By Allyson Vander Broek (Delta Sigma, University of the Pacific)
Imagine moving to a foreign country for work. Sounds pretty exciting, right? It’s probably a job promotion, you’ll have opportunities for travel and will get to learn (or improve) a foreign language. On the other hand, you are leaving everything familiar behind like friends, extended family, food and even your home.
That was me in May of 2009, when I accepted a job transfer with my company to Lucerne, Switzerland. I was sent to work in our international headquarters, and even though I had visited the city on a European vacation with my parents in 1974, I had no idea what to expect. While Lucerne is a picturesque city with an adorable old town, living there presented some challenges. For instance, since quite a few residents only speak Swiss German, even shopping at the grocery store can be difficult. Needless to say, I was out of my comfort zone!
My husband and I quickly realized we needed to reach out and make some friends, so we joined the ex-pat group in town. The Swiss-American Society of Luzern (SASL) gave us a good opportunity to meet folks who speak English and to take part in organized social get-togethers. But building friendships takes time, and formal events only happen about once a month.
My husband was asked to help work on their monthly newsletter, and once he agreed, another SASL board member offered to come by our house and share some samples of previous editions. Christine Kinkel Sperr arrived on a Saturday afternoon and walked in the front door with the package. She was taking off her coat in the entryway when she spotted my Alpha Chi keychain hanging on the wall. This chance encounter allowed me to discover a sister who was from the Nu chapter at University of Colorado Boulder.
Now, this was a game changer. All of a sudden, I had someone who knew how to explain the idiosyncrasies of the grocery stores (e.g., weigh your own produce and put a sticker on it before you get to the cash register) and tell me where to get the best Thai food in town. We felt immediately connected because of Alpha Chi Omega. While we went to different universities and were initiated at different chapters, we knew we were more alike in spirit because of our shared bond.
While our in-person time together in Switzerland was only a short two years, our sisterhood has spanned multiple countries: Dubai, UAE, Italy and stateside meet-ups in Colorado. Luckily we can stay in touch virtually and look forward to more adventures together.
Keep in mind that you never know where you’ll discover a sister and the power of PACE; just ask me about my keychain!