Goodbye Our Chalet (A Departure Blog) – Cerys, UK

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My time at Our Chalet as an Autumn Volunteer has come to an end, and I can’t believe that it has gone by so quickly. It’s been a really great season with some amazing guests and I have learnt so much from so many people. So much has happened over the last couple of months. I’ve made so many memories, made so many new friends and experienced so many new adventures.

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The staff changes at Our Chalet every season. I know every season is different and no one will have the exact same experience as another volunteer, but here is some advice I have for future volunteers:

  • Communicate with your team. Communication is key when it comes to working effectively and efficiently as a team, and everyone should be on the same page. Your job gets done quicker this way too!
  • Always take a first aid kit with you, no matter where you go. I learnt this the hard way when I fell off my bike cycling to Frutigen. No one had a first aid kit!
  • Get to know the long term staff members as well as your fellow volunteers. It’s easy to build a relationship with the other volunteers, as you live in the same building and spend a lot of time together. It’s trickier to get to know the long term staff as you don’t spend as much time with them, but it’s worth getting to know them as well. They’re really nice, give great advice and you can make some good friends.
  • Challenge yourself. Challenge yourself to take risks and do things that scare you, and you’ll be surprised what you can achieve here. I was so nervous when I hiked over the Bunderchrinde to the Kandersteg International Scout Centre, but I did it and I’m so glad I took on the challenge.
  • Find the balance between doing jobs effectively but quickly. It’s hard to find that balance between getting the job done well in a short period of time. It’s possible, but it just takes practice.
  • Prepare for the unexpected. There are a lot of unexpected things at Our Chalet, whether it be the weather, cleaning or a sonic boom! (Yes, that happened twice). Learn to adapt quickly, and you’ll enjoy your time even more.
  • Make the most of your time here. Time travels so quickly here, so it’s easy to not notice the days passing by. Do something on your day off rather than just having a lazy day. Make those amazing memories that you might not get the chance to make again. I’m so glad I’ve done everything I wanted to do whilst here, so I feel like I haven’t missed out on anything.

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  • Finally, have fun. Have a spontaneous dance session whilst folding mountains of laundry. Have a karaoke night. Watch a TV series with the other volunteers. Just have fun and enjoy your season! Make it something to look back on and something to cherish.

Given the chance, I would never stop talking about my time here.  I’ve learnt what I’m capable of as well as many life skills. Before coming to the Chalet, I was so nervous about speaking in front of big groups. After two and a half months, I’ve spoken in front of groups and led groups on our Programme multiple times. I’ve experienced new things like climbing mountains over 2500 metres, and made international friends from Tunisia, Canada and Denmark that I hope will last a lifetime. It’s truly been a once in a lifetime experience and I wouldn’t change a single part of it for the world.

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Cerys, UK – Autumn Volunteer 2018

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Why I’m Staying Another Season at Our Chalet – Ines, Australia

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I have been told that Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Can you believe I was going to give it up for Spain to be an au pair? After getting my acceptance letter into the Autumn Season, I knew that it was now or never. Not to be cliché, but it was possibly the quickest and best decision I have ever made.

As my time here at Our Chalet is drawing to a close, I’m starting to ask myself why I do things the way I do and consider things that I achieved here. Usually, setting my goals does not happen beforehand; it takes me time to survey the landscape. Well, Adelboden is definitely one of the harder landscapes to get used to. Within a few weeks, I had already hiked mountains like Tschenten, Engstligenalp and Bunderspitz, which I ascended at an ungodly hour (2:30am). Anything for that sunrise, right! It was amazing, I must add, and should be done if you ever get to come to stay at Our Chalet.

The three C’s of Switzerland – cheese, chocolate and cows – are a major highlight of my time here at Our Chalet. Watching cows descend Engstligenalp at about 4:30am with other volunteers from Chalet was truly a magical experience. We listened for bells in the distance, as the cows made their way down the ever steep alp. The migration of cows happens twice a year, so it was a rare opportunity.

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I always seem to get up at strange hours to venture into the Swiss ways of life.  I have based my life on the notion of saying yes and taking every possible opportunity as it comes.  There have been some crazy, wonderful and physically and emotionally challenging experiences. Life here as I know it will always include a hike. I have spent many a day off drinking in all the sights and adventures that the Bernese Oberland offers.

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I recently dropped about CHF500 on a ski pass, so I’m ready for my next adventure and a lively Adelboden.  I’m also looking forward to meeting all the new people who will leave their own mark on Chalet and put up with the staff house shenanigans. I’ve provided my fellow staff members with endless Steven Irwin references and facts about Australian wildlife!

Being a part of WAGGGS in my Member Organisation back in Australia, I didn’t see the impact globally that Guides and Scouts had on individuals and on the world. Working at a World Centre and seeing the impact of WAGGGS’s work has really put into perspective what it means to be a global citizen. I love Our Chalet and all that it offers; the opportunity to meet new people, contribute to the lives of others and be a light for more Guides and Scouts to volunteer.

I have some advice for the new vollies; it’ll be hard work but worth it. For every toilet you clean, meal made and bed set, there will be a new challenge and experience to be made. Push yourselves because you might not get another opportunity to do it again. To my follow Autumn Volunteers, I have loved every minute working and living with you. You girls make it all worth it. Every single second.

ines1It never ceases to amaze me that I get to live, work and play in this little slice of heaven. When it comes down to it, I’m not ready to go. It is not just the landscape and ever changing weather patterns that make Our Chalet. It’s the people you meet. Switzerland and the people make it worth returning for another season. Luckily for me, due to my dual nationality, this will be a reality. So I’ll see you in the winter!

Ines, Australia – Our Chalet Autumn Volunteer, 2018

A Canadian Thanksgiving in Switzerland – Ashley, Canada

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Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadians! My name is Ashley and I am a Volunteer for the Autumn season. In the spirit of Thanksgiving I want to take the time to look back on all of the things that I am thankful for and share some of the great quality time I’ve spent with my new found Guiding family in the Swiss Alps.

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Guiding has been a big part of my life since I was in Brownies. When I was 7 years old, I learned about the 5 World Centres. At that time in my life I always wanted to visit the Centres, but never thought that day would come. At of the start of this year I got the news that I had been accepted to volunteer at Our Chalet. I was going to Switzerland! I was so excited to experience a new country, meet new people, and see the oldest WAGGGS World Centre. I couldn’t stop talking about my plans for my gap year all spring and summer, but it didn’t actually hit me till I got on the plane. As I arrived to the Chalet very jet lagged and having experienced morning in 4 different time zones, I could already tell that the spirit of Guiding and Scouting burnt so much brighter high up on the Swiss Alps. I was so overjoyed to call Our Chalet home for the coming fall season.

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I am thankful for the amazing staff team I get to share my gap year journey with. In such a short amount of time, I have gotten so close with everyone. From a crazy long hike to the Kandersteg International Scout Centre, dinner clean ups with bangers and mash playlists, and sleeping outside under the stars, I have pushed myself in so many ways in my time so far. I can’t believe how fast the time is going since I first stepped foot on the grounds. One of the most amazing and challenging experiences that I have done was a sunrise hike by myself up Tschentenalp. Waking up at 4am and walking in the dark was challenging, don’t get me wrong, but when I got to the top of the Alp, with the sunrise slowly coming over the mountains, I had found “Peace for the soul” as Helen Storrow once said.

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This week I hosted a Canadian Thanksgiving high up on the mountains. For the dinner I set out maple leafs for everyone to take the time to write down something that they were thankful for. We all had a lovely time sharing what we were thankful. The best part of this year’s Thanksgiving for me is sharing it with my new Guiding family. Taking a nap after all the amazing food I ate was a close second, but in all seriousness, the warmth I felt in the room was incredible. It’s truly a memory that I will never forget.

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So far my time here has been so much fun and one of the best experiences of my life. If you asked me to think of a better way to start my gap year I could try to think of something, but it would take me a very long time. It’s true when they say time flies when you are having fun. With only one month left in the season, I can’t wait to see what crazy fun memories are yet to come.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone from my second home high up on the mountains!

Ashley, Canada – Our Chalet Autumn Volunteer 2018

My Our Chalet Adventure – Lizzie, USA

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As an avid reader, travelling to Switzerland was a dream come true. Iʼd always wanted to see the majestic mountains so eloquently described in Frankenstein, explore the green alps that could have come straight out of Tolkienʼs Middle-Earth, and participate in the super-secret worldwide treasure hunt called “geocaching” that resembles so many adventure novels. Last but not least, I wanted the chance to work with a unique team of multi-talented folks from around the globe on a mission to save the world with the power of sʼmores. However, unlike something out of Alex Rider or “SpyKids,” Our Chalet and the Girl Guides are very real.

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My adventure at Our Chalet has taught me many life skills to both prepare me for university and to drag me out of my academic routine. I have attempted to solve problems, resolve conflicts, and make sure everybody who comes here has a great experience—from guests, to my fellow staff members, to Skippy the cat. Iʼve learned a lot of interesting facts while here:

  • Itʼs hard to tell things about people from their shoes when they have both indoor and outdoor shoes.
  • Cooking with garlic makes your hands smell like garlic for two days afterwards, but is so worth it because it tastes fresh and delicious!
  • Marmots sound like ghostly, ethereal birds whose eloquent voices follow you everywhere.
  • Raw eggs are not edible, so you should check beforehand to see if they are boiled.
  • Skippy Storrow is the best cat ever.
  • Cleaning is easier when you wear a watch on your neckerchief.
  • Cows can understand bits of Swiss-German and come when called.

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There are so many things to experience and learn that itʼs all a bit overwhelming! Although working on our programs such as the Engstligen Hike and the WAGGGS Stop the Violence campaign is fun, Iʼve gotten to do so many cool things on my days off as well. Here are my top 5:

  • Climb Bunderspitz. You donʼt even need to do it at sunrise for it to be a great experience! There is so much cool stuff to see along the way that itʼs definitely worth it.
  • Hike up to Butschi, the marmot valley. I didnʼt see any marmots, because theyʼre really shy, but I definitely heard them!
  • Hike up Hahnenmoos and across to Silleren. These are some small mountains that are very nice to climb on a sunny day. The Blumenweg (flower path) between the points is not to be missed, and walking through a field full of cows was an unforgettable experience.
  • Take the train to Interlaken. The views are breathtaking and you can go paragliding if you are brave. I did not try paragliding, but one of my fellow volunteers did and she loved it. The highlight of the day was watching her come down with a smile on her face and it was once-in-a-lifetime experience to remember.
  • Take the train to Thun. Thun is also full of gorgeous views and is just a nice place to walk around. Itʼs a great place to sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy the weather.

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I am very grateful for all the opportunities Iʼve been given here at Our Chalet and wouldnʼt trade them for anything!

Lizzie, USA – Our Chalet Assistant, Autumn 2018

My First Month in Switzerland – Louise, Denmark

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The fact that I have now been living at Our Chalet in the Swiss Alps for almost a month leads to a lot of different thoughts. First of all, I cannot believe that it has already been that long. It seems like I just recently stood in the airport in Aalborg saying goodbye to my family. When walking towards the gate, two and a half months sounded like such a long time, but now it feels like time is passing far too quickly. Yet I have experienced so much that everything before that morning in the airport seems so far away. It is surprising how fast you get used to life at Our Chalet (apart from the view which will never stop being impressive). I remember going to bed on my second day here, reminding myself that I only just got here, and I could hardly believe it.

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One thing that I have learned about Our Chalet is that it is a great place to challenge yourself in many ways. This applies both to the guests who can proudly talk about how they completed their personal challenge, and to the staff. When living and working here, you get the opportunity to be a part of an international team which opens up new possibilities to learn about other cultures and about yourself. We also learn skills that will always be useful such as cooking, cleaning and being responsible and dependable as well as being the leader of a group. Being from Denmark, my time at Our Chalet is also a chance to improve my English.

Not only do we get to make new friends and develop our language and leadership skills, the area is also perfect for challenging ourselves and each other physically. For people who live in countries without any mountains such as Denmark, going on hikes here is very different from what we are used to. But the opportunity to challenge yourself is not enough. You also need the will and the courage to face those challenges and to try something new. For this, I believe that the strong friendships that form here at Our Chalet help a lot, because we do not have to face these challenges alone. I experienced this myself when I went on a cycling trip recently with one of the other volunteers. 25 kilometers in the mountains is very different from 25 kilometers in Denmark. If I had been on my own, I do not think that I would have chosen a route with an ascent of 1200 metres, but that is what we did. With that said, I am really glad that we went. Even though we agreed that it was really hard and probably also harder than we expected, we also agreed that it was worth it!

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Our Chalet is also a place for having fun and for being creative together. An interest that takes up a lot of my time at home is music, but living in the Swiss Alps far away from the choir I usually sing in has not been a limitation. Instead, I get to share this interest with some of the other volunteers, and together we have learned new songs in new languages. This also includes the many new campfire songs that I have learned from both guests and other volunteers.

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I still have a month and a half left, and I am really excited about getting to explore even more of the area, meeting guests and running activities for them, and spending a lot more time with my new friends from all over the world. Being with the same people all the time may entail some challenges since we are all different, but I have no doubts that we will all rise to the challenge and have an amazing season together.

Louise (Denmark) – Our Chalet Assistant, Autumn 2018

What I’ve learnt during my time at Our Chalet – Madi, Australia

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Spending the last three months volunteering at Our Chalet has been an amazing and challenging experience. Switzerland is so different to Australia, and this experience has been very different to anything I have ever done before. As a result, I’ve learnt a lot, and I’ve put together a list of some of the biggest things I’ve learnt during my season!

Kitchen and Cleaning Skills

  • How to fold a fitted sheet – one of those life skills I’m sure will be useful in the future!
  • How to cook, and how to cater for large groups and to many dietary requirements.
  • How to use a meat slicer and how to cut onions.
  • What ‘clean’ really means!

The Outdoors

  • What hiking actually is – Australia is so flat compared to Switzerland that I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into!
  • Hiking socks are actually different to normal socks. As awesome as my Harry Potter socks are, they don’t work too well with hiking boots.
  • How huge and beautiful mountains are. Every step you take here, the view changes.
  • How big the world can be – it took me about 30 hours of travelling to get from Melbourne to Our Chalet! But I also learned how small the world is. One of my favourite memories from my season was spending two days hiking through Liechtenstein. I did however find it quite strange that all it took was a couple of buses and trains and I was in a different country!Madi blog 2

Weather

  • Switzerland is very green! Australia is a very dry country and has been in drought for most of my life. Until I came to Our Chalet I honestly didn’t know how many different shades of green there were, and how bright and colourful the world can be.
  • I should have packed a raincoat. The weather changes very quickly in the mountains, and it has rained most days while I’ve been at Our Chalet. It doesn’t rain much in Australia, and when it rains it doesn’t rain for very long so I didn’t bring a good raincoat with me. This was a mistake! Luckily my friends had a few spare coats I could borrow.
  • To wear sunscreen – the sun is a lot stronger in the mountains than it is at sea level. I very rarely get sunburnt in Australia, but have regularly been burnt in Switzerland!Madi blog 1

Life Lessons

  • What ‘tired’ is, and how to work through being tired all the time.
  • How to get along with people from different backgrounds, with different beliefs, opinions and ways of doing things. As a World Centre, Our Chalet is full of so many different people and cultures. Being here has taught me how to live and work with such a wide variety of people.
  • To take a little bit of Australia with me.
  • To try new things – I have tried so many new activities this season, the most memorable of these being paddle boarding and trotti biking.
  • That it’s ok to be who you are!Madi blog 3

I have met people from all over the world and made so many close friends during my time at Our Chalet. People are amazing.
Madi (Australia)- Summer Volunteer 2018

10 Tips for Having a Great Season at Our Chalet – Nora, USA

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For the past three months I have been a Summer Volunteer at Our Chalet, and I have lived an amazing chalet life! Every day from sunrise to sunset I have been surrounded by a group of my newest friends, and while that can be tiring, it’s always fun.

When I was getting ready to come here to Our Chalet, I was so excited to meet new people and go out on adventures. When I arrived, it was a whirlwind of training, hiking, and cleaning. Never in my life I have I ever walked so far or cleaned so many toilets! As us volunteers like to call it, it was “type 2 fun.” In the moment your feet are tired, you’re tired, and you still have to climb the Chalet hill. But after you put your feet up, you look back and realize that you had fun.

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Between running programs and hiking on off days, you get caught up in the day to day activities. Soon you’re halfway through the season and you still have a million things you still want to do. So after spending a summer here, I have a couple tips for future volunteers.

1)            Make a list of everything you want to do before you come here. There are loads of fun activities, hikes and trips you can do. By making a list you have a rough outline of how you want to spend your time here.

2)            When you arrive, revise this list! When you have been here for about a week you will learn how you want to spend your time, and learn about all the opportunities that are available at Our Chalet.

3)            Accept early on that you will be tired, a lot. Take care of yourself and drink water!

4)            Once you’ve accepted that you are tired, make sure to use your off days! They are limited, even if you are here for a while.

5)            Clean up the staff house. When there are 10 plus people living in a house together, it gets dirty faster than you can imagine.

6)            You will have to clean in the kitchen after dinner at some point. If you learn how to do it efficiently and quickly then you will save a lot of time.

7)            Read the letters around the staff house. They will teach you life lessons and how to best enjoy Our Chalet!

8)            The weather changes super quickly in the mountains. Be prepared for all seasons!

9)            Work on your Staff Challenge early and get activities signed off as soon as possible.

10)          Take lots of photos and videos! Your time will fly by and you will forget about the little moments you share with others. Don’t lose those memories.

These are 10 tips that can help your season to go smoothly. However, the best advice is to speak to former volunteers and long term staff. Our Chalet is a huge family that wants to support and help each other have the best season possible. Talk to each other and form relationships that you can count on. Living with your co-workers is incredible and intense, so help each other and stay positive; that’s the key to having a great season!

Nora, USA – Our Chalet Assistant Summer 2018

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