Athens has been amazing so far. However, now that we have begun to settle into a routine I have decided to impart some knowledge to you if you plan to study abroad at any point in time.
It is still school.
You heard me - it’s still school out here. Yes, half of my classes are out in the city, or at sites like the Ancient Agora, but we still have homework, tests, projects, and professors that expect quality work. I know that a lot of people think that studying abroad means that you have easier classes with fewer workloads. I’m not gonna lie, I was definitely one of those kids. Oh, how I have been proven wrong. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the classes that I am in, and I am learning a lot of new things but, I definitely am spending more time on homework than I had initially thought.
Here’s where the advice is going to come in.
Being abroad is a huge opportunity to explore new countries and cultures but you need to plan it carefully. I’m sure it would be fun to visit a new country every weekend and I definitely thought that I would have time for that, but spending 24 - 48 hours in a country isn’t really ‘seeing it'. I would like to be able to study the new country and culture, see what makes it different, what makes it special, and to be able to learn while I am there. If there is a country that you really want to truly explore outside of where you are studying, then plan for that on a break or long weekend. Then, on normal weekends, where you don’t have excursions with your classes, you can explore the area around you. The homework that is assigned is also really interesting and often goes along with site trips. By doing the homework and not traveling every weekend, I have more free time to learn more about Athens.
Confused? Think about it this way. Can I truly say that I lived in Athens for four months if I was gone every weekend and never took the time to explore? No! I think that the best way to experience this city is to stay and look around. A great example was two weekends ago. A group of us from Arcadia decided to stay in town and spend the weekend exploring places like the Acropolis, the Archaeology Museum, and some of the local shops and restaurants in our area. We found a really cool candy store called Hans & Gretel. The entire store is decorated to look like the Witches’ house from the story of Hansel and Gretel. They had some cool desserts like ice-cream in a fresh baked waffle and Chimney Cakes - a doughnut formed into a chimney and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. We also learned how to better use public transportation here, and we were able to wander around and learn at our own pace. Yes, we will eventually go back to the Acropolis with classes, but by going on our own time and initiative, we were able to get our own feel of the place and enjoy ourselves.
I had a lot of fun at Nafplio, but I also had a lot of fun on our academic excursion that took us all over the Attica region. I got to see sites that I have learned about such as The Straits of Salamis, where the Athenian Navy completely destroyed the Persian Navy by using battle strategies and ambushed to overwhelm Xerxes’ forces. We also visited Eleusis, which is where the myths say Persephone disappeared into the Underworld.
There is a lot to explore here in Athens. I don’t need to go all over the world to get a good experience while abroad, I just need to study the area around me, and learn more about the very city I am living in.