I’m back home in California now, and while it’s easy to answer the “how was Greece?” question with a “great,” it’s much hard to put into words exactly how inspiring, fun, exhausting, and any other number of adjectives it was.
Studying abroad was not an option I ever thought I could have. I’m a late start (read: old) transfer student from a community college, and this summer program was the very last opportunity for me to study abroad via UC Riverside, as this fall is my final quarter. It was summer or never.
And it was tough. It was stressful getting money together, it was stressful attending meetings, filling out paperwork, dealing with any number of issues with getting my passport. But I did it. I had the support of friends and family, I had the support of UCR’s Study Abroad office, and I had the support of my fiance.
(That was the hardest part, by the way. Leaving my fiance for a month, the longest separation we’ve ever had in the 6.5 years we’ve been together.)
You can come up with any number of doubts and roadblocks for why study abroad won’t work — and I’m not going to sit here and tell you those roadblocks don’t matter if you just try hard enough. No, I know what it’s like to face your problems and know what you can and can’t do.
What I will do is tell you that study abroad is possible. More than you think.
So, why study abroad?
There are so many things studying abroad can do for you, and while that experience is going to be subjective and personal, there’s always something you can get out of it.
This one is pretty obvious, right? Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to travel to a different city or country, to experience the world in a whole new light. Being in Athens was like being on a whole different planet, but it still felt familiar somehow. I found myself relaxing from 12pm-3pm like the natives did. I walked everywhere. I started reading Greek letters in my head (okay, out loud) as I saw them, even if I didn’t know what the words were. I enjoyed the food. I loved the sights and sites. Simply being in a different country did more for my views of the world and myself than watching a documentary on YouTube could have done. (And I did. Watch plenty of documentaries about Athens & Ancient Greece on YouTube.)
Food. THE FOOD. You learn a lot about a culture by their food, I think. And it’s delicious. I had no trouble adapting to Greek food. It felt healthier compared to American food (less preservatives, less sugar, more local food, I think?), and it was delicious. Some of the flavors were definitely something to get used to, but once you’ve had your first proper pork gyro from the souvlaki place down the street from your apartment, you won’t turn back.
I was also incredibly interested in people watching. I find it fascinating, seeing how people interact with each other — and how Greeks would interact with other Greeks vs tourists.
Sure, it’s all fun and games, but when you’re studying abroad you’re still getting an education. Our program, which focused on Ancient Greek life, had us walking all over Athens, visiting various sites and museums. We took day trips to Corinth, Delphi, and Marathon (among other places). We visited a ceramic workshop and a leather workshop. We had an olive oil tasting. We learned about Greek life in the ancient world and had a taste of modern Greek history. Learning while in another country gives education a different quality; it makes it kind of exciting again, which is important if you’re like me and have been going to school full time (summers included) for four years and are close to burning out.
This is where it gets incredibly subjective for everyone. I will say that I learned a few things about myself in Greece, and keep it at that. How you take to studying abroad is up to you — but it can give you so much if you can make it happen.