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.
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.