A year in Heidiland
His exchange year comes to an end in June. The Spaniard Juan Mateo Najera has been studying for two semesters at the FHS St.Gallen. The nicest thing about Switzerland is the Alps – but he hasn’t yet got round to going up them.
Juan Mateo Najera: A striking, melodic name in the land of Müllers and Meiers. And it suits him well – the 21-year-old student plays the saxophone and has a passion for singing. But his voice has had better days, he tells us. His flatmates are visibly amused. Juan’s presence in the four-person flatshare (see page 22) is impossible not to hear: he’s always whistling!
Juan first came to Switzerland in September 2018. He had heard good things about the country and its people, so he decided to spend an exchange year here. When the second semester at the FHS St.Gallen finishes in June, he will go back to his home in northern Spain. He lives with his family in Laguardia, a small town of 1,474 people in the Basque province of Álava.
Why did he choose St.Gallen, of all places? His answer is pragmatic, more than anything: the Swiss city was the only option available on the Administration and Economics course at his home university. But he’s happy with his choice: his stay is even better than he expected.
Before leaving Spain, he was warned that the Swiss can be quite reserved and standoffish. But he doesn’t agree. In fact, he has found the opposite to be true. He also loves fondue. He tells us this twice, almost seeming surprised about the fact, and a little bit proud. Even the Swiss winter couldn’t dampen the spirits of the southern European – though he is aware that it was an usually mild one. The year before, his weather app sometimes showed temperatures of minus 15 degrees, he tells us incredulously. The only thing Juan finds worse than the freezing temperatures are the prices in this country: “It’s incredibly expensive!” While working on a real-life student consulting project at the FHS, he discovered a further aspect that is different in his home country: the feedback culture, which he describes as direct and blunt. “Not rude, just unfamiliar,” explains the Spaniard diplomatically. You can’t start early enough: in the future, Juan would like to work full-time in Spanish politics. “Yes, I love politics.” he declares almost solemnly.
But he first wants to see a bit more of Switzerland, especially the countryside. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had much chance to explore it yet, as he’s spent his holidays in his home country. But he speaks enthusiastically about a trip to Lugano with the FHS. He visited the Christmas market, immersed himself in the nightlife and fell in love with the city. “If I could afford it, I’d buy a house on Lake Lugano right now! But that’s not even worth thinking about at present,” he says with a smile. Who knows, maybe one day, when Juan Mateo Najera has made a name for himself in Spanish politics.
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