Saturday, December 7, 2013

Interview: Claudio Ferrari, Swiss Foreign Exchange Student

Last year, I had the honor to meet Claudio Ferrari, a Swiss exchange student. Claudio is a polyglot. He attended South High School, in Denver Colorado, where I currently teach French and Spanish. Claudio was my assistant during my third period French class. He helped tutor many students, and he brought a fresh perspective that enabled my students to better understand ,and appreciate the importance of learning a second language.

I lived in Strasbourg, France with a family while in college, and to this day, I can still draw many positives from that experience. No amount of classroom instruction can replace living in the country where the language is spoken. Before 9/11, I took my students on a 10-day tour to France and Spain. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to take students out of the country since 2000.

Claudio agreed to share with us his experiences living in the United States.
You left your native Switzerland to attend a year of high school in Denver, CO; can you explain why you did that?

The idea actually came from my sister, because she did an exchange year in Norway the year before I went to America. She got me thinking: why shouldn’t I do that; it would be an awesome experience. And looking back, I have to say that it definitely was.

How was your experience living with an American host family?

Well I didn’t really have the classic “host family experience”, in my case it was more like I just had a room to live in at that house. But that wasn’t bad at all, in fact I really enjoyed it a lot because it gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted to do and also it forced me to become a lot more independent.

Are there any major differences between a Swiss and an American high school?

There are huge differences, and I think most of them come down to how the schools are organized. In Switzerland a high school works more like a college, meaning it’s not the teacher’s responsibility to make sure the students do all their work, they just have to be prepared for the test and if they fail it’s their problem. I like that system a lot because it makes students more responsible and independent.

I understand you are fluent in four languages, can you explain how you managed to acquire these languages?

In Switzerland you have to learn at least two languages (French and English) in addition to our native language, German. But from my own experience with languages I can tell that it gets easier with every new language you learn, because the blueprint for learning a new language is similar in every language. And also many languages like Spanish and French are related so you can understand a lot without even knowing the language.

Are there any similarities or differences between Swiss and American teenagers?

I have to say I find American teenagers to be a little immature sometimes. But I believe that is because of the way they’re looked at here. Nobody would see a 17-year-old as a grown up person. In Switzerland in a lot of ways you’re seen as an adult. I would say a lot of how you act comes from the way you’re looked at.

Can you elaborate on what you learned spending the year in a foreign land away from family and friends? Was it worth it? Would you do it again and why?

I’ve learned so many things during my exchange year: about America, other cultures, other people, and last but not least I’ve also learned a lot about myself. It’s amazing how much one year can change you and the way you see things. To everyone out there who’s thinking about going to another country for some time: Do it! It’s absolutely worth it.

What are your honest thoughts on American culture?

I’ve seen many things I like but also many things I don’t like about American culture. But what really amazes me about Americans is their way of thinking straight forward, that “you can do anything” attitude. I’ve probably adopted some of that because it’s just a great motto for life.

I want to thank you, Claudio, for taking the time to share your experiences with my readers. I am sure your words will inspire many. I am wishing you great success in your future endeavors.


  1. Claudio sounds like a very smart and responsible young man. I wonder what he'll accomplish in his life.

    1. Jan,

      He is very smart and responsible. He will go far, because he is very dedicated to working very hard. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. What an impressive young man. You asked all the right questions Nicole and his command of english is wonderful. I'm betting he will go far. Thanks for a fascinating blog post.

    1. Sharon,

      Claudio is so very special. His positive attitude and willingness to work hard blew me away. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Great interview, Nicole! Claudio seems to be quite an intelligent young man. It's interesting to learn a little about the differences in Switzerland.

    1. Connie,

      I loved what he said about students being held responsible for their grade and learning. I think American students would excel even more, if we had the same requirements. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  4. What a delightful interview, Claudio and Nicole. Having lived abroad for ten years in London, I can relate to much of what you have said and experienced here, Claudio--the positive and the negative. Thank you for being so candid, and I wish you every success in life!

    1. Thanks so kindly, for stopping by Nancy. Yes, I Iove Claudio's honesty. He is one of a kind, and oh, so very smart too!

  5. Hi Nicole, nice interview of a thoughtful young man. We had several students over the years, from: Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, France, Germany. We shared in their "Americanization" (which happened fast), and learned about life in their country. I believe you have to live in another country to fully appreciate their culture and your own. I've lived in Paraguay, Spain, Turkey, and Hawaii (so international it may as well be another country!)

  6. Penelope,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with me. Pretty cool, you lived in so many different places

  7. What a very Smart Young Man . He will go far .

  8. Hi K.C.
    Yes, Claudio is extremely smart, and no doubt will be very successful in life. I am so happy I crossed paths with him. Thanks for stopping by.