My Swiss Experience – Isla (Canada)

Standard

It is hard to put in words the incredible experience that I’ve had at Our Chalet, but I’ll give it a try.

I have been in Guiding ever since I was 5 years old and grew up learning about WAGGGS and the World Centres, and being so inspired by the girls who would share their travel stories and wishing I could go experience everything I was being shown.

Back in 2010, I had the amazing opportunity to travel with my Ranger unit to Europe, where we spent 10 days at Our Chalet doing the summer session and then continuing on to spend some time in London at Pax Lodge. It was my first time ever travelling to Europe and being immersed in a culture completely different than my own.  Ever since returning home from that trip I had dreamed of coming back.

Fast forward to 2016 – I had recently graduated from university from a Digital Design and Development programme and while looking for an internship it was brought to my attention that Our Chalet offers a Marketing and Communications internship position (which was exactly the type of job I was looking for!) and the deadline to apply was only a few weeks away! Without even questioning anything I applied, and to my surprise, a few months later I got the good news of being selected for the Autumn 2017 season! I had about 10 months to prepare for my adventure to the Swiss Alps!

August 30th 2017- Stepping off the bus at Adelboden Oey was a surreal moment.  The best part was seeing the blue Our Chalet van and Nikki, the Deputy World Centre Manager for Operations, greeting me (I remember dragging my suitcase up the hill the last time I visited, so this was a nice treat!).

I was the last member of the Autumn 2017 team to arrive, but as soon as I went up to the attic in Spycher and met everyone, I felt immediately welcomed and it was almost like I had known them for a couple weeks already!  I don’t know what I would have done without the support, love, and laughs from the Autumn team.

Isla 4

Being a Marketing and Communications Intern meant that I would spend most of my time in the office creating content for social media, editing photos, creating posters, updating flyers, and much more, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t have time to explore.  I travelled around to over 10 different cities and towns in Switzerland, as well as got to join the Programme team on some hikes and day trips (I was in charge of taking all the photos during the trips!).

Isla 2

I tried traditional Swiss foods I would have never thought of eating (I am a very picky eater!) and did things that I would never have dared do while at home (such as paragliding, and waking up in the early hours of the morning to hike up and see the sunrise!)

Isla 1

This trip has helped me gain independence, confidence, and helped me learn a lot about myself, and about many different cultures. I have made friends for life, and made memories I will treasure forever! I am excited for the new and exciting opportunities that are to come in the future both in my personal life, and my guiding life.

Isla 3

Isla McCullough (Canada), Our Chalet Marketing & Communications Intern, Autumn 2017

Advertisements

My Chalet Summer – Rachel (Canada)

Standard

My name is Rachel, and I am from Ontario, Canada, and I have been volunteering at Our Chalet as the Programme Intern from May – September 2017. I applied for this position as I love the outdoors and nature, and was looking for a way to give back to Guiding, while experiencing life in a different part of the world. While volunteering at Our Chalet, I had the opportunity to experience and try many new things. While on programme, I went to the Adventure Park where I stepped out of my comfort zone and jumped off a bridge to abseil, and had the chance to try climbing on an outdoor rock wall. We explored towns, learned how chocolate is made (and how tasty it is!), and did lots of hiking, including an overnight hike to see the sunrise from the top of Bunderspitz.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In my time off, I spent a lot of time hiking. I loved how easy it was to just walk outside and go hiking around Adelboden; there are so many different routes and mountains from which to choose! Although sometimes hiking all day can be tiring, the view and sense of accomplishment I felt once I reached the top always made the hike worthwhile for me. While in Switzerland I also tried, for the very first time, a Klettersteig or Via Ferrata climbing route. These routes require you to wear a harness and helmet, and allow you to climb up a mountain while clipped into a fixed line. The first Klettersteig I did was with the programme staff on one of our days off together on Engstligen. This was a great introduction for me to this type of climbing, and I enjoyed it a lot. We even saw a very large patch of wild Edelweiss near the top of the trail!

Rachel PRI 5

After this successful climb, the program team and I decided we wanted more of a challenge, and went to the Klettersteig in Kandersteg, the next valley over, on Allemenalp. This Klettersteig was significantly longer and more challenging than the first we had attempted. There were rebar steps in the rock face, wire bridges, and ladders – even a spiral ladder. The views from this trail were spectacular, although I did feel like I was focusing on the climb so much in some areas to properly appreciate the view! Of all the things I did while I was in Switzerland, I think this Klettersteig was the most challenging, but I have to say I felt very accomplished after having reached the top.

Rachel PRI 2

After having spent four months in the Swiss Alps, I have a new appreciation for the importance of spending time outdoors in nature and being active. Although I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, I haven’t made spending time outdoors a priority as much in recent years. When I return home, I will bring back with me my enthusiasm for hiking and the outdoors and explore some new parts of Canada with friends, family, and Guiding groups.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rachel DeJong (Canada) – Our Chalet Programme Intern 2017

 

The best months of my life – Louise (UK)

Standard

Two months ago, I arrived fresh-faced and excited to be at Our Chalet. It was the start of the most fulfilling, life changing experiences I have ever had: being an Autumn Assistant at Our Chalet.

The first two weeks were spent in training, and I’ve never learnt so much in such a short period of time! As an Autumn Assistant, our days are split up into programme services and guest services. In programme service training, we learnt how to take guests on hikes, give tours to visitors, lead songs around the campfire and so much more. Guest service training can seem more mundane at first… toilet cleaning, cooking dinner and folding laundry are just some of the daily tasks that we have to make sure are completed. However, as me and the rest of the Autumn team scrubbed toilets and folded towels together, I learnt what a great team I was surrounded by. I made friends for life during those first few weeks, living together in a small attic space and working together for upwards of fourteen hours a day, sharing each others successes as well as homesick tears.

Lowie 1

At the end of our two weeks training, the Summer Assistants finished their season, and, as if the mountains knew a change of seasonal staff was underway, the weather suddenly got colder and the first snow landed. At campfire on our final night of training, we received our staff neckerchiefs. Standing in front of the embers of the fire, I turned and shared a grin with my fellow Autumn Assistant, Marina, and I couldn’t help but think of the history and friendship that surrounded me. I’m lucky enough to be at Our Chalet during the 85th birthday celebrations, and 85 years of guiding and scouting friendship, laughter and love is something I am always thinking about high up on our mountain, and never more so than during that campfire, with my newly earned scarf around my neck.

Lowie 7

The weeks since our training finished and our season started have been just as much of a whirlwind! I’ve done things I never thought I would; I took a gondola to Engstligen and the weather made it seem like we were in the clouds. I’ve held a tea party in Baby Chalet, just like Helen Storrow did, cooking traditional Cornish foods and teaching all the staff about my Cornish culture. I’ve slept on Falk’s bed, taken too many day trips to count, had a party with around two dozen staff members in one of our tents (it was a squeeze!) and tried traditional Swiss dishes. Not only have I learnt more about the WAGGGS programme and the history of guiding and scouting, but I have also tried so many exciting and challenging new things, I’ve learnt so much about myself as well.

As cliche as it sounds, over the past few months, I’ve have been able to see myself change more as a person than I have done in years. I can see it in the way I hold myself a little taller, talk to guests with more confidence and catch myself smiling at the simple parts of chalet life (whether that is a shared joke with the other Autumn Assistants whilst cooking dinner or sitting alone underneath the stars with a cup of tea, after a long working day).

We had a twilight hike to Bonderfalls during our training, and as the sun set I can remember looking over the Adelboden valley. Sarah, the Deputy World Centre Manager for Programme came over to me and I told her how didn’t think I was ever going to get used to living somewhere as magical as Our Chalet. She told me that when she first arrived, someone had spoken to her and said that there’s just ‘something in the air’ in this part of the world. I couldn’t agree more. I have one month left living at Our Chalet, and I can’t wait to see how much I continue to grow as a person.

 

Lowie 5

 

Louise (Lowie) Trevena (UK) – Our Chalet Autumn Assistant 2017

A Day in the life….of an Our Chalet Summer Assistant – Aoife, UK

Standard

Summer is a busy month here at Our Chalet with events running throughout the season and Girl Guides and Scouts visiting from all around the world to see Our Chalet. It can be a little daunting to think that people may have been saving for years to visit and now it’s up to you to meet their, sometimes incredibly high, expectations and make this an unforgettable experience. As a Summer Volunteer I get to take guests out on programme as well as completing guest services jobs around the chalet.

Aoife 1

7am is usually the time my alarm sounds when working on programme, giving me time to get up, get ready and make sure I am ready for the day ahead with a full stomach, packed lunch and plenty of snacks, arriving at morning meeting by 8:30am. Everyday begins with a morning meeting where we find out tasks for the day and sometimes even has a theme; Teaching Tuesday, Freaky Friday, Wild Wednesday ! After the meeting one lucky person gets to ring the programme bell, letting guests know that they should be almost ready for programme and need to head down and meet by the flag pole. During the summer months guests take part in the Swiss Challenge event, an 8 day high adventure programme which involves many activities including hiking, rock climbing and town days. Each day we will do an equipment check just to double check nobody has forgotten anything, it’s no fun being caught on top a mountain in the rain without your waterproofs! Once everybody is sorted and accounted for we being our exciting day of activities. One programme that the Chalet has run for many years is a trip to the local Trummer family woodcarver shop. Guests hike down the chalet hill and through the Adelboden valley, arriving at the woodcarvers around 2 hours later. The views from the hike are spectacular and guests enjoy looking back and trying to spot the chalet. After visiting the woodcarvers and buying many handcrafted souvenirs the hike continues, this time in the direction of Adelboden town, stopping off for lunch by the river before heading back to Our Chalet in time for dinner.

Guest services days begin a little later, with morning meeting at 9:30am before tackling the work ahead of us (unless you are on breakfast when you have a nice and early start at 7:30am). Everyday tasks include cleaning bathrooms and any guest areas, if we have arrivals rooms will need to be set and departures means plenty of laundry. Some days we may have to turn around the full chalet in one day, sometimes the laundry may get started as early as 7:30 just so we have enough clean bedding. Season volunteers are responsible for all meals at Our Chalet, under the supervision of the kitchen manager, and dinner is served at 6:30pm. Dinner is served in the dining hall with one sitting for both guests and staff so it can get a bit tight when the chalet is full, sometimes the staff need to sit outside. Then it’s time for evening programme, usually done by those working on guest services that day whilst those on programme transfer to clean up the kitchen. International Night is always a night the vollies look forward to as guests share their culture with the rest of the group and this often involves food!

Aoife 5

Working at Our Chalet is a brilliant and varied experience, you will never get bored and meeting guests from around the world and hearing their stories is what makes this experience even more amazing.

Aoife 6

Aoife Smith (UK) – Our Chalet Assistant, Summer 2017

Life as a Summer Shortie – Eirian, Scotland

Standard

Being a short term volunteer (shortie) at Our Chalet is an experience to say the least! At times it seems surreal to think I am living and working in Switzerland learning and doing new things daily. Although sometimes life can get tiring and a bit repetitive on guest services. As a short term volunteer I am involved in keeping everywhere clean, feeding everyone and doing day tours occasionally, therefore at times I feel like I am constantly in the kitchen or have cleaned the bathrooms for the thousandth time. It is all worth it though for the opportunity to be here, especially when you do it with an amazing group of people who make it fun.

I have loved meeting and making friends with people from all over the world that are also volunteering and working here, hopefully the friendships will last. It has been interesting learning about the different cultures and funny at times when learning different phrases for example. I have been here for the season change over meaning I am very lucky as I got to know and work with the summer and autumn volunteer teams, however I am not looking forward to having to say goodbye to two groups as the first time wasn’t fun.

Eirian 3

Working at Our Chalet can be challenging, which is good as that is part of the reason why I wanted to come here. I wanted a challenge, adventure and a condensed dose of Girl Guiding to help my withdrawal due to being away from the world whilst at university. Although I can cook and make a lot of things from scratch, cooking here is completely different to at home, mainly due to having to cook for such a large number of people. It hasn’t been easy but I think I am more used to cooking for the masses. I have also learned how to make different things which I might try to use at home. These are mainly the traditional Swiss dishes that we offer; Rosti and Alpine Maccaroni. One thing about cooking here that came as a surprise is that I am apparently  good at cooking tofu according to one of the interns. I have never cooked with it until coming here and although I nearly destroyed the pan the first time I cooked it, the tofu was greatly enjoyed. I’m not comfortable doing presentations which is practically what the day tours are as I’m giving a lot of information on the tour to a large group of people and therefore found this challenging as well. I hope I got a bit better at it during my time here.

Eirian 2

On my days off I managed to have a lot of adventures!! I have tagged along on programme to the wood carvers, hiked to the magic tree and Bunderfalls, had an interesting camping experience at the Scout World Centre in Kandersteg, seen the beautifully amazing sights of Blausee and the view from the top of Niesen, been swimming in the lake at Speiz, got up at stupid o’clock to see the cows coming down from Engstligenalp for the autumn / winter, then rode in a gondola and hiked in snow!!!

The whole experience of being a shortie at Our Chalet is one I will never forget! It has been amazing being here although I haven’t quite managed to fit in all the adventures I wanted to, it looks like I’ll need to come back!

Eirian

Eirian McKelvie (Scotland) Our Chalet Short Term Volunteer Summer & Autumn 

Staff Challenge Chronicles – Audrey (USA)

Standard

The guests at Our Chalet have the opportunity to earn the Our Chalet Guest Challenge, which includes elements such as going on a hike, learning the history of the Chalet, and talking to a Swiss person. The staff and volunteers, who are here for considerably longer, have the Our Chalet Staff Challenge. This rather zany tradition involves earning a total of 80 points, each item being worth between one and five points. I’m writing here to document my efforts so far to earn the Staff Challenge.
(Full disclosure: I’m also getting points for writing this blog post [Write a blog (600 words) for the Our Chalet website, 3 points.] )

Sleep outside overnight in a bivouac that you made yourself, 3 points: Tarp, rope, and a dozen rocks served me as a shelter, set up on the front lawn of Main Chalet. It held up nicely to the wind, but I am honestly a little glad I didn’t have to test it against the rain.

Audrey Bivouac

Prepare a traditional dish from your own country, 2 points: What is a traditional dish from the United States? Hamburgers? Apple pie? I was flummoxed. Finally I realized that the Europeans around me had no idea what cornbread was, so I made honey cornmeal muffins.

Perform a play in costume for the Staff, 3 points: Rachel and I had a grand time, raiding the costume cupboard and putting on a skit at campfire.

IMG_5255

Make an outdoor picnic for the staff, 3 points: When the 4th of July came around, we had a outside lunch, complete with hamburgers. I put up a giant obnoxious American flag.

Audrey July 4th

Hike 3 mountains (at least 6000 metres in total), 5 points: During training, we all hiked most of the way up Bunderspitz, before being stopped by snow. That counted to about 2400 meters. I hiked Schwändflspitz (2026 meters) on a day off by myself, and Tschingellochtighorn (2735 meters) with other staff on another day off. So that comes to total of 7161 meters, well above what I needed.

Audrey Sign

Take an overnight trip somewhere in Switzerland by yourself, 3 points: I modified this to somewhere in Europe, because I really wanted to visit Italy. I had three days off and traveled to Florence. The buildings were amazing, the weather was scorching, my hostel was an old convent, and the people-watching was first class. Nerd that I am, I avoided all art museums but went to the Galileo Museum, which includes lots of old scientific and mathematical devices, as well as two of Galileo’s preserved fingers.

Audrey Florence

 

As of today, I have earned 60 out of 80 points. Other tasks completed, such as Light a fire with only natural items and one match, 3 points; Learn a fact about Switzerland no on else knows, 1 points; and Read one historical Guiding or Scout book, 3 points have contributed to this total. Here is how I’m going to finish my challenge.

Camp overnight in a tent somewhere not on Our Chalet grounds, 5 points; Hike to Kandersteg (one-way), 5 points; Experience a sun/moonrise or sunset from the top of a mountain, 4 points; Try a new sport or activity you have never done before, 4 points: Hopefully I will do all of the this within 48 hours. The grand plan involves camping on a mountain, hiking over a pass, staying at the neighbouring Kandersteg International Scout Centre, and sliding down an alpine slide. If I can pull this off (and get the points from this blog post) I will have completed my challenge. (Editor says she’s happy to sign for the blog).

What do I get for finishing this challenge? Well, besides External Glory and Everlasting Satisfaction, I get a patch. Patches are the real reason I do things in Girl Scouts. (Editor update : Patch achieved).

Audrey Mountain

 

 

 

Audrey Spaeth (USA) – Our Chalet Assistant Summer 2017