Studying abroad in Athens at Arcadia was truly a life changing experience. I walked away with not only amazing memories, new perspectives, and an understanding of a new culture, but more importantly, it changed how I viewed myself and what I was capable of. But I didn't always feel this way. Nine years ago today, I had just finished fall semester of my Sophomore year at Claremont McKenna College and was Athens-bound in a few short weeks. What was I feeling? Absolute DREAD. All the initial excitement of applying, getting accepted and the anticipation of going quickly disappeared as I was faced with the very real reality that I was going to be living in a completely foreign country for the next 4 months with people I didn't know. The knots in my stomach grew tighter everyday and I remember sitting at the gate in JFK still wondering whether I had made a huge mistake deciding to study abroad.
Within 24 hours of landing in Athens though, I realized how SILLY all my worries had been. I had already fallen in love with the city and knew 4 months would be too short. The staff at Arcadia were so instrumental in making us feel at home - teaching us how to make gigantes and spanakopita, taking us to local hangout spots, and helping us immerse in Greek life. The places we got to visit were breathtakingly beautiful and humbling - to know that we were standing on literally ancient history was awe-inspiring. Out of all cities we were able to explore in Greece, my personal favorites were Nafplion, Santorini, and Meteora. Nafplion because it was the first trip we took as a class a week into the program. Santorini because it is just so serene and beautiful in a way that pictures just don't do it justice. Meteora because I got to explore these inspirational monasteries with my parents when they came to visit.
Beyond that, what really made my time in Athens so unforgettable was our class (Spring '09 - can't be beat). I'm so fortunate to have met such great people from universities across the US and to create so many memories during such a special time period in our lives. I won't detail all the escapades we had, but I can say that I still don't care much for ouzo, though highly recommend trying rakomelo. Even though it's almost been a decade, I can still clearly remember how bittersweet it was to leave Athens after that semester. I had built a lifestyle, a routine, and a new network of "family" that I wasn't ready to say goodbye to. I loved our little apartment on Embedokleous that I shared with four other girls. I loved the family bakery across the street where I picked up my daily fresh croissant on my way to class.
I had fallen in love with Athens and the Greeks. My heart was so full and I didn't want it to end. My time in Athens taught me a few things: