Alumna Jess R. might not be from Switzerland originally and has lived around the world, but she still considers the land of cheese and chocolate to be the place she hangs her hat. Perhaps because of the memories made during her five years at The Riverside School or the people she’s met along the way. Most likely, it is a combination of both that has led Jess from Zug to Perth to Dubai and now back to Switzerland.
Riverside – a truly one-of-a-kind school
Most alumni who attended The Riverside School (1990-2008) will tell you how amazingly unique the experience was. Over the years, the school moved two times before merging with ISZL in 2008. Jess recalls that when the school moved into the Salesianum Villa, the students helped to move everything in. As the school was smaller then (Jess had just three students in her AP Biology class and 18 in her graduating class!), everyone’s help was much appreciated. When it came to sports, “we had to scrounge together teams. Anyone could play any sport they wanted to. No try out needed! Some teams were just two people, like the tennis team. Others were co-ed just so that we’d have enough players to compete.” As an athlete, Jess is always ready for a match, but that wasn’t always the case for some students at Riverside. “There was one sports teacher who would make us play the entire class time – no matter what kind of shoes we had on. If a girl forgot her runners, he’d have them get in the game wearing their high heels for the entire lesson!”
When the school was still located at Feldstrasse 6 in Zug (the location before moving to Salesianum Villa in 2003), it had a kitchen with a temperamental toaster. “When toast would burn, the smoke alarms would go off and the fire brigade would ride bikes over to check things out before fining the school for a false alarm. It must have happened often enough that they were willing to give us a break!”
It was moments like these that added to the comradery of the students. “We used to hang out on the boardwalk area of Zug after school or go skiing at least one afternoon a week. Mr Loesche used to perform at Pickwick’s Pub the first Monday of every month and we’d go watch him. Those were great times! Even now, if we don’t stay in touch, getting together with other Riversiders is so easy! We just come together,” Jess shares.
The “in between” years
After graduating in 2005, Jess left Switzerland to return “home” to Perth, Australia and to start studying law and politics. Although she grew up in Perth until she was 11 “it was hard to return as everyone there is ‘local' and had a group of friends already. Coming ‘home’ as an ‘outsider’ made it hard to fit in - it took a lot of work and a fair bit of time. With people from Riverside, we are all from everywhere, so we clicked.”
Eager for a change after working in Perth for a few years, Jess packed her bags for Dubai. There she was working in start-up in legal contracts and purchasing. “I was struggling to find purpose in the corporate world I was living in. My degrees in Law/Arts (Politics and International Studies) have been very useful and opened many doors but I felt pigeonholed in procurement and really wanted a change.” After three years of Dubai, Jess committed to making a change and spent six weeks walking 800km of the Camino de Santiago. “Having the courage to take time out and sort what it is that I want to do was the best thing I could do. I knew I was a professional at being an expat and coming back to reestablish myself in Switzerland has done me good.”
Back on Home Base
One constant for Jess as she moves about the globe is that she has played touch rugby everywhere she’s lived. “Sports are one of the best ways to meet people and get settled in a new place.” Now that she’s living in Wintherthur and working in hospitality, she’s joined a touch rugby club in Zurich that has allowed her to do just that. “Always being on the move can be hard on friendships but moving back has been great as I get to be near my parents again and catch up with some of my friends from school. After living in a few different countries, I really appreciate Switzerland for its beauty, stability and location. It’s a great place to live."
Jess is thinking about how to change her career to something that she’s happier with and is considering teaching. She’s bought an old VW campervan and is currently travelling Europe, playing touch rugby tournaments for her Zurich club and the Swiss National team, meeting people and building connections along the way. No matter what though, all roads led back to Switzerland for Jess.