Sadie’s Reflections

I am very proud of Sadie and her personal journey in Switzerland. From the beginning, it was a tougher climb for her. She was leaving dear friends in the neighborhood, her loved sport of cheerleading and could not get into ISL for the first 6 months. What I appreciated most is that Sadie leaned into the experience. She became a great skier, made good friends and competed with the Lausanne Angels Cheerleading team (which made her a Swiss National Champion). Her last year in Switzerland brought a lot of fun and the last few months were filled with trips into town, a weekend in Croatia with school and a lot of time with Nora and Margarita (forever friends). I asked Sadie to reflect on her time and it is below. Once again Sadie is leaning into the future. Lots to learn from that.


I know the reaction everyone expects of me is sadness. But in all and complete honesty there is a sense of relief, a weight lifted off my shoulders. I feel as if I will leave knowing that it was significant part of my life however it doesn’t define my happiness and the future I am looking forward to. I’m choosing instead of looking remorsefully at the past, I’m going to looking joyfully to the future and all in all I will enjoy the present and wherever it brings me.

I made great friends in Switzerland, like Nora and Margarita. I will miss them dearly, but am excited to reconnect with the maple brook six and make new friends at maple grove middle.

Thank you Switzerland, Hello America 🙂


Lago di Como, bellissimo senza George

Quick weekend drive to Lake Como for Jess and I as the girls are in the US with the grandparents. Lake Como has been “on my list” the entire time in Switzerland and after the Obama’s just visited the Clooney’s in Lake Como, the four hour drive was a must.

The drive over included a “car train” where you drive onto a train that takes you through Swiss/ Italian Alps. I’ve heard of this train but of course it was google maps that directed us in this direction. I literally can’t imagine this expat experience without GPS!

Beautiful hotel right on the edge of Lake Como and 10 minutes out from the center of Como.

We took a quick tour of Villa del Balbianello, scenes from Casino Royale and Star Wars filmed there. Long (2+ hours) and hot (+90 degrees) boat ride home but worth seeing the beauty.

A wonderful meal on Lake Como, a tour of the city and we are on our way back to Switzerland.

Oh, no sightings of George and Amal but still worth it! Northern Italy has been a highlight over the last 3 years. Ciao Italia!

Car train through Swiss/Italian Alps

Villa del Balbianello

Scene from Casino Royale filmed here

Great place to stay, Hotel Villa Flori

What an experience we have had 😍

Exit Stage Left, McKenna takes a bow

McKenna wrote the below for the ISL High newsletter


When people ask me how I feel about leaving I am never sure what to say. I feel so many things, all of the adjectives at the same time.

I feel happy, sad, jealous, nostalgic, excited, scared, different, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. And sometimes even indigo. I feel like all the pigeons in all the subway tunnels in all the major cities in the world. It’s this conflict of emotions that makes it hard to put pen to paper to write this goodbye article.

I knew how I felt when I was leaving Minnesota: sad about leaving my friends, but excited about moving to Switzerland. I mean, who wouldn’t be excited? Most people I knew hadn’t traveled past Chicago, let alone Europe. How do I feel leaving Switzerland?

It is safe to say this place is my home now. Not my home away from home or any of that crap: it’s my home and the people of ISL are my extended family. I feel comfortable using the word family because that’s what this community has become for me. Especially the teachers, I attribute a lot of my growth academically and emotionally to them (shout out to Mr. Ribas and Mr. Kirby, who run the best student newspaper in the world). I know that in the middle of exam season it doesn’t seem like they care, but believe it or not our teachers want us to pass their classes. Every single teacher I have interacted with has pushed me to be the best that I can, and I appreciate all the work you put into teaching us.

Another important part of my ISL family is my Year 11 brothers and sisters. I can’t wait to see what the class of 2021 will do next. Just a couple pieces of advice before I go. You can do more than you think you can do, so believe in yourself. *throws glitter in the air* Come to each other’s aid, we are all raindrops and together we are an ocean. Finally, if you want to have any chance at overthrowing the current Wacky Week champions, start planning a month in advance, and include a couples dance part in the performance.

As I close this chapter of my life I will be losing a piece of myself – maybe that’s why I feel so conflicted? Because as I have adjusted to expat life, I made it a part of my identity and I’m leaving that behind. That is not quite right, it’s more like when I came into this experience I didn’t think I would change. I thought I would get some cool new memories, get taller, but that’s it. I didn’t realize the empathy I would gain, or newfound respect for all the third culture kids I’ve met. I thought I could slide right back into Minnesota like a puzzle piece, only the shape of me and my personality to change completely.

At the end of every day I do this reflection exercise called “rose, thorn, bud” in which you think about the best part of the day, your rose; the worst part of your day, your thorn; and what you are looking forward to next, your bud. And I want to go through that for my last three years.

Rose: The places I went and the people I met. To say I have become well traveled is an understatement. I have been to three new continents and around 15 new countries, but what matters more is the people I shared these experiences with. I will forever remember the London, Iceland, and Cambodia trips I took with my classmates. I haven’t even mentioned all of the amazing year 10, 12, and 13s that I have become friends with! Moving to Europe was cool, but trust me, the person reading this article is cooler.

Thorn: I never gave the guys in my year a fair shake. Sorry, dudes. I judged you guys unfairly, and have said some less than kind words. I now see that was wrong. In the past couple months I’ve gotten to know you better and you all have been supportive and kind to me. I think you all have a tough road ahead in the DP, but from what I’ve seen in the past few months I think you can rise to the occasion.

Bud: When a door closes, a window opens. Similar to how I felt when I felt when leaving Minnesota, I am sad to leave, but excited for what comes next. I am going to a new school that I’ve never been to before and I know no one there, and I am excited to start this process all over again. Meeting new people, awesome teachers, and creating new memories.

Thank you for an amazing three years, ISL. I will miss you. I will leave you with a quote that resonates with me.

“I’ll see you in another life. When we are both cats.” -Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky

Feeling at home in the middle of our European vacation

As is the tradition for Quam visitors, I am sharing a bit about our visit.

For as long as I can remember, my daughters Zoe and Erin have been asking me to take them to Paris. They even choose French as their language to learn in school because one day we were going to Paris. We thought 2018 was the year and started to make plans. My good friend Bethany invited us to visit her near French speaking Lausanne, Switzerland (only a short 3 hour train ride from Paris). Bethany and I emailed countless times trying to coordinate schedules. Although it was disappointing to both of us, we finally realized it wasn’t going to work. And then for a variety of other reasons, it didn’t work out for Zoe, Erin and me to take the trip in 2018. So, we started planning for 2019. After looking at endless flight options and coordinating dates and activities, it was finally settled – we were going as soon as school ended in 2019.

As we started to plan the trip, we all agreed we wanted to visit other parts of Europe in addition to Paris. We decided on Amsterdam and somewhere in Switzerland. Remembering the struggles Bethany and I had trying to coordinate schedules the previous year, I didn’t contact her until we had more of a schedule. Almost like magic, everything fell into place – the exact days we wanted to be in Switzerland also happened to be a free weekend for Bethany, McKenna and Sadie for one day. A perfect girls weekend in the making.

After a few days in Amsterdam, we flew to Genève. Bethany met us at the airport and we started a beautiful weekend of catching up for Bethany and me and making new friends for Zoe, Erin, McKenna and Sadie.

Anyone who has traveled knows that you start to miss home cooked meals and space to spread out after a few days. What an amazing opportunity we had in the middle of our European vacation to be welcomed into the Quam’s home and made to feel like part of the family. We paddle boarded off the dock in front of their house, ate amazing home cooked meals, were driven to the Cailler chocolate factory and the adorable town of Gruyere, took the ferry to Lausanne, played a lot of Mario Kart, did some laundry and caught up on endless topics. It was one of those weekends that was good for the soul. We can’t say thank you enough to the Quams for making us feel at home in the middle of our European vacation.

With love to our wonderful hosts,

Jessica Kral, Zoe and Erin

McKenna coaching Erin on how to paddle board

The views of Lac Leman – the pictures don’t do it justice.

Visiting the Cailler chocolate factory where we learned how to “experience” chocolate.

Zoe and Erin capturing memories on the city wall of Gruyere.

The adorable chalet where we had authentic raclette thanks to Bethany’s planning.


McKenna, Erin and Zoe on the ferry boat to Lausanne

Me and Bethany

Felicidad em Portugal

A fun, quick Ascension weekend in Portugal. First time for all of us to this country and we loved it. A great beach vacation combined with a beautiful, historic capital city of Lisbon.

We stayed right on the beach in Costa de Caparica. Great board walk and beautiful beaches that stretched for miles. Jess and the girls took a surfing lesson and we spent one whole day just walking and relaxing. That day included an accidental walk through the nude beach with Sadie. 😬

Of course we did a bike tour of Lisbon. Really hilly and glad to have the ebike. They were setting up for All Saints that starts on the 1st of June. Looks like a party all month. At the end of the day, we had dinner in town and rank ordered the 7 bike tours we have done in European countries the last 26 months. A little bit of difference among us but our very first bike tour in Paris was the favorite. Just made me feel so grateful for all we have experienced together.

Spent one day going into Sintra. Temperatures were really hot and fires were breaking out so the roads to the palaces were closed. The coast is spectacularly beautiful. Went to the western most point of continental Europe as well. Southern Europe we will be back!

The sunsets were amazing!

Absolutely loves the beach! Collecting shells, surfing, tumbling.

Bike ride #7 in Lisbon. Good thing they did not allow the guy to come who had never ridden a bike before as it was challenging.

First time surfing!

Had him grilled for lunch😜

Rented 2 beds and a head for 10 euro!

Big 5, Big Fun, & Big Impact

Simply WOW! Our trip to South Africa was amazing and as we return to our “normal lives” we are forever impacted by what we experienced together.

If there was one word for the trip it would be animals. Before we even got to the safari we saw sharks, penguins, seals, baboons in Cape Town. We enjoyed a hike up Lion’s Head as well as a trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 20 years. Cape Town is a beautiful coastal town. We had a great guide, Paul, who shared a lot about the political and social transition the country has had in recent history and is still going through. Four days was barely enough.

A quick flight to Skukuza and the minute we left the airport the safari began. We drove in our open air Jeep to the MalaMala Game reserve and saw animals immediately. Mala Mala is part of the private Sabi Sand game reserve which is adjacent to Krueger National Park. The place was magical! On our first drive we saw elephants, lions, rhinos, giraffes. We were so close to the animals and got to see them in their habitat with their young, hunting for food and living as animals do. Our ranger for every drive was Tim, a South African native who grew up in the bush. His knowledge and love of the animals was amazing. Between MalaMala and Kapama we did 11 safari drives. We were amazed at how each drive was different and showed us something new. From all these drives we each picked a favorite memory.

McKenna: Following a Pride of Lions in the morning who were going to the river for water.

Jess: The amazing size and scale of rhinos and elephants. Felt like he was in Jurassic Park.

Sadie: Watching the leopard and her cubs playing in the grass.

Bethany: Following a Lion in a night drive as he patrolled his territory. He walked right next to our Jeep and ranger Tim calmly advised us to “just stay still”.

We talked a lot with Tim (and Ben the ranger at Kapama) about the horrific poaching that is occurring. Rhinos are going to be extinct in under 10 years at the rate they are being killed for the believed magical powers in their horns. Horns can be worth over one million dollars and this has created a difficult and dangerous situation. It is not just Rhinos though, last year four animals became extinct including one type of Rhino.

We have been so fortunate to experience so much together as a family. We are in awe of the beauty of the people, animals and land of South Africa. We return grateful and much more aware of the planet we are all a part of.

We have been anticipating this trip for awhile!

Lion’s Head

Great hike to the top of Lion’s Head


Added lots of photos to the handstand collection

Ready for our Shark dive!

Sadie in the shark cage!

Lots of copper sharks (and huge sting rays) were seen

Beautiful Cape Point

South African penguins at Boulders Beach

Loved the waterfront Harbour, staying at Victoria & Alfred Hotel and of course Haagen Dazs!

Ranger Tim and our amazing vehicle for the drives. Off roading was fun and a common experience.

Mala Mala is right on the reserve so we saw animals all day long from our rooms, lunch, swimming. We did get an escort back to our rooms at night. Clap for leopards, stay still for lions 🦁

The Big 5 and Jess!

McKenna’s favorite drive memory

Jess’s favorite drive memory

Sadie’s favorite drive memory

Bethany’s favorite drive memory

Ranger Tim joined in the hand stand tradition

A different kind of bunny we found on Easter Sunday

Girls received their official Big 5 certificate

Ranger Ben and tracker Foster at Kapama.

Cool opportunity to interact with elephants at camp Jabulani.

This one was a little tricker than the other monuments that are not living!

This beauty needs to be protected & available for all generations

Video by the girls with highlights

2-Do-Shay (or a two show day)

Back in a London! Just mom and I. After Sadie and mom did Paris, it was my turn. I’ve been listening to the Hamilton sound track for 4 years so if I could see Hamilton on the West End that was my dream come true.

Hamilton did not disappoint. It was the best musical I’ve ever seen. Watching King George in London gave it an additional fun flare.

While in London, why not have a 2-Do-Shay, that is theatre speak for two shows in a day. Our second show was the Play that Goes Wrong. It had us laughing through the whole show. Nice to see some British theatre.

Besides the 2-Do-Shay, we shopped and ate our way through London.

London, we love you so much.

So happy to be with my mom!

British Tea at the English Rose Cafe

All they serve is chips – Hipchips

Inside the beautiful Victoria Theatre


Breakfast at Duck and Waffle! 40 stories above the city.

Our compact luxury hotel involved sharing a bed, sorry mom