Xavier Magazine

Swiss Misses

Laura Noernberg Zizka needs an atlas to map out her life.

The 1993 graduate lives in Lausanne, Switzerland, a city of 250,000 that overlooks Lake Geneva—and sits a world away from Xavier University. But it was her time at Xavier that first gave Zizka a taste of life abroad and set her on an international course that has taken her around the world in the last 10 years. As a senior, Zizka earned a full scholarship to study in France and immediately fell in love.

“I knew I’d found my place in Europe,” she says. “I came back to the States for a few months, but I couldn’t stay.”

Moving to Lausanne, she took a job as an au pair during the day, studying French at night and traveling across Europe with German and Norwegian friends on the weekends. She met her husband, David, in 1994 during a Lausanne city festival, marrying him twice—first in a civil service in Jamaica, then in a Catholic ceremony in Spain. The couple soon found themselves in Prague, with David’s job, and then across the Atlantic Ocean to Chicago.

The call of Europe remained strong, however. After the birth of their son Daniel, the Zizkas returned to Switzerland. There, Laura worked for a finishing school in which, among other things, students learn which forks to use and how to seat diplomats. Two years later she found her current position as a teacher of communications and writing at L’Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne (Lausanne Hotel School), one of the world’s top schools for those entering the hotel industry.

Now 10 years removed from her undergraduate days, Zizka looks back with a sense of wonder.

“If I had written the story of a life, this is exactly the way I would have written it,” she says. “It’s been amazing.”

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