sport in general? Absolutely, especially how I think about athletics specific to Beloit. At Beloit, it’s less serious and more fun, more social. Because of student activities fees, everybody is allowed to try out for or join whatever sport(s) they want without having to pay for each one. Students can compete, but they can also have fun and make new friends. Athletics are taken very seriously in Switzerland; the university offers many athletics classes for an extra fee, and it also costs extra to participate competitively. There are no public tennis courts for me to use at my leisure, and I didn’t meet a lot of people who play tennis solely for fun and not to become a professional player.