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ISZL Voices: Our Family's First Year in Switzerland
By Hinde Smit, ISZL Parent

Together with our four children, my husband Bas and I moved to Switzerland in the summer of 2018. This was our third move in the last eight years. We are a Dutch family and our first expatriation was to Moscow, Russia, where three of our children started school and our youngest son was born. We admired the beauty of Moscow, saw the city developing every day into a vibrant and modern metropolis, and enjoyed its long, cold winters. 

After four years we moved back to the Netherlands, connecting our children to their Dutch roots.  During these years, the children experienced cycling over Utrecht’s overcrowded cycle lanes and participated in local sports clubs while having the benefits of being part of an international community. It just so happened that we spend most of our holidays in the French part of Switzerland as we love the mountains and fresh air. 

When the opportunity came for our family to work and live in Zürich, it felt perfect. When relocating, our priority is always the education of our children and the choice of their school would be leading in our search for our new family home. This part of Switzerland was new to us, and we first focused on international schools in Zürich. It was only when an acquaintance mentioned ISZL in canton Zug that we expanded our search area. We are glad that we did! 

We scheduled a flight to Zürich and had made appointments to view three schools. Our first school tour was at ISZL, and it immediately set the standard. At the end of the day, there was no doubt that we would start the enrolment process at ISZL for our children. ISZL immediately felt warm, with a dedicated team and a professional image. ISZL seemed like the place where we would like our children to develop further. Although the school has almost double the number of students than our previous school, it still extends an intimate atmosphere because of the way that the campus is set up with different buildings and play areas. 

Next important step in our relocation was finding a family home. We involved our children in the process, scheduled three days to get to know the area better and to visit different homes. Driving around in the area gave a better idea of distances and connections, we learned about places to go, things to do, sports club but most important what places made us feel happy. During these days we had also scheduled an introduction for the children at ISZL. As intense as these few days were, it was a very bonding family experience. It was really amazing as parents to hear each of our children share their personal observations and offer their input about where they thought would be the best place to live. We fell in love with a house in Oberägeri with stunning lake and mountain views. After giving the commute time to school and work a lot of thought, we decided that it would all be more than compensated by the happiness that this house would bring our family and possibility for enjoy lazy Sunday morning breakfasts overlooking over the lake!

Saying goodbye is never easy. With this move, this impacted our children more as their social lives were more developed in comparison to the times we moved when they were younger. We left Utrecht during a heatwave, and by the time we unpacked in Switzerland, temperatures had also reached over 35 degrees. Swimming in the Aegeri lake was so lovely and refreshing. No one will ever forget the feeling of our first dive in its turquoise water after cycling! Coming from a flat country, the uphill cycling to the house was a moment where we felt ‘Welcome to Switzerland’!  

Before the first day of school, we had a couple of days to adapt and the children were so excited. We really appreciated the new student orientation that ISZL hosts. Before the start of school, our children had the chance to meet with their teachers, tour around the school, meet other new students and learn about school life and the everyday routines. For parents, the orientation was a great way to connect with the school leadership, faculty and staff as well to wander around at the information fair for all kinds of support. After that first day, we knew we had made the right choice.

With the passing of a few weeks, we started to feel at home and got involved in new activities. I even joined the hiking club organised by the ISZL Parents’ Association. It has not only been a great way to get to know other parents but also to learn about all the hiking options in this area. We bought hiking boots for the whole family and started doing as the Swiss do - go hiking! 

This country really inspires you to have an active lifestyle, and it is so rewarding, feeling the fresh air and enjoying the stunning views. Hiking trails are so organised and clean with the yellow signs to pointing you along the path and to picnic areas along the way. When you are all warm from walking and have burning feet, what better way is there to cool down than dive into a beautiful Swiss lake!


The transition to the Swiss life has not been difficult for us as we believe that having a new perspective and lifestyle gives so much positive energy to our lives. Although we might miss some of the previous places we have lived and things like an easy walk into town, cycling around the city or vibrant city life, it is compensated by the beauty of nature and local traditions here in Switzerland. The kids feel ready now and confident enough to join local sports clubs. We are frequent visitors to the local swimming pool, and the local sports centre offers great group lessons. 

We have noticed a different mentality amongst Swiss. People are friendly, well behaved and do not seem to be stressed or in a rush. We used to live in a bigger city, with a close to 24/7 economy. Since we now live in the countryside, with shops closing at 17:00 (and some even closing for 2 hours at lunch), it immediately reduces the stress-factor and rewards you with family quality time.

Switzerland has an excellent reputation when it comes to quality. It is an expensive country but offers excellent value. We like the Swiss approach of order and personal responsibility as well as how they appreciate and celebrate traditions. It surprised us to see Swiss kids as young as three years old with big rucksacks walking by themselves to school in the morning traffic or people getting on public transport wearing their ski shoes and carrying their skis to go up the mountains. Last but not least are the unmanned self-service stores at farms where you take your cheese, honey or jam and pay by leaving money in a tin. People here are so honest, respectful and caring about each other. ‘Gruezi Mitenand’, the Swiss way of saying ‘Hello everyone’,  is a phrase we quickly adopted.

In ISZL we have found an excellent school. From their first day, our children felt accepted, and friendships were quickly made. Coming from an International Baccalaureate school in the Netherlands, their academic adjustment was natural enough that they only needed to focus on getting to know their way around. As ISZL has more students than our previous school, it also has more facilities on the premises such as a modern theatre, lunchroom, numerous outdoor areas, the music and art rooms, the science labs, the library and gyms. We were not used to having school sports teams, and our two older sons were delighted when the opportunity came to show their skills and join ISZL’s soccer team. Also, the variety of afterschool activities has been a great way to explore new areas of interest and to meet other students. It was not until we joined the Thanksgiving celebration at ISZL that we first really realised how large the school community is. This was such a lovely way for the kids to be with their friends and for the parents to have a chat. 

A highlight for the kids was definitely the Personal Development Week (PDW) at the start of the year as they had such fantastic experiences in Verbier in Switzerland, the Ardèche in France and Lake Garda in Italy. It was a tremendous opportunity for them to get to know students in their class and entire grade level even better. The programme was so well organised, there was not the time for them to think of home. Our youngest son cannot wait to go on his first PDW in grade 3! 

For our son in grade 8, the Duke of Edinburgh International Award programme is a great experience. The programme helps students to build skills, work towards independence, take responsibility and participate in a team. Our son is already looking forward to the camp in June! 

Our daughter joined the student council in the second half of the year and through it, not only has she become more involved in the school community but has developed her leadership skills. Our youngest son was proud to wear the ISZL Eagles t-shirt at his first indoor soccer school tournament and is looking forward to all the upcoming opportunities.

Another way ISZL gets families involved in the school community is through the country representatives from the Parents’ Association. Country Reps organise activities where you can meet with your ‘peers’. The Dutch community is quite big, and the activities are well attended. Since it is always nice to share your national traditions and brings home a little closer, this really has helped in the transition to another country. ISZL is also the host to Alpentulp, afterschool programme for Dutch with teachers teaching over sixty students in their mother tongue.

Since we believe that for our children's future it is so beneficial to learn from different cultures, we choose an international school over a local school. We feel international school gives them a global and unbiased mindset. We do appreciate how at ISZL the children are learning German and how the team stimulates to participate in local events.

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