Posted by: Scotty | November 23, 2009

Top 10 in Thess!

Check it! Thought I would share my top 10 favorite things to do while studying abroad in Thessaloniki, Greece so far…

10. Ride the city bus to school and people watch.

9. Order a gyros at the 150.

8. Get everyone together and go for a night out on the town.

7. Communicate in Greek and English with the locals, and share our experiences with one another.

6. Take a jog on the city boardwalk.

5. Study at the Bissell Library.

4. Listen in, participate in classroom discussions, and gain a new perspective of the world.

3. Sip a frappe at one of the coffee shops and chat with a friend.

2. Walk around town and discover new neighborhoods, graffiti, tavernas, shops, buildings, ancient ruins and people.

1. Watch the sunset from my apartment balcony over the Aegean Sea.

This weekend some friends and I are traveling to Istanbul, Turkey–Can’t wait.

Untill next time…

-Scotty out!

Posted by: Scotty | November 22, 2009

Why Cinema Now?

Quiet on the set and…. ACTION!!! Why Cinema Now? This is the motto for the 50th annual Thessaloniki International Film Festival which took place Nov. 13-22. It was the first film festival I ever experienced and was pretty cool! There were hundreds of films played each day.

This years motto refers to a quote from film director Jean Renoir who said, “Why Cinema Now? In order to keep cinema alive, we would have to reinvent everything from the beginning.” My roommate interned at the festival and saw about three films a day. I was very conservative and only saw one film. Yeah I know… lame right? Well, on top of classes, turns out some friends and I tried to get into a few films earlier on in the week and they were all sold out!

The one film I saw was a special screening of (500) Days of Summer in the historic Olympion Theater. The Olympion is located in the heart of Aristotle square. Outside of the theatre they were projecting a short film or “street cinema” on the building. The special effects were awesome. Being the Communication major that I am, I thought the promotional team did a great job getting the word out about the festival. All around town they projected the, “Why Cinema now?” logo on buildings and even the cultural symbol of Thessaloniki, The White Tower.

I didn’t know what to expect since this was the first film at a festival I’ve ever been. The house was sold out and people were going up and down the isles filming things. Some guy walked in and everyone started clapping (I had no idea what was going on). Turns out it was the president of 20th Century Fox. He spoke in Greek a few words to the audience before the show, (no idea what he said) but it was really cool to see.

The acting and cinematography in (500) Days of Summer were great, a very entertaining film. My favorite part of the movie was when Tom wakes up as a “new man,” marches along the streets and breaks out in a dance routine to the song, “You make my dreams,” sooo hilarious! I would see it again for sure. Afterwords everyone stayed for the credits, which is something new I appreciated. Check out the blog of 13 ACT students who wrote about their experiences with the film festival.

Until next time…

-Scotty out!

Posted by: Scotty | November 11, 2009

Studying in style… Greece!

I’m learning a ton of new things I never thought I would have before. At the beginning of the semester we had two days of orientation. The president of the university spoke with us about creating a balance while we study this semester with our senses; sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch and adventure. ACT offers a variety of courses, I decided to fulfill my Art’s and Humanities and Social Sciences requirements.

Philosophy of Ethics has opened my mind to a world of thought and ways of life. I love hearing what other students from all across the world take from the readings in class, it gives me a completely different perspective on life. Advertising class

In Advertising class we are learning how to create the best campaigns for any given company and what marketing with that share of heart, passionately, really means. We are gaining hands on experience, learning the stages of creating a campaign and project management with a group. I enjoy coming up with wild ideas!

Art appreciation is teaching me to look at any given painting, sculpture or work of art with a different point of view. We’re learning the basic principles of design and it’s fascinating to see artwork from centuries ago still influencing us today.

My Greek course is by far the most challenging. I am enjoying learning a language and being immersed in it simultaneously. We’re learning the basics in an 11 week course, so it’s not like I will be fluent (I wish). Languages don’t come very easy to me, but it has been fun trying out the language with the native speakers.

Just like our president suggested, having equilibrium with everything– Which also means taking break from studying and having some fun! Last week we went to a Pan (all) Thessalonikian Athletic Organization of Constantinopolitans or PAOK game, PAOK Soccer Gamewhich is the City of Thessaloniki’s football (soccer) team. I have never seen so many passionate fans cheer for their team. It was crazy, if it took place in the U.S. you would have thought there was a riot going on or something. Fans had road flares, fireworks, toilet paper and confetti they waved in the air and threw down on the field. A chair from a few rows up was taken off its seat and thrown down after a bad call. It was an intense game, the PAOK’s ended up winning in overtime. What a fun time.

ACT took us to Athens over the weekend and it was a great time. We stayed in a 5 star hotel right next to the Acropolis and visited the new Acropolis Museum and Parthenon. The Museum is filled with thousands of ancient artwork. The third floor of the building has the exact dimensions of the Parthenon, and the entire outer shell of the building is glass overlooking the Acropolis and city. The museum is also built over ancient ruins and everywhere you walk there is glass where you can see the ruins below you.Changing of the guard

We also had an opportunity to see the changing of the guards, which is a national ceremony held every day since 1932 (Greece’s independence). The guards stand motionless all day, watching over the tomb of the unknown soldier in front of the Parliament buildings. Birds sit on the ledge above the soldiers and it’s beautiful to see them all fly overhead (check out the video on YouTube.)

ACT group at the changing of the guard

Until next time…

-Scotty out!

Posted by: Scotty | November 11, 2009

Hot music video’s in Greece right now…

Stereo Love

That’s my name

Dober dan! (Hello! in Serbian)

How do I even begin to describe a trip to you that changed my perception of a country, a region, the world? Traveling to Serbia was that trip for me. Taking the night train into Belgrade I didn’t know what to expect. Eight other American students and I traveled for one week during ACT’s fall break- with our friend, Igor, who is from Serbia. Train

I was very apprehensive about traveling to Serbia, mostly due to the hearsay. Some stereotypes I heard were: that Serbia was a war-torn country, a deserted place, everyone is rude and dislikes Americans. To my discovery, it was entirely the opposite.

Arriving in Belgrade at 6am, I found the city unique, vibrant, and unlike any place I have visited before. I think Igor said it best, “you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in the Serbian culture, something not even Serbians from major cities do, let alone Americans who come for a visit.”

We had a full schedule packed on the first day. Off the train we stopped for a money transfer, I discovered one Euro is equivalent to about 100 Serbian dinars. ToiletThe rest room was a treat, to get in you pay 20 dinars, I noticed that a normal toilet is just a hole in the floor. However, it was one of the cleanest restrooms I have ever been in!

We ate breakfast at a quaint pastry shop. They had some unique foods we tried for the first time, like a cold pizza pastry roll- very tasty! I tried my first bottle of yogurt milk- interesting. Well, this actually wasn’t the first time, I bought some in Greece only taking a sip, I thought it was spoiled milk! Apparently this yogurt milk is a big thing in Europe.

The first area of town we walked to see was the former Police and Military Headquarters. The buildings were in shambles due to the 1999 bombings. It was something I have never seen in person before, truly a sad scene.

Prior to leaving for Serbia I read about country specific information on the US State Department website and learned about a NATO-led bombing campaign called, “Allied Force” (referred to in Serbia as “Angel of Mercy”). While visiting, I was told about 2,500 people in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo lost their lives. Former Police and Military headquartersHundreds of thousands of people were left homeless during and immediately after the conflict. The debate is still going on in Serbia whether these buildings should ever be removed because they can serve as a reminder of what happened.

Our next visit was to the Kalemegdan Fortress, initially built as a city-fort by Celts, Kalemegdan over time became the symbol and core of Belgrade. Old military vehicles and cannons line the outskirts of the fortress. It was a beautiful view of the city.

The National Assembly building was our next stop. We received a full tour of the century-old building which has been used as Serbia’s and Yugoslavia’s highest lawmaking institution. When walking up the stairs to the entrance you see two huge green statues of men fighting horses, we later learned it’s a symbol of man vs. nature. Parlament- Presidents roomThis building is one of many that best illustrate Belgrade’s turbulent history- it’s been used for dark political moves, a Parliament, and also an instrument of Milosevic’s dictatorship over people of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. During a violent revolution on October 5, 2000, the protesters, calling for fair and democratic government, set the building on fire, slightly damaging its interior, but sending a powerful message around the world. I was told even today, Serbians see this building as the cornerstone of Democratic changes in the country.

St. Sava Temple, was our last stop for the day. The church is beautiful. It was dedicated to Saint Sava, founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church an important figure in medieval Serbia. It’s built on the location where his remains are thought to have been burned in 1595 by the Ottoman Empire’s Sinan Pasha. The idea for constructing the church came to life in 1895, and after two Balkan wars, and a World War, the construction officially began in 1935. With an on and off construction process, this is the largest Eastern Orthodox temple in the world and is still under construction, It has a total height of 439.6 ft.

We all hung out in the St. Sava courtyard for a few hours. This has to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. In the courtyard was a honey festival. The first honey celebration I have ever seen, and best honey I have ever tasted. I observed families doing everyday things that I would see in mHoney festivaly hometown like playing in the park, taking the dogs on a walk, runners, bikers, feeding the birds and teenagers falling in love (check out more pics on Flickr).

Igor’s town, Petrovac na Mlavi is where we headed to next. The college student’s in Belgrade were on their way home for the weekend and the bus was packed. There were so many people about 20 had to stand in the isles for a two-hour long bus ride!

My stereotypes of Serbia went completely away after experiencing Petrovac na Mlavi. Thethe main street town reminded me of a small town in the United States. Streets were lined with small shops and Igor knew just about everyone. The people were very nice and welcoming. The Serbian’s had Stereotypes about us Americans too. Igor’s Gym teacher thought all Americans were fat, and was surprised none of us were. Another Serbian told Igor he couldn’t tell we were Americans, and that we all looked Serbian.

We had the opportunity to speak at Igor’s High School with students, and talk about college life and what home was like back in the US. The Serbian students spoke excellent English. Many of us Americans commented to one another that we felt inconsiderate for not knowing another language- at least one well enough to hold a decent conversation. It makes me feel like we are very spoiled and sheltered, myself included, with many only knowing the “ease” of the English language in the US.Meeting with Serbian high school students

It was great talking to one another and we found there was a lot we had in common. Some of the questions asked sounded a bit different due to translation. One student asked, “How does your kitchen taste?” Which kitchen translates to cuisine. Another student wanted to know if the United States was like the movie, “American Pie.” Another student asked if we all had facebook, so we wrote our names on the black board, I think I have gotten 30 new friend requests so far, very cool. It felt great to connect with the kids, and inspire them to pursue higher education. We were invited to watch one of their first dance rehearsal’s, (check out my vid on YouTube) which is a new extracurricular activity at the school. I also got to check out my first game of handball- a combination of Soccer and Basketball, you only get three bounces and then you have to pass the ball.

Like many European countries, there are stray cats and dogs everywhere. Three friend’s Nina, Mike, Amy and I decided to go for a trip to the country side. We were greeted before we left by a dog we named Dolly- and bought some food and fed her. While in the neighboring village, we had a dog lead the entire way through the streets, who we named Donny. We stopped at restaurant and enjoyed some great Serbian hamburgers, when getting our change back for our meal, it was to our surprise the restaurant didn’t have enough change so they gave us 5 glass cups in place.Wishing wall

Our last big horahh was a trip in the beautiful mountains to visit near by Monasteries. The Monastery of Gornjak is the first place we visited, it’s a 14th century monastery in the Gornjak Gorge. The monastery has a small cell where a monk from Mount Sinai (Egypt) fled the Muslim persecutors of his time to meditate and reveal God. Here they have a wishing wall, so we were sure to climb to the top and make a wish.

Group Pic!Driving along the roadside is the cool Annunciation Monastery, an immense monastery cut inside a mountain. It used to be the head of the Zdrelo Episcopate in Medieval Serbia. It later lost its importance when the Turks took over the entire area.

After hearing everyone’s fall break stories, we were the only group of students that went to Serbia, and unlike the unpleasant stories we heard that occurred in Paris and Spain- we didn’t have anything stolen. One of the things that made my experience so unique is that we were traveling with Igor who was from the country and was knowledgeable about everything. Serbia also didn’t seem to cater to English speaking tourists, which was something I actually enjoyed. It made me feel like I was in a foreign country, unlike other countries, and was forced to learn basics of the language. I cannot thank Igor enough for his generosity. He bravely took nine of us inexperienced American travelers with open arms in his country, his town, his home; translated countless restaurant menu’s, taught us his language, his culture, about his country- Serbia has been my favorite experience so far studying abroad, I will be coming back. I feel very grateful for having the opportunity to see Serbia.

Belgrade city center

This weekend ACT is taking us on a trip to Athens.

Until next time…

Scotty out!

Posted by: Scotty | October 18, 2009

Check out my school! The American College of Thessaloniki

My school! The American College of Thessaloniki

Posted by: Scotty | October 18, 2009

Take a boat tour of Santorini Isalnd!

Take a boat tour of Santorini Island!

Posted by: Scotty | October 18, 2009

Take a tour of the Thessaloniki boardwalk at night!

Take a tour of the Thessaloniki boardwalk at night!

Posted by: Scotty | October 18, 2009

Take a tour of the Parthenon!

Take a tour of the Parthenon!

Posted by: Scotty | October 16, 2009

Take a canal tour of Amsterdam!

Take a canal tour of Amsterdam!

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