During her semester at Arcadia in Greece, Ashleigh Burton walked her way around the country discovering much about the landscape and how it shapes Greek life. Here, Ashleigh shares some of her thoughts after being awarded the Co-curricular Learning Certificate for her documentation of these remarkable experiences.
"Here in this Mediterranean paradise, I have explored islands and beaches and mountains
— everything my landlocked home state of Indiana is lacking. The sun, sand, and water I had anticipated. It is the latter that caught me so off guard. Back in my pre-semester meditative state, the topography of Greece never crossed my mind. And even in the earliest stages of the semester, it had an impact on me. The first mountain I climbed was on our first overnight excursion to The Ranch. We were given two options that day. The first, to take a more leisurely stroll around the mountain. The second, a more strenuous journey up. I thought I had my mind set on the former, however, in the midst of convincing myself that the less physical effort required, the better, another force (peer pressure) convinced me otherwise. I decided to go up with my friends. And after many sweaty steps accompanied by a continuous stream of heavy breathing, we made it to the top. On the peak of that mountain, I found two things: 1) a goat skull, completely intact, and
2) the topic for my CLC.
The hike up Mount Parnetha was another unconventional journey. After seeing other people’s photos of the views online, a group of us signed up for the hike eagerly anticipating the opportunity to see Athens from the highest height and farthest distance since the plane ride into the city. Despite our enthusiasm, Mother Nature had something else in mind: a fog so dense that not only would we not see Athens, but we would barely be able to see the very path before us. Regardless, the memory of that hike is one I hold near and dear to my heart.
After the thousands of steps taken and miles endured, I’ve come to the conclusion that my hiking experiences have been, as cliché as it sounds, the perfect metaphor for my study abroad experience. It goes something like this:
Before you embark on the journey, there is a bit of uncertainty, but also an undeniable excitement for the adventure that awaits. And then, once you’re ready, you take the first step. The initial part of the climb is an adjustment; you are figuring out the feel of the terrain, the intensity with which gravity works against you, and the most effective ways to tackle each obstacle. But before you know it, you’ve got the hang of things. From here on, your stride is quicker, more confident. And then begins the part of the journey that is taken for granted. Here, you can’t help but focus your attention upwards, on where you’ll soon be. Sometimes so much so, you forget to appreciate where you are now. But as you draw nearer and nearer to the peak, you look back and begin to realize the impressive progress you’ve been making. However, it isn’t until you reach the top that it finally dawns on you how much you’ve actually accomplished. Congratulations; the journey is halfway over. You stay there at the top for a while. After all the handwork, you deserve it! But eventually — and this is the hard part — eventually, just as you get comfortable, just as you feel like you could stay there and take in the view forever… the sun passes over head. Your shadow gets longer in the other direction. And it dawns on you that it’s time to take your journey the other way: down. You’ll soon find that getting back can be just as hard, if not harder, than the journey to get there."