A Week in the Life of a CYA-er
Ever wonder what happens in a typical week for a CYA student? What are classes like? What do students do in their free time? Take a behind-the-scenes look at life in Athens through this CYA blog post!
Mondays and Wednesdays
No morning is ever complete without a coffee run to one of the coffee shops near the CYA academic building. Whether you are already a master at the Greek language or a complete newb like me, the easiest way to make your order is by saying “para-ka-loh latte” (or whatever your favorite type of coffee is), which roughly translates to “please, may I have a latte.” Although the barista will also understand you perfectly if you order in English, he or she might just throw in some extra cookies if you order in Greek, so make sure to try it out at least once!
Since I didn’t have class until 2pm on Mondays, I usually sat at a coffee shop and worked on my assignments until 10am before heading off to my internship. One of the best things about coffeehouses in Athens is that they won’t kick you out no matter how long you decide to sit there for, which is perfect if you’re like me and enjoy being around people!
In addition to speaking the Greek language as often as possible and trying out different local restaurants or coffee shops, one of the best ways to make the most out of your study abroad experience is to volunteer or intern with a NGO or museum in Athens; and being the history-nerd that I am, I spent my Monday and Wednesday mornings volunteering at a museum. At work, I usually helped out with research projects, where I looked through archival documents and summarized them into easily readable blurbs.
Afterwards, I headed back to the CYA academic building at around 1:30pm where lunch is provided at the cafeteria. Since I only had 1 class on Monday and Wednesdays, my day pretty much ended at around 3:30, where afterwards I went back to my apartment and chilled with my roommates (and maybe watched an episode or five of the Bachelor).
Tuesday and Thursdays
Since I only had 1 class on Monday and Wednesdays, this means that my Tuesdays and Thursdays were jam-packed with 4 classes. But that is okay because they were all super interesting, and I especially enjoyed the Greek language course. Even if you are not sure whether learning a foreign languages is really your thing, I highly recommend taking at least one Greek course. You will feel kind of invincible when you realize that you can actually read the signs on the streets and the menus in the restaurants, and you just might be surprised to discover how many English words come from Greek!
Another wonderful thing about the CYA program is that the classes are super interactive and often take place on-site. For example, for my Religion course on the Orthodox Church, we actually got to visit a nunnery nearby which is usually closed to visitors! It was a super cool experience getting to see what monastic life is like, and one of the nuns there even fed us Turkish delight and answered all the burning questions we had!
In addition to academic courses, CYA also arranges optional extracurricular classes for students. During my semester, we had the option of taking marble art classes which were scheduled for Tuesday evenings. Considering how I basically failed out of mandatory art classes 3 times during high school, I decided to pass. However, my friends who signed up for it had a blast – not only did they learn how to carve marble, they were also fed excellent homemade pasta and learned to play the Greek drums!
Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays
One of the best things about Athens is that it is almost always sunny. Out of the 3 months that I spent in Greece, there were only around 4 days where it rained, which means that the weather is almost always perfect for exploring and going on adventures. Although it can be tempting to spend the weekends in other parts of Europe, I thought it would be a shame if I didn’t get to fully experience Greece before the end of my study abroad experience, so in addition to visits to the well-known sites of Mount Lycabettus, the Acropolis, the Marble Stadium, the Ancient Agora, Cape Sounion, and museums, here are some of my other favorite ways to spend the weekends locally:
My Favorite “Mini-Adventures” To Go On:
Visit a Fish Spa in Plaka:
Yes, you read that correctly – there is a spa in Plaka where you can get massaged/ exfoliated by fish. Plaka is also conveniently located near the Acropolis, so if your legs feel a bit tired after the long walk and you’re down for an interesting experience, visit the fish spa where you put your feet in a tank and fish gently bite on the soles of your feet. It was a bit ticklish at first, but after a few squeals my friends and I got used to it.
Go Animal Spotting in the National Gardens:
Although there are cats and pigeons on every corner of Athens, if you’re looking for a change in animal-scenery, take a stroll through the National Gardens (a 5-minute walk across the street from the CYA academic building) and visit the animals there. The Garden is huge so it is easy to get lost, but if you go in the direction of where the Zappeion is, you’ll find a big pond full of ducks who will come up really close to you. Nearby, there are also bunnies, deer, birds, turtles, and other animals.
Instagram-able Adventures for the Dedicated Foodie:
Indulge in Deserts and Smoothies at Elysian Floral Café:
Located near Hephaestus’ Temple and Hadrian’s Arch at Monastiraki Square, this café is one of the most Instagram-able places I have ever been to. With walls decorated completely in roses of different colors, this super chic café is the perfect place to stop by for a break after exploring the Ancient Agora or after shopping at the Monastiraki flea market.
Have a Meal at the Zappeion Café:
Located right next to the Zappeion in proximity to the National Gardens, this modern café boasts a beautiful view of the Gardens and is the perfect place to hang out with friends or finish up homework in a relaxing environment!
Relaxing Day/Weekend Trips:
Take a Short Ferry Ride to Nearby Islands:
Greece is home to 6,000 islands, and two of its most beautiful islands are only an hour or two away from Athens by ferry. Visiting the island of Aegina or Hydra is an excellent way to spend the day or weekend away from the city. Whether it be shopping at antique stores at Aegina or going on therapeutic strolls at Hydra where the scenery and sunsets are just stunning, visiting an island is the perfect way to relax after a stressful week of school.
Visit the Monasteries at Meteora
97% of the Greek population identifies as Orthodox Christian, so it is not surprising that Greece is also home to some of the most important monastic sites in the world. There are 7 monasteries at Meteora, and the beautiful rock formations and insight you will gain into monastic life in Greece are well worth the four-hour train ride from Athens. Just keep in mind that the monasteries are on mountains, so don’t forget to bring plenty of water and sunblock and plan to stay there for a night or two so you won’t have to rush through all the sites!
That’s it! Thank you for reading this blog and I hope it gave you further insight into what you can expect from a study abroad experience at CYA!