The school year is different here, as is most everything about life in Switzerland.
By my crude calculations, Swiss students have as many days of school each year as students in the U.S., but vacations are distributed very differently.
Take summer, for example. There is an extended break here, but only if by “extended” you mean a month. And that month officially started this week.
A few of the international schools around Zurich try to adhere to the U.S. school schedule, but most students toil away at their studies until the middle of July. And by the middle of August they will all be back at it.
I learned all of this the hard way last night. I hurried over from the train station and found that the door to my language school was locked. I even sat on the steps for a while, thinking that the door might still open. (I must still be new here because the idea that a Swiss school might open a few minutes late is laughably funny.)
Had I been 10 years old, I can imagine that not having a class last night would have been indescribably good news. I would have let out a shout that could have been heard for, uh, several kilometers all around.
Last night, though, sitting there on the steps with my book bag, I actually felt sad.
Don’t get me wrong. I am glad to be finished with exams, term papers, thesis projects, and the like. I hope I have taken my last standardized test. But I think of myself as a lifelong learner. I read, for example, I am learning a new language, and I am getting ready to teach an adult class in the fall on the relationship between faith and science, which involves a surprising amount of study.
So, I am still very much a student. And I find, as I get older, that the desire to know more, learn more, understand more, doesn’t diminish. It grows. In fact, I feel an urgency about it today that I never felt when I was that 10 year old who was so happy for summer vacation to begin.
These days I am acutely aware that time is running out, that the list of books I want to read is getting longer not shorter, that there is still so much I want to know. I never realized before what a gift it is to be able to learn.
I will definitely use my summer break to work on my German grammar.
(Photo: That’s the Kantonsschule Stadelhofen, one of Zurich’s many schools, which I walk by every morning on my way to the church office.)