Blog Post Four
It’s been 10 days since I’ve completed the JSIS/Hellenic Studies Greece study abroad program. I find myself scrolling through my photos taken in Greece and frequently reminiscing, using Greece as a reference guide to my daily routines and encounters back in the United States…it’s finally hitting me, it’s really over.
I took a few days to ease myself back into the Washington weather, traffic, food and culture. I’m finally getting a grip of my old reality. My study abroad program to Greece has made me realize a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of before. Greece was a truly beautiful place; the accessible island and beaches, the affordable Greek food and the hot weather that gave me an excuse to practice *siesta naps every day. But that wasn’t my takeaway from my time spent studying abroad. Being in Greece taught me what I was capable of as a traveler. I learned more from the conversations that I had with people than from visiting the ancient ruins. Most importantly, I gained clarity of my Self through my experience.
This study abroad program has intrigued me even more to work under the umbrella of social justice. I fine tuned my focus and I now understand that the practice of social justice needs to be applied to any career path that I might take.
While being in Greece with 22 other students, it allowed me to see 22 different personalities, including myself, mesh together to make this program successful. There were times that personalities clashed, but with the help of group discussions and our ability to put differences aside, we were able to finish this program strong. I am truly grateful for each individual that I met in this program. I loved the diversity, both in ethnicity and personalities. This helped me gain a better perspective in not only the people that I was with, but also a better understanding about myself.
This leads to my advice for anyone that is planning on going into a study aboard program: Be open. Embrace the novelty that life has brought you. Accept the challenges that your travel will bring you. Listen and be aware of your surroundings. There are 7 billion people in this world, but first, listen and be aware of the 22 classmates and professors that are right in front of you. That will be a great gateway to being more open to everyone else in this world. You’d be surprised of what ‘being open’ can teach you.
Good luck and enjoy!
*Siesta; a break from work during the hottest hours of the day.
Blog Post Three: Two Weeks Down, Two More To Go!
We finally made it to Nafplio, the first capital of Greece. What a massive change from the present capital of Greece, Athens. Everything here is a bit more slow paced, less congested with people and businesses, and full of deeply rooted culture.
We’re nearly two weeks into our Travelers class with Professor Klapaki and we have learned so much about the culture and history of Greece. In my pervious blog, I mentioned that Greece isn’t only known for it’s origin of philosophers or the perfect vacation spot, it’s also home to people of the neighboring countries that found residence here as refugees. But after learning more about the history, my thoughts about Greece have changed once again.
Greece holds a certain history that most people may know about. The beautiful ruins and landscapes, the greek mythology, and the philosophers that helped mold the minds of people of the past and even today. Throughout my program, when we dove deeper into the history, it was explained that Greece and the Greeks are in a frozen time capsule because of their history. This applies to both the perspectives of Greeks and the perspectives from Westerners. I hope that once people understand this concept, they will see Greece for more than just their ancestors, but for the modern civilization that is at a halt to progress because of the history that they hold.
We were unfortunate to be here during the recent wildfire that killed nearly 150 people, but extremely fortunate that we were far from the fires when this happened. This event opened my eyes to see the Greeks together at work as a nation. We were able to donate some medication on our behalf, but this does not justify the grief that we all feel towards this horrible incident. The mayor issued a three-day mourning, and I thought it was beautiful that this was put into place. My condolences go out to the families that lost anyone from this disaster.
On a lighter note, two weeks down and two more weeks to go! I am very excited to go home. I miss my family and friends…I miss home! Being away from home for this long has taught me a lot about myself and, of course, the world. As much as I am homesick, I do appreciate the fact that I get to spend time with students that share the same passions, Greeks that gave me new perspectives, and for this experience that has helped me evolve as a person.
I look forward to being home soon, but I can’t disregard the trips that we went on and will be going on. We will be going on a cruise to the islands of Hydra and Speteses this weekend. This is one of the perks of studying abroad. You get to explore and enjoy the country in between stressful school weeks. It makes everything so much more tolerable.
Molica Chau: Blog Two
I have been in Greece for nearly a month and the experience has been nothing but eye opening. I once read that, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”– Marcel Proust. Previously, my perception of Greece was limited to things that I’ve read and seen through YouTube and television, such as the typical place to go to for a resort destination and home of Greek Mythology. After a month, my perspective shifted.
The focus of this study abroad is to shed light on the Roma minority group through a social justice lens. The Roma minority group who reside in Greece are a community of people that are isolated from Greek society. They are often known as Gypsies. Due to lifestyle differences, Romanies are looked down upon on by a majority of Greeks and the Greek government. I was unaware of this group of people until now…or so I thought. My initial thought about “gypsies” was the stereotypical ideas given by society. During our stay in Athens, we were able to visit the Roma Settlement and interview Greek people to hear about their perspective on Romanies.
“All our knowledge has its origin in our perceptions”– Da Vinci.
This assignment opened my eyes to the different perspectives that are happening all around Greece. Greece is more than just a resort destination – It is also home to many refugees. So far on campus, we’ve learned Intro to Modern Greek and Daily culture, but I have actually learned the most from our professor, Dr. Taso. Tonight, myself and four other students had dinner with Dr. Taso. Dr. Taso modestly speaks as if he’s Socrates, one of the philosophers whom I’ve been following which lead to my interest in Greece. He puts things into perspective about issues that are happening around the world (especially Greece). My take away from the last few discussions that we had with Dr. Taso is that we have to question everything we believe; to research and dig deep and define things for ourselves. Therefore, I simply can’t end this blog post without quoting Socrates:
“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.”
Aside from academics, I have done a lot of exploring. I just came back from a 4-day vacation in Italy with 15 other students. Within Athens, I was able to see the Acropolis, went to a concert at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and when time was allowed we visited multiple islands nearby. Tomorrow we leave to Nafplio for last month of the program, where we will learn more about social justice. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the second half of the summer quarter.
Molica Chau: Blog One
Applying to the JSIS Greece Study Abroad Program was quite easy. The process itself was guided by Dr. Taso, the professor of the program. Emails were sent accordingly to the times that certain requirements were due and questions were answered promptly. But applying for the OGA Study Abroad Scholarship was the even easier.
The most challenging part of the study abroad planning process was finding the right international flights. I can say that my trip to Athens was a horrible experience. Don’t let my last statement scare you! Nearly everyone in my class had a challenging journey as well. From delayed flights to losing their luggage; having a horrible experience became more common and I didn’t feel as incapable as I felt when first leaving the U.S. I learned from my experience and maybe you will find some answers through mine as well.
What I learned:
- Buy connecting flights from the same airline. I made the mistake to purchase flights with different airline connections. My first flight was delayed so that interfered with my connecting flights. Which meant that I didn’t get a refund nor were accommodations made for another flight. I ended up having to buy a new flight, which pushed me to arrive a day late to Athens.
- Travel with a friend. I had a layover in Las Vegas, London and Heraklion. Three hours in Las Vegas, a night in London and five hours in Heraklion. The experience was scary because it was my first time traveling internationally alone. I regret not traveling with a friend. The experience probably wouldn’t be as intense or boring. Having a friend in general while traveling would be safer, especially internationally.
- Be prepared to have extra money, chargers, and patience. Extra money is important. Yes, my flights were covered, but I had a lot of mishaps along the way that required me to dip into my account. I had to purchase a new flight and I had to pay to check-in my bags twice, which cost me $50 each time. Having an extra charger is also very important. I made the mistake of forgetting my charger at home. I had a travel charger that helped me survive until I was able to buy a new charger in London. Plus older airplanes don’t have outlets. I also had to get a new charger for my laptop because the European outlet at Heraklion Airport blew my circuit out. Extra patience is vital. There are going to be times where you want to crawl under a table and just cry, but just remember to be patient. Having a social network will help you combat this fear of traveling internationally as well. This means family and friends will help you financially and emotionally until you get to your destination.
“Your destination is waiting for you,” is what I was told while I was losing my patience. As much as this experience was terrifying, it was worth the challenging moments. You live and you learn, right?