Happy New Year!

My New Year’s celebration of 2013/14 was the best I have ever celebrated.
I am from Australia, but this year, I was on an exchange, in which my host sister (Nora) took me to the best country in the world- Switzerland. As she did the year before, we came to Switzerland to meet with the others and go on an adventure to the top of a 2000m mountain for New Year’s celebrations! As I am from Australia, this was an experience full of firsts for me. My first time in Switzerland, first time to see snow, first time to climb an Alp, my first time to experience all the wonder Switzerland has to offer. I met all of Nora’s wonderful YEP friends, all who proved to be so helpful on the first day as I struggled to trudge up the seemingly large mountain. But due to their encouragements and help, over the next two days, I improved greatly and managed to reach the top of a 2000m mountain! (Normal for them, but extraordinary for me) I also met others who were not part of the organisation, but came along for the adventure. As we sat around on the first night together for dinner, I looked around and saw community and friendship. The people who I spent New Year’s with- although I didn’t know any until 2 days before- were people whose company was thoroughly enjoyed, and who I am so pleased to have met.
The first day that I arrived, just a small group of us climbed the mountain right outside one of the group members’ house. Being my first time up a snowy mountain, this was a wonderful adventure, where I saw so much beauty as far as the eye can see. In this climb, I also got to know the wonderful people who helped me, even when I was unbelievably slow; I’m sure, to reach the top. The second day we climbed another mountain, in which I got a bit better and prepared for the next day.
On the 31st December, the last day of 2013, I spent it surrounded by the beautiful snow covered mountains, and saw my last, but most beautiful, view of the year. My favourite memory of Switzerland, is- by far- when I arrived at the top of the mountain and looked out over the entire trail I had covered, I forgot about my aching back, I forgot about the fact I hadn’t showered in days, I forgot about my wet feet, I forgot about everything else but the unfathomable beauty that engulfed me. I was awestruck, and the photos I took will never live up to what I really saw that day, nothing will.
That night, as the celebrations were warming up, I enjoyed card games and conversations with the others as we all were counting down the hours. Finally, at 11:59, we went outside (with only 15 seconds to go) and counted down to the start of a New Year. At the strike of 12:00, our screams and celebrations could be heard over all of the mountains in Switzerland, I’m sure. For the next hour, we sat together in a circle and contemplated on last year and the year ahead, reflecting on our time together and dreaming of our New Year.
As people went inside to sleep off the last year, I stayed outside with Nora and a few others, in which we had a snow fight and just lay in the snow. I am so happy that I spent the first few hours of the New Year in this wonderful country with these wonderful people. Something about this time, the unbelievable beauty that surrounded me- with the smooth snow beneath my feet and the great mountains around me, breathing in the clean Alp air and seeing all the stars above- was my absolute favourite experience of my life.
As I said my goodbyes and headed back down the mountain on the first day of the New Year, I carried a 10 kg rucksack, but also the memories that will last a lifetime. I am so thankful for what I was able to achieve, the friendly and genuine people I met and the absolute beauty I was able to experience. This time, was by far the best of my life, and I will carry only but good memories of it for the rest of my life. How was my time in Switzerland, you may ask?

Better than I could ever explain.

Larissa Purins,
16, Perth, Western Australia
A happy little climber.

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