Mar 8, 2013, 9:55 AM EDT
How about some fun facts about Switzerland?
- It borders 5 countries: Germany, France, Italy, Austria, and Liechtenstein.
- Anywhere in Switzerland, you are never more than 13 miles away from a swimmable body of water.
- Louis Chevrolet, the founder of Chevrolet Motors, was born in Switzerland and lived there until he was 9 years old.
- The population is 7.34 million (about 1 million fewer than New York City).
- The most common spoken languages of Switzerland are German, French, Italian, and Romansh.
- The capital is Bern, the largest city is Zurich, and the country is divided into 26 cantons (districts).
- Freshman tennis player (and member of the “Fab Five”), Eric Schnurrenberger, hails from Zug, Switzerland.
Eric made the 4,400-mile journey from Zug to Notre Dame so that he could play tennis while continuing his studies. “For a lot of tennis players who want to study but don’t want to give up tennis, they come to the United States, and they can combine those two things, because in Switzerland…you either study or you [play] professional tennis, but [doing both] is very difficult.”
For many people, moving so far away from home would be a challenging and taxing transition, but not for Eric: “[I knew that in the United States] I could play tennis, study, and get a new experience, new culture, new language—everything—and move away from home and be independent…. I knew what I was expecting—like the new environment and new language—but I [already] felt very welcomed in this environment of the tennis team, and that helped me a lot to get new friends and get to know other things here. From the beginning on, [I knew] it was a very good thing to be here, and I was never homesick.”
He looked at schools such as Northwestern, University of Washington, and Boston College, but ultimately decided on Notre Dame because he had the best contact with Irish coaches Bobby Bayliss and Ryan Sachire, and realized that Notre Dame would help him to become a “well-rounded person” because it allows him to “play very competitive tennis and get a really good education at the same time.”
Eric unfortunately can’t play tennis with the team this year (due to an NCAA ineligibility), but he’s keeping himself busy with team and individual practices and his studies. (He grew up bilingual in German and French, says he’s “working on” his English, and is currently learning Spanish.) He also plays the guitar occasionally and is taking vocal lessons.
Switzerland is well known for its cheese, army knives, chocolate, banks, and another certain famous tennis player. Eric gets reminded of this regularly: “I’d say, ‘I’m from Switzerland,” and they say, ‘Oh! Yeah, yeah! I love cheese,’ and ‘I love banks!’…It’s all about ‘Do you love chocolate and do you know Roger Federer?’ That’s what everyone says.”
He says that being from a European country is a great ice-breaker, though. “[Americans] think it’s like something fancy or something interesting, but I don’t think that Americans really know where Switzerland is—I mean I understand. It’s so small, nobody really cares about it—but most of the people think I’m from Sweden, even though I [tell them] I’m from Switzerland.”
As a member of the ND Fab Five, he’s referred to in tweets as “The Burger.” (A popular hashtag for the tweets is #wherestheBurger.) Eric says his other nicknames are any abbreviations of his considerably long last name, such as “Schnurr,” and “Schnurry,” but he’s also been given the nickname “The Burglar.”
“I’ve never been called that back home because [my last name] was not so special. Like, ‘Yeah, it’s kind of long, but nothing special,’ but here it’s like, ‘Wow!’ and they make fun of it. But I like it!”
He may be a foreigner to the United States, but Eric Schnurrenberger is already a native to the Notre Dame tennis squad, and he’s making quite the impression on the Fighting Irish.
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