In Full Bloom: The Brooklyn Botanical Garden

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Join me under the cherry tree. 

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the Cherry Blossom festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. I was initially supposed to head to Washington for their festival but having just started a new job things just didn’t quite work out the way I had planned. However, it worked out in my favor because the Brooklyn Gardens are beautiful. There was an entire lane of Cherry Blossom trees my friend and I were able to walk under. We marveled at the beauty of the flowers in full bloom and the excitement that was radiating off of everyone. Besides Comic Con I have never seen so many people dressed up before. There were cosplayers in anime costumes and several women and men dressed up in kimonos and as Geishas. New York really is a big melting pot. I overheard several conversations of actual Japanese elders talking about their culture to anyone who asked them questions. There was a great sense of pride in their voices as they talked about the significance of the festival, their attire and anything related to their culture. With how the world is today it’s heartwarming to see so many people come together to respect and show appreciation of another culture.

Here are some of the flowers I saw in bloom:

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Six Weeks Later: Goodbye Greece, Hello New York!

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This post comes two days late because I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say. I could have posted more pictures about Athens or Thessaloniki but there was a part of me that said once I left blogging about the country and my experience wouldn’t feel right. I needed to get everything done while I was over there and in reality I did. So I visited a few other museums, walked the boardwalk and had good conversations with friends. Maybe some of that needs to remain a mystery and a memory only for me to have and cherish.

My room felt bare once I packed everything. My roommate left before me so I was alone for a few days. It felt eerie, like no one had lived in the room for the past six weeks.

My room felt bare once I packed everything. My roommate left before me so I was alone for a few days. It felt eerie, like no one had lived in the room for the past six weeks.

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I won’t lie, I felt sad as I got ready to close my door for the last time. Six weeks flew by and I was excited to go home but I felt like I could have done so much more. If I could do it all over again I would have saved enough money for an entire semester or for another trip. I would go to Spain and practice Spanish because if it’s one thing Greece made me realize is that I can’t give up. Spanish is hard but so is Greek and French and whatever other language out there but I should understand the language my family speaks. I should know more about my culture and be proud of it.

Even though I was in Greece for six short weeks I feel…different. Call me a skeptic but I never believed other students when they talked about studying abroad changing their life. When I went to orientation and workshops I would listen to them talk about London, Italy or Spain and just shrug my shoulders. It sounded exciting, heck I wanted to go (and I did) but I couldn’t fully understand their emotions about it until I left.

I decided to study abroad because I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I’ve always been a nervous and cautious person. I’ve always been afraid of my own shadow. I told myself if I could survive six weeks in another country I could do anything, even become a journalist.

I’ve been unsure of my major for a long time but now I’m not. I’m excited now, instead of afraid. I spent six weeks going up to random people for directions and struggling with a language I still didn’t end up grasping as I got towards the end. I trusted myself to just go with the flow and say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no.’ Saying ‘yes’ to anything I could, whether it was food, traveling or canyoning helped me grow. I don’t feel as afraid of life anymore.

I feel stronger. After my mishap in Turkey I wasn’t sure I would be able to survive six weeks in another country. But now, six weeks? It was nothing. A piece of cake.

Hopefully I’ll get to visit another country some day and experience it as a traveler instead of a tourist again. If I could I would study abroad for a semester, a winter session or a year. I can’t but that’s alright. Maybe one day I’ll have a new post to add to this blog…from New York to Greece…and everywhere in between.

But for now, here’s some advice I have for future study abroad students:

– Know why you’re going. It’s easy to pick a country, fill out the applications and then go but you need to have reasons why you’re going for yourself. What do you expect? What are you hoping to gain from studying abroad? It sounds silly but having a purpose matters.

– Research as much about the country as you can. Read about the food, the culture and the news. Try to find places in your neighborhood so you can sample the food before you go. A country might not be for you solely because of their food, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t  go, it just means you might have to try harder to find substitutes to cater to your needs. A girl during my trip was a vegetarian. She had a hard time finding food on menus that didn’t include meat. It was hard for her to eat so she had to search for places that had food she could eat or she was willing to eat.

– Be open to everything. Understand you’re a visitor in the country and you need to adapt to the world around you. If a country is conservative don’t think you can go around wearing a see-through cut-off top and short shorts. Some people got strange looks because they wore their workout clothes everywhere they went and they refused to accept that people dressed up a little bit more in Greece and were conservative. They didn’t want to see their sport bras popping out of their muscle t’s. Have some respect for the culture and people around you.

– Girls, if you use them bring tampons. Just trust me on this. An entire box or two depending on how long you’re staying. Seriously, bring your own tampons. Remember when I said to research as much as you could about your country? Research tampons. You’ll thank me later.

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Walking Around the Neighborhood: Art in Greece

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Coming from New York I’m used to seeing graffiti on the side of buildings, in train stations and on the side of buses and taxis. Sometimes you see amazing portraits but most of the time it’s curses, names of people or random words that mean something only to the person who sprayed it for the world to see.

Imagine my surprise when I came to Greece and saw graffiti on some of the buildings as I walked throughout the street. However, what I’ve learned is they consider the scribbled words and images works of art.

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I found this when I got lost going home one day. Punk’s not dead? I thought it was funny because I see this in New York all the time. I guess it’s a message that is important abroad too.

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Oops? Looking at this artistically I appreciated the effort the artist took to duplicate their work three times.

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This was on the side of a store called, ‘fenafresh.’ Homer Simpson seems to be pretty popular in Thessaloniki. I’ve seen other portraits of him too.

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I found this in a park when I was searching for some food. This reminded me more of home than anything else. I’m not entirely convinced it’s art but I don’t think it’s ugly to the eye either. I guess Greeks appreciate everything they see around them and maybe I need to use their viewpoint when it comes to small things like graffiti. Everything has meaning, beauty and a purpose.