When I first imagined what it would be like travelingto Greece, I expected to be hit with a wave of culture shock and feel the pangsof homesickness. Instead, I have felt more at home than I ever expected.Growing up, I learned from my mom that you treat everyone as an equal, becauseat the end of the day we are all humans, no matter what we look/talk/act like.Back in America however, people are not treated equally. People decide how theyare going to treat you based on how much money you have, the color of yourskin, what clothes you wear, what gender you identify as, etc. Here in Greece,the way that people treat you is determined by the way that you treat them. Ifyou show kindness, you will receive kindness. If you show disdain, you willprobably receive disdain. For example, I know he has been talked about a lot,but the owner of Kékkos, Dimitris, has opened his arms to our entire class withoutexpectation of anything in return, and even was the inspiration behind my thirdtattoo. Being here has reminded me that there are people out there that do notcare about your appearances or worldly possessions, and that gives me hope forthe future.
One thing that I did not prepare for was how much Iwas going to love the cats here. For example, in Santorini my roommate and I“accidentally” welcomed a stray cat into our apartment. She was a very sweetcat who our classmate Kylie named “Puff”. All she wanted to do was lay on thebed and receive love in the form of pets. That is until 4 am rolled around andshe decided it was play time and my hair would be the perfect chew toy. Wedidn’t even have any treats for her and yet that didn’t stop her from wantingto spend time with us. In America, there are times when I will give my horsefood and scratches and when one or both of those things runs out all he does islook at me like, “did I say you could stop?” (I promise he loves me). I willalways hold a soft spot in my heart for all the animals in Greece that have noexpectations for us, but readily accept our love (and pets).
Greece also gave me something that I could have foundin America, but is still special nonetheless: true friends. My roommate Katieand I actually shared a class last J-term, but only started getting to knoweach other once we were put in a group together for this class. Since then wehave become very close, from watching sunsets together to sharing a bed with astray cat, we have condensed many memories into a short amount of time. I alsomet Danielle, who has been my “roast partner” on this trip (as we both enjoymaking jokes about each other and often congratulate one another when anespecially good burn is delivered). Had I not traveled to Greece, I would nothave bonded with these two and all of my other classmates as much in such ashort span of time.
Overall, I have had a refresher on/learned so manylessons from Greece and the people/animals that I have interacted with whilehere. Dimitris has reminded me the power of kindness. Puff has reminded me ofthe joy that animals can bring. Hanna has taught me that your attitude around asituation can shape your experience. Peter has taught me that words have power,and what you say (and how you say it) matters. And lastly, Professor Finitsishas taught me that if you’re going to do something, you should do it with some flair.
I will always be so grateful for the opportunity tovisit this beautiful country, and I hope that I will be able to return in thefuture.
I applied for this program while studying away on the tiny Caribbean island of Trinidad, off the coast of Venezuela. I remember thinking how ironic it all was, the fact that I had only recently arrived on the island, and how I was already looking for my next adventure. But that if how I live my life, I get restless staying in one place too long, and so this trip has been the perfect set up for me. I can’t believe how much of this country I have seen in just a few short weeks! From the mountains of Meteora to the beaches of Rhodes; the sites I’ve seen will forever remain in my heart.
I have learned so much during this course, not only about Bronze Age religion and the history and mythology of Greece, but about myself…here are a few lessons I picked up during my time in Greece:
If a small kitten approaches you in the rain, and climbs on your backpack…you should probably keep her.
It IS possible to order a vegetarian gyro (they replace the meat with fries)
Traditional Greek dance classes might turn into a Zumba hip hop class…don’t question it. Just laugh and follow along the best you can.
When you finally arrive at a hotel with a working shower, enjoy it. Treat yourself to as much hot water and free shampoo as your heart desires.
Beware of donkey poop (this mostly applies to the island of Santorini)
There is no wrong time to eat a chocolate croissant.
Emergen-C and hand sanitizer are your best friends.
A free day in the city does not necessarily have to be spent in the city…hop on a metro and ride until you find sunshine and the coast line!
Sleeping in a cave with no windows or lights can lead to the self-discovery of claustrophobia.
Make connections. Smile at every shop owner. Pet every cat. Join in on every outing and excursion. Take in the sounds of the waves crashing, the smell of falafels frying, the colors of a sunset. Be grateful for each and every moment in this beautiful county.
Greece has been an amazing experience for all of us. We have learned and grown so much over the last month. Our lives have been transformed by living and travelling in a foreign country. We have learned how to communicate with others who do not speak the same language and we have learned how to care for ourselves in a new country. We have tried new foods, seen new places, met new faces and made lasting friendships within our group and with the people we have met in Greece. We’ve also gone through struggles, obstacles and strife together. We’ve walked countless miles, climbed countless steps, battled the elements and soothed each other’s fears.
We all had a lot of fun on our trip, but there were a few parts that really touched me, and left a mark upon my soul. Tonight I wish to look back and share some of the highlights of our trip (through my eyes) and give you once last glimpse of our travels through photographs.
The first of many life changes was the relationships that we developed along the way. Of the development of our relationships with the people in Greece, the one that stands out the most is Kekkos café. The owners and employees there were amazing and treated us like family. When it was time for us to say goodbye, we all gathered at the café and gave hugs and gifts. Some of us cried. We exchanged gifts – we gave some uniquely Seattle items, and in return we got t-shirts and delicious confectionaries (see video).
Another aspect of this trip that has changed me is the food. I know that this may sound lame to most of you, but the food was sometimes a spiritual experience. Fresh fruits and vegetables were around every corner, produce was grown in season, and the dishes we ate were crafted with love and care. It is hard to say that you could have that kind of experience regularly in the United States. Most of our food experiences were delicious and full of love.
Once we had left Athens, we travelled to Meteora. My transformative experience in Meteora is detailed in an earlier post – I discovered that I had an ontological experience at the monastery. But on top of that, the rock formations and the blue sky were enough to take your breath away. I still cannot believe that I had a chance to hike and take in stunning vistas. I don’t think I’ll ever see anything quite like it again.
Then we went to Rhodes. It was there that I experienced most of my struggles. I was struggling emotionally and mother nature seemed to match the way my soul was feeling. However, there were some bright spots in Rhodes. I was very touched by my class in an act of kindness they did for me and my family. I was missing my son’s 14th birthday and I knew that it was just as rough on him as it was for me. My classmates all decided that we should sing him “Happy Birthday” via video. Dr. Finitsis decided that we should do this in front of a castle! We took the video and sent it to my son. He was sooooo happy to hear from me AND get a pleasant surprise from my classmates on his birthday. (So thank you, truly, everyone!)
Another fun thing I got to do, was that I got to take a dip in the Mediterranean, something I have always wanted to do. The water was cold, but not too cold. Taking a dip in the crystal blue water was very cleansing.
Of course, what is Rhodes without saying you visited the place where legend says the Colossus once stood?! I just HAD to go visit. Of course, it was stormy and the winds were howling, but that didn’t stop me. I brought along Hanna and AJ and we trekked our way over to the spot. We had sand pelting our face, rain blowing sideways, and the ocean was angry enough to crash over the walls and drench us. We had a lot of fun making our way!
After the storm cleared, we hopped on an airplane and flew to Santorini. I have always heard that Santorini was beautiful; it was much better than I expected.
A pleasant surprise for me was walking through the ancient city of Akritiri. I was amazed at how large the archaeological site was and how little had been excavated. I took my time walking through, imagining the ancient people living in their homes and roaming the streets. I also took the tie to wonder and image what artifacts lie beneath the fine dust and soil of many millennia.
We took a class photo while at Akrotiri, however the real star of the show is Dr. Finitsis (Thank you Kaitlyn, for the video!):
Then there was the bookstore! Oh the bookstore! For those who do not know me: I could stay for days in a bookstore. The smells, the sounds, the knowledge and imagination on paper, bound up and placed between two pieces of cardboard….It’s really amazing how much information and soul a bookstore holds.
This bookstore was unique; it was nestled below street level in a little corner, almost like something you would imagine in Harry Potter. Quotes were painted on the walls and ceilings, cute signs were sitting outside the front door, and old first editions of classics were displayed proudly at the front of the store. I felt at home and at ease, but there was someone else who had a much stronger emotional reaction than I.
Peter really touched me by how excited, endeared, and enamored he was by the bookstore. I could tell he was having the time of his life and that was amazing for me to watch. His joy was infectious! (You can read all about it in Peter’s earlier post)
At sunset, our visit to Οια (in Santorini) came to a beautiful end. (I don’t have any sunset pictures – I know, I know, I know…) We rode the bus back to the hotel to pack to leave the next day.
Now we are all back in Athens. We have one more adventure left before we head home: The Acropolis of Athens. This is the big finale, and one site that I have been longing to visit all of my life. I know this sounds silly, but I am sitting here wondering what sort of person I am going to be once the Acropolis is in my past, and no longer something that I am “looking forward” to. Of all the transformations and experiences that I have had on this trip, will this one live up to my expectations and will it change me drastically?
I keep thinking about our preparations for this trip; how we were told we would come back different, transformed, changed. I still feel like me, but looking back at all the experiences I have had, the friendships I have made, and the goals I have pursued and achieved, I can certainly say that I am a different me. A better me. And I think that all of us can say that.
I’ve been a thinking for a while about how to write a conclusion to the experiences we have had over the past few weeks. The problem is, I don’t think that my writing skills can truly articulate and summarize this trip. Greece cannot be quantified. Greece, like many other popular destinations, is romanticized. But this doesn’t mean that it fails to live up to the expectations. It passes them with flying colors. But coming into this trip it was hard to know exactly what to expect because of the romanticization surrounding Greece.
Arriving back in Athens after spending a week and a half on the islands was a strange feeling. Maybe it was a feeling of realization that our time here is nearly at an end, but it also felt like coming back home. I loved the islands, they were beautiful and full of rich history. But I think that Athens will always hold a special place in my heart. It was nice to come back to something that is both familiar and unfamiliar. We only lived here for 2 weeks, but that was enough time to learn the layout of a small portion of the metropolis and form connetions with some of the people here. It was a nice feeling to be greeted with an exuberant “welcome home” when we stopped by to visit some of our Athens friends the night we got back.
This morning several of us woke up before the rest of Athens and returned to the spot that I talked about in my first blog post, Areopagus. The six of us sat in silence and watched the sky turn pink behind the Acropolis and listened to the city come to life. The only sounds were those of the church bells and pigeons (okay, and some random guy that was yelling in the distance). I’ve always liked the liminality of sunrises, and though the sky didn’t explode with color, it was peaceful and perhaps slightly magical.
We may never return to these exact places with the same people and perspectives, but these times are something that I will take with me. I am returning to PLU with a new perception. I know that it differs from the perceptions that my classmates have developed because we all come from very different backgrounds and had different experiences throughout this trip. Your perception is what you make it. But I know that this trip would not have been the same without the things that each person brought to it.
In hindsight, the events of this trip feel somewhat like the plot of a book; complete with an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and a bittersweet resolution. Life very often works like that, though nearly always ends up being better and stranger than fiction. This trip surpassed every expectation set by books, movies, and other people. I will always remember it as being filled with sunsets, ancient ruins, good people, and a plethora of stray cats.
Being away for a month
was a daunting idea. I haven’t been away from friends and family for that long
ever. I went to Fife High School, so PLU is only about a twenty-minute drive
from my house. That was a big factor in me choosing PLU actually. I knew before
I came to college that I wanted to do nursing, so I was looking at schools with
a good nursing program. Towards the end, I was between Gonzaga and PLU…and
obviously PLU won. The thought of being about six hours away from home and
having to drive over an unpredictable pass was too much for me. Resulting in me
choosing a university that allowed me to drive home at any time I please.
With all that being said,
being on another continent for a whole month definitely freaked me out to say
the least. I questioned if I was going to be able to do it for a very long
time, even when we were in Athens. It wasn’t until around day three or four
that I knew I could do it.
We were constantly
focused on going to museums or temples or finding fun places to eat that I honestly
forgot about how much I missed home. And once I got comfortable, I didn’t miss
home, and I feel like I would be able to stay here for another month if I
could. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to go back and see my mom and my
animals (Hunter my cat, and Rondo my dog). That is the one thing I’m really
looking forward to when we get back, but if this was a semester long study away
trip, I would be able to do it.
This trip not only taught
me about the Bronze Age religions of this area, but also of how much more
independent and capable I am. I thought this was going to be super hard and I
might not enjoy it, but I absolutely love it.
Going into the nursing
field, I will have the option to do travel nursing. That is where I can take
assignments all over the country for a few months at a time. I knew that was
something I had in mind but never knew if I would be able to leave my family
for that long. But, after this trip, it gave me the confidence to pursue that
once I become an RN.
In my recent experiences, I learned it’s better to be prepared for the worst and expect to have patience through your events than to expect the best.
Now preparing for the worst when traveling to Greece, you’re probably thinking some light rain and maybe strong wind. For some reason, Americans seem to think Greece is constantly sunshine and beaches, when in reality it isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Greece is beyond beautiful still. In a recent turn of events, I now know preparing for the worst means earthquakes and tropical storms and having your three jackets soaked through for 12 hours. That’s not what I expected coming it, but I can easily say it was still so fun.
I’ve never been out of the country so I had no idea what could happen. In the end, it’s been an amazing and crazy experience. There were definitely downs but the ups trumped the downs.
I’ve never experienced an earthquake that I can remember, so feeling a 5.3 earthquake was super cool to me. Mother nature is a not force to be reckoned with! Not only did it happen once, but it happened twice. We also watched a tropical storm roll in and had to go on a few bumpy plane rides which really tested me. As someone who is afraid of planes, I can say I faced my fears and am proud of myself for it!
Overall, I’ve learned so much about myself on this trip and I would definitely want as many people to experience it as well. I am very thankful for this opportunity and it’s made me want to study away more in the future.
I have learned three important
things in Greece that I will cherish forever.
First, studying away is an
indescribable experience that has made me appreciate ancient religion and every
place we visited more that I was ever expecting. As I was walking around
Akrokiri, I couldn’t stop thinking how much more I appreciated the site having
learned about it in class. I feel frustrated describing the connection I made
because words can’t describe the clarity that has come from every site visit we
Before visiting the site, I knew Akrotiri was preserved from the volcanic ash and I knew the village was thriving from the connections it had to every part of the Mediterranean. When I saw the three-story building, beautifully crafted pottery, and a function sewer system, I knew I was looking at a special city. One of my favorite parts of the visit was how quite the entire class became as we took the village in. We are a pretty talkative group, but as we stepped into what felt like a different world, the only things I could hear was a bird chirping. It didn’t matter that it was raining outside, or the fact we were leaving Greece so shortly. All that I could focus on was trying to understand what life must have been like 5,000 years ago in Akrotiri.
The second thing I learned is that
I am capable of more than I ever knew when I force myself to step outside my
comfort zone. It might seem insignificant, but I forced myself to eat the
lettuce and tomatoes on every gyros. I am a shamefully picky eater and I would
have pick anything green off my food in the states. In Greece, I didn’t let
myself do so, and unsurprisingly I learned gyros are much better with tomato.
The last thing I learned is that gelato is an acceptable meal and must be eaten at least every other day. Luckily there is a store on almost every street so it’s hard to miss.
I am going to miss the special feeling of walking around sacred spaces from thousands of years ago. I am certainly going to miss the warm sun when I am in Washington. Most of all, I am going to miss the endless laughter and great memories with new friends.
We have spent 23 days in Greece. 23 days full of adventure, challenges, tears,
laughter, and most importantly learning. There are a lot of hard lessons that
have been learned on this trip- lessons about communication, respect, and
appreciation. For me, the lesson on appreciation was the most important.
I tend to move very quickly- even when completing one task,
my mind is already racing ahead to the next thing on my plate. I’m still in my
undergraduate education but already have plans for what I’ll be doing after I
obtain my graduate degree. This level of forward-thinking (some might call it
neurotic) has always been a part of my life- thanks anxiety! While it can be
helpful at times, such as with college applications or homework assignments, I
think it served as a bit of a crutch during the trip. Thankfully, I was able to
catch myself before allowing this anxiety to ruin my adventures here in Greece.
While we were in Rhodes, I had a moment of realization. As I
was walking around in the Palace of the Grandmaster, one of the sites we
visited as a class, I caught myself planning out the rest of the afternoon
rather than taking in the history and views that surrounded me. I decided then
and there to take each moment as an individual frozen point in time. For me,
this was a lofty goal, one that I would consider out of reach if I weren’t
truly motivated to achieve it, but I needed to do it.
After that moment, I made an effort to remain present in
every experience I was a part of. I swam in the Aegean Sea with friends after
class, I walked through Akrotiri with Mikayla, I journeyed through Oia in Santorini,
and I watched the most beautiful sunset overlooking the Mediterranean
surrounded by my friends. Through everything, I remained present- I focused on
the moment, the experiences, and the wonderful people surrounding me.
I have been incredibly lucky throughout this trip. I encased
myself in a community that held me to my promises and picked me up when I fell
(both literally and figuratively). As much as I have worked to remain here, in
the moment, I can no longer remain here, in the place. A bittersweet ending is
now approaching- in four days, we will have to view our time in Greece in
Sitting in a classroom and reading from a textbook isn’t my first choice when taking a course. Buying that $250 brick, that seems to date back to the Bronze Age itself, doesn’t really help me understand the content of a class. Our imagination is a wondrous thing, and the pictures in the textbook convey great meaning, but pictures and images don’t match up to the real thing.
Study away is an immense privilege. It gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture, language, environment, and community of the place you study in. Study away is like jumping into the textbook and having the pictures come alive before your eyes! You get to learn about the class while being in the place that provides the rich knowledge. This is an opportunity to leave the PLU campus behind, rid yourself of your ethnocentric way of viewing the world around you, and really learn. Not just from reading that dry old textbook but venturing out in the local community, exploring the city and nature around you, and taking a step back to breath it all in. Study away shows you that you are a spectator with the opportunity to learn and to grow from the privilege of being uncomfortable.
I am truly grateful for this experience. When I decided to apply for this study away, I did not have high hopes for being selected. Being 1 application out of over 75, fighting for one of the twenty spots in the program seemed impossible. When I received the acceptance email I was blown away. It really proved that study away is possible for all people. You never know when the time will come for your opportunity to study away. I cherish this experience and will always remember the memories that I have created. Study away does more than teach you the course. It teaches you about the culture of the place you reside and it teaches you about yourself. There are many trials and tribulations that you have to overcome when studying away, but the experience and the values learned make it all worthwhile.
As I write this I look back at all the photos I have taken on this trip and smile at all the memories I have created in such a short amount of time. I am so thankful for this opportunity to expand my mind, make new friendships, and grow as a person. With every tear shed from fear or homesickness, there is a smile and a feeling of contentment as the sun sets in the distant sky or near sea.
I am sad to say that this study away will be turning into a memory very soon, but it will be a memory I cherish. For the privilege of being here in Greece with such amazing people is one that I can never forget. This experience not only brought that old dry textbook to life, but it showed me what my world could be.
We have been in Greece for 22 days now. By the time we get back, it will have been almost four weeks. Around 600 hours.
Any way you cut it, that’s a long time.
And it has been full. We have covered the religious practices and beliefs of four separate cultures over their respective 2,000+ year life spans. We have been to two gorgeous islands, and more than that number of premier destinations on the mainland. We have seen small mountains in the middle of a city, larger ones in the country flanked by olive tree-filled valleys, the remains of a volcano that tore itself apart, pillars of rock jutting up from a plain, and city as far as the eye can see. We have watched the sun dip into the water and emit rays of gold and orange that filled the sky and sea. We have been to sacred temples thousands of years old where I felt nothing, and a little bookstore where I was almost overwhelmed by emotion. As a group, we have journeyed through conflict, camaraderie, unease, and exhaustion.
I’d like to think after an experience like this, I have learned a few things.
First, that life long ago is absolutely alien, and yet very similar. Humans as a species haven’t changed much, but the lenses through which we view the world, the reactions we have, and the manner in which we act, can sometimes be so far removed from us as to eliminate any possibility of true empathy.
Second, that you can make a friend anywhere. After all, we are surprisingly similar across space and time. A friendship is like a dandelion. You give it the smallest space, the fewest nutrients, and it will find a way to blossom and spread further than you can imagine. Only these dandelions don’t choke out other plants. They enhance them, adding to a network a mile deep and a thousand wide.
And third, that there is always more to learn. No matter how much time you might spend even on a single topic, it is inevitably the tip of the iceberg. The bottom is always beyond reach, beyond sight, like the cistern in ancient Mycenae. As one who feels pulled toward the base of things, that realization came again and again to me with a flash of despair. But when you really consider things, it’s good. Learning is one well of activity that will never run dry.
There have been more lessons than just these, more than I could fit on a dozen blog posts, more than my short-term memory can hold at one time. I daresay I will continue to learn from my trip to Greece in January of 2019 for years to come.
For now, though, I’m looking forward to heading home with a new perspective, new friends, and new knowledge: neognosis.