They say to never meet your heroes so that you don’t get disappointed if they don’t meet your expectations. But if you have a dream destination no matter what as long as you keep an open mind and immerse yourself into the culture it will never disappoint. That destination for me was Greece the only basis I had was Greek mythology and the Mamma Mia movies. The reality though was that there was less singing, not from the lack of trying, and significantly more teaching.
I believe that the most surprising thing for people to learn about studying abroad is that no matter where you go: the classroom, tourist destinations, supermarket, or even the small restaurant near the school, you are always learning and being taught new things. You learn more about yourself and about the world as a whole. I learned that it’s a universal truth that no matter where you go the bus systems are hard to figure out at first and that you should always enter at the front and exit at the rear.
Furthermore, going to Athens made me understand how significant and how life-altering human beings are as individuals. It felt weird going to these museums where ancient Athenians built massive Agoras and Temples when I am an undergraduate student living off of ramen. But at the same time, we were learning about how individuals where changing democracy when they most likely did not think they would change the future just their moment. I went through a couple of small existential crises but seeing the struggle the ancient and modern Athenians went through to keep their history alive it gave me hope that we as Americans can continue our own democracy and improve it for future generations.
Some of the biggest differences that you don’t think about before going abroad are the culture shocks and small stuff you don’t necessarily think twice about at home. One of the biggest ones was the amount of space given on sidewalks; I almost rammed head first into a pole and tree due to how much space was given. Another thing is the courtesy and right away given to pedestrians; Greece is a move or be moved type of country. I quickly learned how to estimate the best times to cross the streets. I also was amazed as to how similar we are to students in Greece. We worry about the same things: how to pay for college, how we will pay for our living, and how to earn a living after college. It’s reassuring and saddening that this is a universal experience, to know that we are not alone.
Now don’t get me wrong, aside from the existential crises and transportation dilemmas Greece was everything and more than I could’ve imagined. Pita bread was like a fluffier tortilla; I was able to play a juror in our small class play, and I was able to drive an ATV and look past the touristic side of an island we visited to see how they truly live. These small but eye-opening glimpses into their everyday lives as Athenians allowed me to see their point of view of the world even for just a moment.
Going to Greece was life altering for me. I understand how we as Americans look like to outsiders better and it has lit a fire under my passion to change the world especially American for the better. I have found myself using what I have learned whether it be how to cross a street or just how Athenians live to better my life in the United States. I cannot give enough thanks to everyone and everything in my life that allowed me to go on this journey and learn more about myself and others.
Mamma Mia, where will I go next?