The comfort zone ends here

Being one half of two isn’t always easy. Sometimes it requires making huge sacrifices we aren’t always ready to make. That time came for me last June when we found out my husband had been accepted to IMD’s program. At the time we were living a dream life in Perth Australia. 265 sunny days a year, 7 gorgeous beaches within a 10 minutes drive, a fantastic job, incredible friends… it was pretty much the life I’d always hoped I’d live. Now I had to leave it.

Externally, I wanted to support his dreams, after all we were in paradise because he allowed me to chase mine, so how could I not support his? Internally, I was struggling to find a way to accept the impending move. I’d never moved to somewhere I hadn’t personally pursued. I had a million questions I couldn’t answer and that both terrified and excited me.

What I will say about a move this big, is that culture shock… she’s real. For me, it reared its head not long after my husband began school. I found myself alone in this strange suspended state of fear. I became afraid to go out because I didn’t know the language, afraid of not fitting in and offending the local Swiss, afraid of getting lost, of trying new things, of venturing out alone. This baffled me because I’d traveled hundreds of times on my own and I always loved it, but this time felt so different. I thought I’d have more time with my husband, but he became involved with a huge workload from the beginning. I didn’t know anyone here adding to the feeling of loneliness and isolation, and I hadn’t the faintest clue how to help myself out of it.

Thankfully the school has a partner program, and this became a light in the dark. It became a way to get out of the apartment I’d sought shelter in, and it forced me to meet men and women who were in similar situations.

The program held a few classes for the partners after their MBA program began, and through one class I learned about culture shock. Sure, I’d heard about culture shock before, but It never occurred to me It might be the answer to what I was experiencing. I learned not only were my emotions normal, but I wasn’t the only one going through them! Many of the partners were experiencing the same emotional roller coaster I was. This crazy common denominator became the very bridge that helped us through this time and brought us together.

I went home feeling like I had opened the closet doors I’d been afraid to look in, and befriended the boogie man inside. The fear I felt finally loosened its grip on me. I slowly became ok speaking my flawed french to others, I was trying, and most importantly I began to relax, enjoying the newfound time I had.

I won’t say that I don’t still struggle from time to time, because I have my moments, and I won’t say that it’s been comfortable because it hasn’t, but it gets easier. Now I’m no longer afraid, and I’m out enjoying the things that Switzerland has to offer! In the last two weeks alone I’ve had fondue in an igloo, I’ve skied one of the best mountains in the world, and I’ve picnicked by a beautiful lake after touring a castle.

I look back to this time last year and ask myself the question, If I knew then what I know now, would I still have pushed my husband to follow his dream and come to IMD? Yes, because his dreams are just as important as mine, and being able to support that means everything.

Every day here feels easier, and lessons get learnt. It’s such a different style of life to what we left, but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful. It’s an experience that I’ll look back on and be glad I took. It’s taken courage and tenacity to push through the initial settling period but I wouldn’t change a thing, and already feel stronger because of it.

Maddie Genest, 2019 MBA Partner