Moving from one country to another is one of the most thrilling but challenging transitions your family will ever experience. It’s exciting and terrifying in equal measures, but we’re here to tell you that this is also one of the most amazing experiences you’ll ever have, and we should know.
After more than a few sleepless nights, your family has finally made the decision to move to accept an international posting in Zurich, Switzerland. The children are excited, already asking you what their new school will be like and if they can have Swiss chocolate every day, although you can see they’re anxious about leaving their friends behind. Meanwhile, their parents have so much to think about and to do that their heads are spinning. Packing, moving, housing, paperwork, school, jobs, insurances, plane tickets, permits, doctors, dentists, the dog or cat, learning German, all of it creating one giant to-do list that only seems to get longer with each new day.
Choosing a school
The choice of school is usually the top priority for most families with school aged children. We recommend choosing a school that is accredited and offers a recognised top quality educational programme based on an international curriculum and sequence of learning that will, if needed, easily transfer to other locations. For example, the world renowned International Baccalaureate Programme (IB) is a valuable asset for children who are destined to move schools given their parents’ job posting to various countries. The world renowned curriculum of the IB offers students outstanding learning opportunities as it empowers participants to inquire, investigate and discover whilst developing a love of learning under the direction of highly qualified and trained IB teachers. It’s also the gateway to higher education opportunities.
Once the educational curriculum programme choice is clear, it’s time to start considering other factors that are important when making the transition to another country. Choosing a school that attends to your family’s transitional needs, in addition to offering a high quality educational programme, can make a huge difference.
At our school diversity is a key factor for successful transitioning and our community is truly international. Not only our students and their families but also many of our staff come from all over the world. This means that most of us have been through the process of transitioning from somewhere familiar to somewhere new. We know what it’s like to open your eyes on that first day, where the light is different and the sounds and smells are unfamiliar. We remember how it is to barely understand a single word someone says to you when they approach you in the street, to go into the supermarket and search in vain for a favourite breakfast cereal, or to be brought up short by all the little differences, even as you knew to expect the big ones.
We remember what it’s like when actions and words that used to be second-nature suddenly require deliberate thought, and you begin to question your decision to move away from everything familiar and beloved, your friends and family, your professional networks. And we remember what it’s like to find yourself living somewhere where it can seem as if you hardly recognise yourself, let alone your surroundings.
But what we also know is that the one element that can make a world of difference throughout this transition process is knowing that, when you arrive, a friend will be there waiting for you. At our school, we invite our newly arriving families to think of our school community as that friend.
Helping to settle in
We’re like the local resident who already knows the ropes and can’t wait to help you settle in. We firmly believe that an international school needs to make the commitment to help families access resources on different aspects of living in Switzerland, from how to negotiate the trains, trams, buses, and boats, to how to select the best health insurance packages for you and your family, along with the all important question of where to live, whether that be in the city of Zurich itself, or in one of the charming villages surrounding our school campus. And because we know we can’t answer all your questions, we will happily put you in touch with experienced relocation professionals who can answer these questions.
As far as your child is concerned, the best cure for homesickness and nerves is to get to know other children as soon as possible. Look for a school that offers some type of a student networking programme. For example, at ICS, we’ve created a Primary Student Buddy and Secondary Student Ambassador programme to help children build friendships as soon as possible. Your child is connected immediately with students of a similar age, who help them through their transition into the school community and into life in Zurich. They’ll start to feel at home much sooner than you thought possible when these types of programmes are available.
Vibrant Parents’ Association
And while we understand that seeing your child settled and happy in a supportive learning environment is what will make you happy, we know that feeling like you belong too is just as important. It’s through getting to know other parents and participating in the huge range of activities on offer—all organised by parents—and making new friends yourself, that you’ll realise Zurich is really starting to feel like home. Make sure to choose a school that has an active and vibrant Parents’ Association to permit you to get involved and engaged.
Zurich and Switzerland truly is a beautiful spot to create a home away from home and the school settings in this country must often be seen to be believed. For example, our campus is located in the gorgeous Zurich countryside, something of which we take full advantage of, with our forest programmes and research garden. Yet we’re easily accessed by public transport from the city centre and surrounding areas, many of which are located on the shores of Lake Zurich, perfect for swimming and water sports, and with the Swiss Alps providing a gorgeous background that, at first, you won’t believe is real. Many of our students come to school via public transport but we, along with most international schools, also offer a convenient school bus service.
Helping you transition to next location
An international family’s stay in Switzerland might only be short-term, which is why it is critical for an international school to have a programme in place to help you transition to your next location. Look for an exit programme that will assist your child to smoothly transition to their next new school if another move becomes a reality.
Feeling at home
We can’t take away all the stress of transitioning to a new place, but we believe that you should look for a school that wants to make sure you and your become cherished members of the school community. You and your family will be feeling at home in Zurich, in no time, because that’s what friends do.
At ICS, we can’t wait to meet you.
The Inter-Community School Zürich is a private, independent, international, co-educational day school and offers a comprehensive educational programme in English for children from ages of 3 to 18. The school is international in character and welcomes students of all nationalities.