By Alyssa Tayrien
Pre-Departure – How to prepare for study abroad in Greece
Here I stand, “on the precipice of a great adventure that will be [my] life.” –John Bonet
One day, I told my parents that I wanted to study abroad in Greece. They replied that the economic downfall and political turmoil made for a potentially unsafe semester, and can’t I choose somewhere else? I agreed to look into other options, and a bit later, came back with a potential research opportunity off the coast of Turkey… So here I am, with a plane ticket to Athens, Greece. It seems a shift in perspective can do wonders, can’t it? And this shift in perspective is just what I hope to gain during my semester abroad at the College Year in Athens (CYA).
Planning to go abroad
A few months ago, a friend talked me into a meeting with the study abroad office; less than 3 weeks later, I’d gathered all necessary documents, placed them in an envelope, and prayed the address was written correctly. The entire application process happened so quickly, like a whirlwind. That may sound stressful, but I counter-intuitively appreciated it for the underlying lesson: sometimes life moves so quickly that all we can do is keep our heads up, simply to keep with it all. This semi-overwhelmed state both prevents us from fixating on the surrounding stress and forces us to look toward what’s ahead. Then, once everything is set in place, we can relax. We can bask in our bounty and soak it up: the beauty of where we are and the bliss of where we’re headed.
Heading off to the Mediterranean, with its countless adventures and relaxations, still seems surreal. However, reality demands some kind of productivity in our actions.
So, how to make 4 months in Athens productive?
Simple. I added another major, called Ancient Mediterranean Studies. Now, I’m a total nerd, compelled to visit the ancient sites I’ve learned so much about. I can witness first-hand the juxtaposition between antiquity and modernity, while working towards a degree. See? It just seems silly not to go!
How does one prepare for a trip abroad in Athens?
- Read everything the study abroad office gives out – so many words but, oh, so helpful.
- Start studying that Greek language guidebook that a friend bought as a joke. I can now say, “hello,” “goodbye,” “yes, please,” “no, thank you,” and “does anybody speak English?”
- Thank goodness for being in a sorority. Who knew all those jumbled up letters on jerseys would actually come in handy?
- Schedule a visa appointment — far in advance. Lots of forms take a while to gather… Also, the post office is never in a hurry.
- Talk to all the people when visiting the consulate. Somehow, I became friends with the Consulate General himself, and had no idea who he was until I was on my way out the door.
- Connect with people. Fun facts: my sister’s co-worker from Micronesia has a friend in Athens! Knowing a local makes me (and my parents) feel more secure. It helps that she’s super sweet!
What do I plan to do while in Greece?
- Dive into the crystal blue waters of the Aegean.
- Visit museums, monuments, islands and everything in between.
- Eat all of the delicious food #foodie4Life
- Go to class, if I can manage the time. (Just kidding, mom; I’m enrolled in 15 hours and need to pass them to get that aforementioned degree #productive)
- Every moment of every day. John 10:10 says, “… I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” I honestly think opportunities like these are manifestations of that full life. We have the technology, transportation and means by which to take ourselves out of the “comfort” of static and into a state of excitement in which we can enrich ourselves, those around us and, subsequently, the world.
Elation does not begin to describe the incredible wave of positive emotion I feel at the thought of finding myself basking in the warm sun, sitting on the edge of the Aegean, gyro in hand, and living what really is all that life should be.
Alyssa Tayrien is pursuing a degree in Communications and Ancient Mediterranean Studies from Trinity University and is an official Fall 2016 CYA blogger!