It has been 2 months since I arrived here in Dudingen, Switzerland. It is crazy how fast it has flown by. Never did I think that I would become so close to the people here so quickly. The town is relatively small and you become friends with a variety of different people, from the ladies working the checkout at the grocery stores, the local coffee shop hosts, and the members/players of the TSV Dudingen Powercats volleyball club. It is one giant family that makes you feel welcome from the start. Not knowing what to expect and speaking zero German, it was a scary transition. Especially with so much time to think on the 18-hour flight over here about everything that could go wrong.
Quickly my nerves began to fade as I saw my Austrian coach smiling and waving down my teammate and I as we walked out of the terminal. Luckily she was the first one to get a hug because here in Switzerland they greet with not one, not two, but THREE kisses on the cheek. I could only imagine how awkward and uncomfortable that would have been for everyone to witness my lack of cultural knowledge. Now that I have been here, it only seems normal when you meet someone for the first time. After being awake for over 24 hours, my teammate and I went straight from the Zurich airport to our hometown of Dudingen to drop off our bags and head to practice,; bloodshot eyes and delirium at its finest. I was bound to make an interesting first impression.
Two months in and I feel right at home. I have become great friends with the other professional players: three Americans, one Serbian, and one girl from Montenegro, as well as the Swiss girls who are all very welcoming and English speaking. A couple of the juniors players practice with us a few times a week and I already see them as my little sisters. Practices usually run an early afternoon serve and pass workout for about an hour and a half with all the girls who are not in school or working, followed by a team lunch at Oschen, which is fantastic and not to mention, free. Later in the evening we have a second practice with the whole team that is two hours. Twice a week we have mornings free to lift weights on our own, typically Tuesday and Friday as well as conditioning twice a week which is normally Tuesday and Wednesday followed by a practice. For this preseason we got to go to France and Germany!
It was fun getting to go to other countries and in Germany we even had an afternoon off to enjoy the Weisbaden Oktoberfest and walk around and enjoy live bands and great food. Now that season has started we play one game a week and have the following day or two off to rest. We had our first game last Sunday. It was great seeing the enthusiasm and support of the whole town there to watch. The different cheers and chants that they introduced at our games were epic. It is a whole different feeling than college. You are held accountable for yourself, getting mentally and physically prepared for matches. Basically they treat you like a mini celebrity, being a pro athlete here. There is more freedom in the volleyball systems with our coaches style so it took a while to get comfortable with limited court organization when being used to such structure in running offense and defense. I can’t complain about not having to be there five hours early for the match like at USC, it is a much more relaxed environment. Although if you are not naturally competitive, it would be really tough.
I have gotten to do some traveling around on our off days and really enjoy the healthy lifestyle here so far. I am glad that I chose Switzerland. I have been blessed with the sunny weather and only a few rainy days, but it is expected to be the coldest winter in years. Awesome for my first time living in the snow EVER. Wish me luck and to be continued!
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