Can one feel Swiss without ever having stepped foot in the country? Yes, if we take the example of the young American, Jonathan Royce Hostettler.
In the following interview with swissinfo.ch, the 22-year-old explains that he suffered a difficult childhood, and looks forward to the day when he can come to the country of his ancestors and make it his home.
swissinfo.ch: Why are you Swiss? What kind of relationship do you have towards Switzerland?
Jonathan Royce Hostettler: I am Swiss-German on the side of my father, Douglas Joel Hostettler. He had been to Switzerland when he was a young boy helping out with the farm of his grandparents. But after his grandparents died, he no longer went to Switzerland. We lost contact with my extended family, but my father had worked on a family tree, so I was able to reconnect with my family over there through Facebook. This happened when I was in college two years ago. I have a family crest, and still want to find out more about it.
The relationship that I have with Switzerland is very strong even though I am American. I want to choose Switzerland as my home. It is where my heart is. I have lots of family in Bern, Thurgau, St Gallen. My great great grandfather (Niklaus Hostettler) was married three times and had 17 children in all.
swissinfo.ch: When did you start to feel Swiss? Why are you interested in Switzerland?
J.R.H.: I started to feel Swiss when I was in the sixth grade. It was then that my Mom told me about my Dad. I got very interested in learning and studying about Switzerland (mostly history). I am interested in Switzerland because it is such a beautiful country and I admire the culture, as it is a part of me.
I am a junior at Covenant College studying biblical studies with a concentration in missions, and currently I know how to speak enough German, but not fluently, and so I will be working on getting German up to fluency.
I have never been to or lived in Switzerland. But I do want to live there closer to my extended family. I will be going to Switzerland to see my extended family for the first time. It will be a graduation gift from my mom next year.
swissinfo.ch: You are studying in the US: what would you like to do in the end?
J.R.H.: I am planning on getting my PhD at the University of Bern in protestant theology. I want to teach theology at the University of Bern. First, I am planning to get my masters of arts for teaching from Covenant College and then get a masters of arts for religion in theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
swissinfo.ch: Where do you live at the moment, what's your life like, what's the food like there?
J.R.H.: At the moment, I am living in Chelsea, Alabama (Birmingham Area), but I am originally from Morris, Illinois. My dad died when I was six years old. I am now in college at Lookout Mountain, Georgia.
My life is very challenging. I have been through a tough time throughout my life because I have a speech problem that affected my life socially. I had a tough time making friends in school because they could not understand me and made fun of me. I had a hearing problem too and used to have hearing aids.
I have had six surgeries in my life, but the problem was my lower jaw from birth. My mom has supported me all this time and helped me, when I was struggling in school. She believed in my potential.
It is hard for me to live in America because I feel different from most people and how I was raised, too. So, I have developed a love for European cultures.
What I want to tell people is never give up your hopes because you have full potential to succeed with disabilities or without disabilities. We are all exceptional people who have amazing gifts and talents to help others to become successful too.
The food at Covenant College has its ups and downs. But I always enjoyed my mom’s (Carol, who is 100% Greek) cooking the most. Sometimes, my mom would make Greek food, which is delicious! I was raised in the Greek Orthodox Church and I was baptized, but we left the church to find a new one. It took five years to finally find one.
swissinfo.ch: Do you prefer where you are living now, or Switzerland?
J.R.H.: I prefer Switzerland because the way of life there is so much better than here. I hate eating junk food and going to fast food restaurants. I like to be on time because that shows respect, and keeping promises is so important because that is where friendships last.
I like to be with family. My family does not eat out much. I am very family-oriented. Also, I like direct democracy because it is for the people and you can vote on many issues. I like to be clean. Switzerland is the best fit for me.
swissinfo.ch: What's your impression of Switzerland from abroad?
J.R.H.: My impression of Switzerland is heartwarming! I just love everything about Switzerland from the beautiful Swiss Alps to the multi-ethnic cultures there.
swissinfo.ch: What is the political situation in the US? Are you interested in US politics?
J.R.H.: The political situation here is definitely interesting, but the problem is that there is a great division here. Most Americans are angry with the government, because too much power is given to the government. And so the government is taking our given freedom away, such as jobs. So many people have a hard time finding jobs, especially the middle class.
I voted for Trump because I am tired of power being abused for personal interest or wealth. People have the right to have jobs, wealth, and success, but it is time to give back the power to the people. Not many people know Trump’s life, but reading about him and seeing that he cares so much about the American people gives me a good feeling for the future of America.
swissinfo.ch: Any last thoughts about Switzerland?
J.R.H.: Since I have never been to Switzerland, I want to be with my extended family and want them to know how much I love them. They are always in my heart and very important to me.
There is no place like home with a family that you love so much. America is just not my home, but Switzerland is and it is always home in my heart. Confoederatio Helvetica (Swiss Confederation)! Please tell my cousin Susanne Luchsinger who is living in Wagen, St. Gallen and her family this: Ich liebe euch alle so sehr!
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