So I was adding some more study abroad pics on Flickr and this group called Anti Gravity requested one of my pics. I thought this was really unique and cool!!! See if you can find Greece.
“Please consider this group as an Image Think Tank, when viewed as a slide show, it is hoped to help generate new concepts, theory, and break down ‘Inventors Block’. Impressionism and creative inspiration engender thoughts that contemplate gravity and beyond.”
The flight home was long but mostly a good trip back. In total I spent 20 hours traveling from Greece to Rome to Amsterdam to Minneapolis. I could not believe how that guy flying to Detroit was even able to get on the plane. Security was very tight in Amsterdam, inside the terminal before we were allowed to board the plane we had to go through security again, and were each asked about 20 questions.
On the Flight back to the U.S. we had really great food, including gourmet chicken, pizza and the best part… chocolate ice cream! Each seat got to watch their own movies too, so I watched about four. The guy next to me must have taken a few sleeping pills because I accidently spilt my dinner all over him as it was being served to me. He never woke up, so the Flight Attendant just brushed the food off of him and luckily they had extra food …soooo funny!
Jetlaggggg-a-rammmahhh again! I don’t remember it being this bad on my way over to Greece; after a few days back in the U.S., 6pm here still feels like 2am Greece time, and I’ve been struggling to stay awake later than 9pm.
Going out and about around town I can’t help but compare a few things different from Europe to America. The way Americans drive is so much more orderly. Regular grocery stores here are like two or three mega stores in Greece, the selection in America is unreal. Also, the selection of television and media outlets are much greater.
Here’s just a few…
Things I missed about America while abroad…
-Home–family, friends the dogs and cat.
-Channel surfing on cable specifically local news broadcasts, national news, Comedy Central, The Food Network and MTV.
-Cheesy infomercials, (love laughing at those).
-Being able to read everything at the grocery stores.
-Food and drink specials.
-Hearing oooo, yahhh, you betchya!!
Things I won’t miss about America…
-Certain people who don’t care about anyone but themselves and are ungrateful about their pitiable lives.
Things I won’t miss about Greece…
-Not being able to fully communicate with people or understand what’s going on.
-Stray animals everywhere—a very sad sight to see everyday.
-The tap water, it’s not as clean as the U.S.
-Washers and dryers. They didn’t have a dryer in our building and we only had one washer that was split with the 30 of us, it took two hours for one load.
-Having to keep an eye out for aggressive drivers.
-Walking everywhere and not being able to find a certain item.
-Street signs, they don’t have any, it would be nice to know where I’m at sometimes.
Things I already miss about Greece…
-Seeing everyone in the Bissell Library.
-ACT: My classes, Teachers who were very student oriented; Greek, Serbian, and American students with our in-class discussions.
-Hanging out with friends in Panepistimiou.
-Drivers parking and driving wherever they wish.
-Walking to the corner store or kiosks.
-Catching the city bus.
-Discovering a new taverna to eat at.
-Sunsets from my balcony and the boardwalk.
-Getting over my fears of communicating in a foreign country. It’s difficult at times to reveal you aren’t a citizen or proficient in a countries language, you almost loose your dignity or feel like you’re ignorant. You come to the realization of who you really are, where you come from, and what you stand for, and at the end of the day everything is always ok.
-Prior to traveling I had more of a “US” view on everything, and now I think on a global scale. I keep catching myself in comparing things in the US to the way things are in Europe: people, politics, culture–all the way down to the different electrical outlets.
-People at times can seem so different; but I discovered we are all very much the same, we just do things in a different way. Such as socializing, celebrating, births, deaths, illnesses etc…
-The importance of networking with strangers is so important. Being able to get out of your comfort zone and meeting new people proves to be very helpful when not knowing much about the in’s and out’s in visiting a new country. Every country I went we met new friends who helped us find our way around.
-Every country or group of people, assess their values differently. Such as family, religion, sex and drugs.
-How to budget and plan a trip (although I am still learning), traveling can be expensive!
-Greek and other countries traditions. Like many European countries, quiet hours or their “siesta” is from 3-5pm, many stores will close and re-open.
-Acceptable mannerisms. Students in Greece are taught at a young age if they are late to class, to knock on the door prior to entering. Many Greek students also interrupted teachers in mid-sentence, apologizing for being late.
-People are very passionate about their country.
-Learning about others and myself. How we dealt with culture shock again, again, and again.
“The more you look at the world, the more you recognize what really matters to people.”
My biggest fear when preparing to study abroad was not being able to communicate overseas. After overcoming my fears, I’ve become much more confident and transformed from a tourist to an experienced traveler. My experience in Greece was all that a University of North Dakota student could hope for. Warm sunny skies, beaches, islands, sailing, train rides, traveling, ancient ruins, learning experiences, memories and friends for a lifetime. I never imagined I would be doing so much traveling (no overweening intended); Amsterdam, Athens, Delphi, Santorini, Thessaloniki, Pilea, Kalamaria, Chalkadiki, Munich, Belgrade and Istanbul.
I’ve truly enjoyed writing, it’s been great being able to share my experiences once a week, I hope you have enjoyed tracking my progress… going to miss all of this. I am truly grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity! I would recommend studying abroad to any student who would like to make the most of their college experience. A BIG FAT GREEK THANK YOU to the University of North Dakota Office of International Programs and the American College of Thessaloniki.
Efcaristo poli (thank you very much) for reading, Happy New Year!
p.s. Check out my Big Fat Greek Semester slide show on YouTube.
Just two weeks ago I remember everyone in the library studying for finals and talking about the holiday party. It seems weird to be writing this, but I’ve started packing to head back to the states. How do you pack a whole semesters worth of memories in such a small bag!? I had to go to the fish market the other day in Aristotle Square and get another bag to fit everything. All of the other things I’ve acquired, I’m leaving here for the students in my studio next semester, and to friends Richie and Dani who are studying the entire year, (I would love to do that).
The talk around the Panepistimiou apartments is that traveling home never goes as planned. Here’s some interesting stories some of my study abroad friends have experienced on their departures home:
Bridget bought a bunch of gifts for her family and friends, and was charged around 400 euro for extra baggage because she was flying first to Athens (only one checked bag is allowed for domestic flights).
Sam locked her keys in her room at 3am along with her baggage, just two hours before her flight, luckily the guard station at ACT is open 24/7 and she was able to get back in time to make her flight.
Mike thought his flight left on the 22nd and found out today it actually leaves tomorrow the 21st So he’s been packing like crazy for the past few hours.
I hope my last hoorah goes a bit smoother, but now I feel prepared for anything! I’m leaving on the 23rd and will be home just in time for Christmas (cross your fingers for good weather)!
It’s been hard being the last one to leave and saying goodbyes, and now very quiet! I was in my room the other and heard carolers from outside (Check out my vids on YouTube). They are on top of the hill about a half-mile away from our apartments singing from the castle. Now all we need here is SNOW!!
Last night a few of us decided to get into the holiday spirit and walked around town. We checked out the Christmas lights, tree and sailboat in Aristotle Square. Our Greek holiday adventure wasn’t complete without a midnight coffee.
Untill next time…
I cannot believe how fast the semester has gone by. It seems like just yesterday I was moving in the apartments on Panepistimiou Street, exploring around town and making new friends. The other day we went out for our last “Taverna Tuesday” dinner with the Kalis Elpidos building and everyone shared their favorite stories of the semester. It got me thinking of some things I never thought I was going to experience abroad…
I never thought in my freshman year at UND I would be studying abroad for a semester in Greece my senior year.
I never thought I would walk into that place that looks like a house on campus and ask about studying abroad.
I never thought I would get a student visa.
I never thought how amazing languages truly are, until I traveled around Europe.
I never thought I would meet so many students from around the world.
I never thought we would become such good friends.
I never thought we would be traveling to so many countries.
I never thought how much people have in common, yet at times, how easily one can feel like an outsider.
I never thought we would go through culture shock together.
I never thought how Skype, Facebook and blogs can connect so many lives, anywhere, for FREE!
I never thought a gyros stuffed with chicken, tzatziki, tomatoes, onions, french fries, ketchup and mustard could taste so good.
I never thought vehicles could be allowed to drive and park on city sidewalks, grass, trails–anything is game!
I never thought I would just go out for a cup of coffee with friends and have random four hour conversations about living life, ethics, politics and Greece/Europe/United States comparisons.
I never thought how passionate and proud citizens are of their home country, including cheering for their football team.
I never thought how nice and welcoming Greek, Dutch, Serbian and Turkish (visited while studying) people could be.
I never thought I would learn so much about myself, others–the world.
I never thought how many things I took for granted living in the U.S.
I never thought my perspective of the world would change so much.
I never thought how the time goes by so fast.
I never thought we could make so many memories.
I never thought I would be writing this,
I never thought how hard it would be to say goodbye.
This is the last official week of classes for study abroad students at ACT. I’ll be here until the 23rd so I plan on attending classes with the Greek students until I leave. I’ll keep yall updated.
Until next time…
My weekend stuffed with turkey kicks off with a college fair at Anatolia College, which is the high school connected with ACT. Interested study abroad students were asked to volunteer, representing their school and chat with high school students who would like to pursue higher education in the states. It felt great representing UND amongst all the other universities, and informing the students what UND has to offer! The president of the University and his wife stopped by and thanked each one of us for our efforts.
Thanksgiving was a unique get-together I will never forget. It wasn’t the same, being away from family, but it was my first time celebrating with my new family of study abroad friends here in Greece. ACT threw us a Thanksgiving potluck, it was a ton of fun. Everyone brought a dish to share and he school provided us with turkey, stuffing, Greek wine, pop or “soda” as many of my east coast friends here call it, and techno music for dinner. Afterwards, I Skyped with family back home as they were celebrating and it was great to, “be there.” My Grandma, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins couldn’t believe how I could be halfway across the world and chat live over video, it still amazes me too. I am most definitely thankful for Skype and facebook this year, as I have been able to keep in touch with family and friends back in the states for FREE!
The gobble continues as a group of friends got together and organized a turkey bowl touch football game on the football (or soccer) field. We even got the Athletic Director Stepan to play. Some nicknames players came up with were, “knight train,” “cheetah (Stepan’s name),” “thebomb.com,” “iceman,” “notorious V.I.C.,” and “nocturnal emission.” My team ended up loosing but it was a great time.
Thanksgiving dinner isn’t complete without the dessert! Five friends and I traveled to Istanbul, Turkey for the weekend. We decided to take the night bus instead of the train since we heard such good things about it. It was a 10 hour long bus ride and what a treat. Each seat was leather complete with a satellite tv, movies and music. A guy even came around with coffee, tea and pop. However, sleeping on a seat—yeah, it’s not the most comfortable. We shared our favorite sleeping position with one another to try and get the best one, Ha.
Arriving in Istanbul at 9am was a beautiful sight to see. Random huge flags are scattered throughout the city, and the Turkish homes and apartment buildings have a different feel from Greek buildings. Arriving at the bus station we were bombarded with taxi drivers and hundreds of other tourists trying to find a way to get to their hotel. Luckily, one of us made friends with a guy from Toronto who is well traveled and spoke Turkish, so we followed him to our hostel. This is where I realized how the magic of networking comes in handy, BIG time.
This was my first time staying at a hostel, it was right within walking distance of everything. The hostel was very affordable and a nice place to stay. Total cost was 16 Lira per-person or about 8 Euro/10 USD. We only had two days to see as much of Istanbul that we could so our schedule was jam packed. Our first area of exploring was walking around a quaint park. Next we headed to the Hagia Sophia, which was originally a Christian cathedral, then converted into a mosque in 1453, and now a museum. They kept much of the Christian mosaics in tact and it’s the only mosque in the world with both Christian and Muslim symbols, really cool to see (check out my vid on YouTube). They also had a wishing wall where you put your thumb in and rub in a circle, we were sure to wait in line to make a wish.
Walking around I felt Istanbul was much cleaner compared to Greece, there is hardly any graffiti or trash around. However, many of the streets are made of cobblestone, so watch out as it’s easy to trip. There are random audio speakers outside and every few hours guys come on and start singing for the Muslim prayer time. It was very different and really cool to experience for the first time.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also called The Blue Mosque, was another interesting place to check out. This mosque in particular allows both tourists and an area for Muslims to pray. Out of respect we were directed to take our shoes off, women were encouraged to wear a scarf with a long skirt, and men slacks. Many tourists didn’t have proper clothing on inside because they didn’t know before arriving, but were still allowed in.
Outside of the Blue Mosque everyone bought gifts and souvenirs at the Arasta Bazaar. We found out the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar were closed for four days due to Turkish holiday. These two have thousands of little shops and great deals, however, we were still able to find good deals at the other Bazaar’s.
Friends told us that a Turkish Bath is a must, so we decided, “when in Turkey.” The Turkish bath was pretty much like a spa, the girls and guys were separated. My friend Mike and I had no idea what we were getting into. They have you strip down, put a towel on, and leave you in a huge stinky steam room that looks like a cave with skylights for about 20 minutes. There was a random guy passed out snoring and some other guy washing himself.
We were then directed to go into the sauna, after about 15 minutes we went back out into the steam room and had no idea what to do. Then, two old guys in towels with big bellies greeted us with a bucket and some type of exfoliating body washing pad. Mike and I sat across from one another and were cracking up with the spa guys the entire time. The gentlemen who was washing me used warm water from a porcelain bin out of the wall and while singing a Turkish song, hurled the water over me. You could see your skin coming off as they scrubbed you down, it was pretty cool. Next was the massage, this was my first time having this done as well and after a while it was great.
Afterwards we were wrapped in towels head-to-toe and sat in the lobby where we had apple tea and waited for the girls. We later found out the girls had a similar experience except we were able to keep our towels. Apparently the old ladies who scrubbed them down took off each of their towels right away to get them comfortable. They said at first it was really awkward, but after awhile you didn’t even care. What a unique expierence!
Dinner that night was at a traditional Turkish restaurant. Each of the establishments try to lure you in by offering free apple tea’s and discounts. We had some Americans tell us this was their favorite place and ended up making friends with them. Our waiter was quite the aspiring magician and made the night a memorable one with fun magic tricks. Our new friends we made, Matt and Fizz, who both met one another in Istanbul (Networking again), let us know which sites to see.
Our second and final day I started out with a Turkish breakfast consisting of an omelet with vegetables and bread, and fruit salad–which was nice because it was the first time I had eaten similar to home. However, what you see outside a restaurant is not always what you get. The waffles some of my friends ordered looked nothing like the delicious picture outside. After breakfast we ran into Matt and Fizz and they offered to take us to see the Galata Tower. We took the tram and subway system which was very swift and clean.
Built in 1348, The Galata Tower stands as the cultural symbol of Istanbul and has the best view of the city. I couldn’t believe how big and beautiful Istanbul was (almost 12 million citizens!). From the tower we were able to overlook the bay, across from us were the mosques, and to the left was Asia… yeah, Asia! Istanbul is on both European and Asian continents. I have never been on one continent before and able to see the other, so cool.
We only have two weeks of classes left! Where has the time gone?
I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite quotes I see on billboards around town. “The more you look at the world, the more you recognize what really matters to people.” –HSBC
Untill next time…