The Life I left, The Life I Lived, The Life I Have Now
As a young man growing up in the north side of Raleigh, NC, Jeremy Gage lived a pretty nice life. “In the eyes of a 17-year-old male, life was perfect. I could drive, I was making money, I was going out with my friends. Everything seemed like it was where it should be.” That all changed when his parents dropped the ultimate bombshell on him—they were moving to Switzerland.
“I hated the idea. I did not want to go. I asked my parents if I could stay with my grandmother because I didn’t want to leave.” Gage’s parents worked for IBM, a computer manufacturing company, and when his mother was assigned to work with Nestlé in Montreux, Vaud, they decided it would be more logical to live locally rather than constantly travel halfway across the world.
As to be expected, adjusting to life in a new country was difficult for the Gage family. Jeremy started at an English-speaking International school with roughly 120 students from 36 different countries. He explained having a hard time picking up on social norms from all the unfamiliar cultures.
“One time, I was arguing with a girl from Russia and pointed at her, and her boyfriend almost beat the crap out of me because apparently pointing at someone in Europe is the equivalent of giving someone the finger--and some.”
In addition to learning social norms, he also struggled with learning the language. His parents both speak French, which is the second most used language in Switzerland just behind German, so they were able to communicate effectively with the citizens who lived in their region of the country.
However, things started to look up after his first year. It was at this time that Gage really started to enjoy his time in Switzerland. “Being 18 in Europe is similar to that of someone in their mid-twenties. I didn’t feel 18—I felt 22.” He attributes this to an increased sense of freedom and mutual respect for age in the country, as well as the overall culture. “There aren’t any assumptions of you not being intelligent or incapable of doing anything you desire.”
While living in Europe, Jeremy traveled to ten different countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, and Singapore, which are still some of his favorite places to visit today. He also had a very active night life and was involved with many different organizations such as Model UN in Singapore, Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia, and he played varsity basketball for his high school.
After two years abroad, the Gage family returned to the states as a changed bunch. While reflecting on how the big move had affected his relationship with his parents, he said, “Only after we returned to the US did we recognize the strength we each have and how much we meant to each other.” He also discussed how a handful of his friendships had been strengthened by the distance. He explained that these were definitely the friends who meant the most to him, but he also saw how easily some people can come and go in his life. Jeremy is now 24 years old and maintains relationships with many of these same people today.
While there was a lengthy laundry list of pros and cons for living abroad, Gage came out in the end with a valuable life lesson. “It taught me to never judge or to jump to conclusions about anybody. I learned the importance of diversity too.” He continued by saying, “I was close-minded in Raleigh and didn’t recognize how small I thought the world was until after I moved to Europe.” He explained how he was given the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective which opened his eyes to more than he ever expected.
If given the opportunity to do it all over again, Gage is not sure where he stands. The life he left, the life he lived in Europe, and the life he has now are all so different than he ever expected. “I don’t know if I would be where I am now without living in Europe. I don’t regret anything in my past because it’s made me who I am today.”