Julia Chartonowitsch, student, Dyatlovichi, Belarus

"It's exactly how I would like my world to be"

Julia Chartonowitsch, 15, lives in Dyatlovichi in southern Belarus. In the summer of 2015, she had a four-week holiday visit with a host family in Switzerland.

Julia and Anastassia, her best friend

"Classes at school start at eight o'clock. My mother wakes me up at twenty to seven, we drink a cup of teat together, and I usually eat a sandwich with it. The school bus comes at a quarter to eight. Sometimes I walk the six kilometres to school. Classes last until three o'clock. We also eat lunch at school. There is usually a potato dish. Fish or meat and vegetables are also served. It tastes very good. German is mandatory in the upper grades, and we have three lessons per week. It's a difficult language. Reading gives me less trouble than understanding spoken German, and I find speaking very difficult. My favourite subject is Russian and especially Russian literature, like the wonderful love poems by Alexander Pushkin. I also read a lot of e-books on the computer, listen to music and play games, and I'm active on Facebook and other social media. And I help a lot at home, indoors but also in the garden. My two best friends are called Anastassia and Daria, and Anastassia was with me in Switzerland. I really liked the country and its people. It's exactly how I would like my world to be. I was a little bit afraid in the beginning and was also homesick, but that went away quickly. The people there are very practical, everything is well organised, they are hospitable and polite, they love animals and look after them, and they like to be in nature. It's very different at the dining table than with us. We serve everything that we have and it's always too much, while the Swiss serve one course after another and make sure that everything is eaten. In Belarus, especially with a guest, this would be unthinkable. Once, as we were driving along a winding mountain road, I kept looking into the abyss, and I was genuinely scared. It's almost entirely flat were I come from, and it's practically only straight. And of course there is no radioactive radiation in Switzerland like we have. We can't smell the radionuclides, but I notice that I am prone to falling ill and sometimes feel quite weak. It's the same with my friends. We pay a lot of attention to the rules that we learned in school. I know precisely at what spots in the forest I can safely pick mushrooms, and I measure everything that I've picked. I really enjoy writing and wrote an article about my stay in Switzerland, which the newspaper printed. That would be my dream job: a journalist."