Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Parthenon from my visit to the Acropolis
The Parthenon from my first visit to the Acropolis.

First Impressions

I’ve made it to Athens!  I’ll be living in this beautiful city for the next four months of my life, doing my best to learn the city, become a local, and make the most of each day.
I live in a simple but beautiful apartment in the neighborhood of Pagrati that is close to the center of the city with four other amazing roommates from my program, College Year in Athens.  I’ve already seen that CYA is clearly a well-established program over 50 years old that seems to offer many opportunities to see the city from an academic perspective and to dive into Athenian culture.  About 80 students are here with me at CYA, all from various schools around the US.  I’ve already met some really great people!
Most of my days have been structured with orientation activities, but a group of us ventured to the Acropolis during a long lunch break on my third day here!  I rallied a few of us to go, including one full-year student who was more than willing to tour us around and tell us fun facts he had learned from his ten visits to the site last semester.  It seems pretty standard to visit the archaeological sites in Athens multiple times during a semester!  It was amazing to climb the Acropolis and finally see its context.  In classes at home, it is difficult to imagine how it is in person, but it’s right in the center of the city. One of my favorite things from that trip was THE olive tree of all olive trees (the picture at the top of my blog, and perhaps the inspiration for my title…).  When Athena competed against Poseidon to become the patron god of the city, she gave this exact olive tree as a gift to the people.  It gave oil, wood and food and so was better than Poseidon’s spring of salt water.  I also passed the spot where there is supposedly the mark where Poseidon struck the earth with his trident to create this spring.  From the top we could see a 360 degree view of the city with the Aegean Sea and the mountains not far off.  Athens is huge, spread out, and relatively low compared to the cities I know in the US.  It was a nice chance to orient myself from above – I could see the stadium of the Panathenaic Games, for example, which is adjacent to the CYA building and two blocks from our apartment.  From that I could see our neighborhood and the far ends of the city I haven’t even thought of exploring yet.  All in due time.  
Tomorrow the modern Greek professors will take us to the farmer’s market in Pagrati to practice what we have learned in our “Survival Modern Greek” sessions this week!  It may be the highlight of my week, since I love markets like these.  I can’t say I’ve learned much, but every Greek I have met so far appreciates any effort I have made to speak the language.  The Greek people are kind and relaxed, and appreciate each day they have to live.  They roll with the punches and maintain a positive attitude despite hard times.  I hope that I can adopt at least some of their lifestyle!   

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Looking Back

I am now back on campus at Tufts.  I already miss the staff and friends I met at CYA, as well as Athens itself.  The freezing temperatures here certainly don't make the culture shock of returning any easier.

Your time abroad is what you make it.  The College Year in Athens program was designed so well that it was easy to love and easy to have a memorable experience. The people I grew close with over the past semester will remain an important part of my life.  Similarly, the things I learned while abroad, both in and out of class, will stay with me as I continue in my college career.  The adventures I had, the people I bonded with, and the country in which I lived combined to make one of the best experiences of my life.

Greece has earned a place in my heart.  It is the type of place that you have to get to know in order to love, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to do so.  I lived in Greece during a critical time in its history.  To be able to be a part of the community and to watch the rapid changes occur was a unique and exciting opportunity.

As I look forward to my sixth semester at Tufts, I feel I have a better understanding of the world around me.  I have learned much about foreign peoples, my own country, and myself.  My time in Greece reinvigorated my desire to meet new people and to explore new places. Similarly, time away only increased my appreciation for Tufts. 

I truly look forward to returning to Athens someday soon.