Alice Cignetti, who completed her BA in Applied Languages in summer 2017, spent her semester abroad at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. Here she explains how she managed to become a sportswoman for the first time in her life!

Going to Murdoch University was not only about going to Australia and improving my English. It was also about becoming a cheerleader. Of course, the primary goal was to pass every Unit. Who wants to stay one more semester in grey Winterthur surrounded by stressed Swiss-Germans after sunny Australia and chilled Aussies? You get my point…

My semester abroad would not have been the same if I had not have been part of the Murdoch Vikings Cheerleaders. Becoming a cheerleader was a dream, and in order to realise it, I started training before leaving for Australia. As my fellow classmates from the ZHAW know, I am not very sporty. I went to a Zumba class from time to time but it was more about hanging out than exercising. I changed my attitude towards sports and decided to follow a training programme – with an Australian coach – and stuck to it for 12 weeks. I exercised three to four time a week and when motivation was lacking, I shouted “Cheerleader!” and went on. Anyway, once I arrived in Perth, one of the first things I did after buying some linens and pans was to write to the coach. She answered that I could come to one of the practices.

Getting to the practice was already a challenge as the gym was not on campus. According to Google Maps, it took 40 mins to go by bus or 10 by car – public transport in Australia in a nutshell. So, there I was, waiting at the bus stop 15 mins early – this had never happened before in my life – and the bus did not stop. I almost cried walking back to the student village, shouting that the bus driver did not realise what he had just done: ruined my life, destroyed my dream and my 3 months of hard exercising. One of the students with a car heard me and said he would take me to that gym if that was so important to me.

He drove me there in 10 minutes and I could participate in my first cheerleading practice ever. Two hours later, the coach and the girls said that it was fine, that I could join the team. Twice a week we practised for at least two hours. We had four competitions coming up and the girls had been practising since March. Therefore, I had a lot to catch up with. Two of them lived in the same student village as me and we became close friends. We car-pooled together to the cheer-practices, no more waiting at bus stops for buses that do not stop.

The first competition was at the beginning of September and I was super excited. I finally got the Vikings uniform, the Vikings bow and learned the Vikings cheer-song by heart. We competed at a big stadium and it was an incredible experience to see all the different teams and their routines.  Plus, we won the first prize of the University category. Not only was I a cheerleader, but I had also just won my first medal in sports! To be part of this team made my exchange even more memorable.

Something else will stay in my memory. And that is that if you want a bus to stop in Australia, you have to raise your arm. So, if you are planning on going to Australia and have to take the bus to go somewhere important, remember to raise your arm and hail the bus. If you forget, I hope you will be as lucky as me and find someone who will drive you there.

Alice Cignetti’s blog on her semester abroad is one of four that were awarded a prize on the ZHAW International Day 2017. Alice completed her BA in Applied Languages in summer 2017. Read more about the semester abroad options here.