BY SARAH THROWER
For the UAS Whalesong
Growing up, my main travel inspiration came from stunning photographs of Greece that I would find in National Geographic or other various magazines. I loved to cut out photos of the white sand beaches, blue waters, little villages, and ancient temples and turn them into collages of my dreams for the future. I had always known I would travel there someday, but last fall, when I was looking into study abroad opportunities I was thrilled to find out that ‘someday’ had come sooner than expected.
Originally I had planned on studying in France but while snooping around the AHA (now GEO) website I discovered a program in Athens that was right up my alley and I was immediately sold. I’m a BLA major with concentrations in history and art, so for me the idea of studying in one of the most historically and artistically influential places in the world was a dream, and the classes offered through the program were not only intriguing, but filled my degree requirements and transferred as 3-credit courses.
I had two amazing professors who were incredibly knowledgeable in their fields and passionate about teaching. I learned everything I ever wanted to know and much more about the ancient Greek world and its incredible influence on modern art, literature, philosophy, architecture, warfare, and especially democracy. My study abroad group was able to travel to and study many important sites around Greece, which made it an incredibly unique and a hands-on learning opportunity. My professors had access to several places that a regular tourist would not have had access to on their own, like the Parthenon and some off-limits museum collections. I felt as if I had a personal tour guide for the entire trip.
While studying abroad I gained a new skills surrounding communication. I only knew a few words in Greek, and, although many people speak English, oftentimes there was a complete language barrier that required non-verbal communication skills. It’s amazing how important patience, a kind smile, and a humble demeanor can be in a confusing situation.
I became much more self-reliant because of my experience, and a lot of that came from taking opportunities to travel solo. I visited a few of the islands by myself over spring break which definitely put me out of my comfort zone. But also, just getting out and exploring the city on my own was very empowering and I gained a new sense confidence.
My advice for anyone who chooses to study away is to take advantage of where you are and participate in as many opportunities that you possibly can. You never know when you are going to find your favorite food or see an amazing art show or have an awesome night out with your friends. There were a lot of awesome things I was able to do, and I definitely regret some of the opportunities that I missed, but I had a great time. I learned a lot about the location and myself. I saw things I’d never see in the US. I experienced discomfort and dared to try new things, and am all the better for it. Get out and challenge yourself.
BY SARAH THROWER