5 Things I’m Grateful for This Semester

This year has been nothing like I expected, in both the best and worst ways.

From COVID-19 and lockdowns to social justice movements and presidential elections, 2020 has been a challenge and a contradiction to everything we’d anticipated. But 2020 has also brought so much good: new ways of communicating, creating, and connecting. New friendships, new challenges, new successes, new experiences.

In 2020, and this semester particularly, I have so much to be grateful for. Here are 5 of them, in no particular order:

  1. This Current Moment

I’m sitting crosslegged on the third floor balcony of CYA. In the sun, it’s just warm enough to go without a jacket, probably one of the last times I’ll be able to do so this term. I’m looking out over some kids laughing and riding bikes near the Panathenaic Stadium, and a bit to the right is the Parthenon in the distance. I’m listening to my favorite playlist of happy songs, and the sun is huge in the sky as it starts to descend. It seems surreal. At the beginning of this year, I never would have guessed that I’d be here, basking in the glow of the Mediterranean sun setting, feeling nothing but gratitude for everything in my life. I am so thankful.

  1. Grecian Skylines

Photo taken at Meteora on September 27, 2020

Right now, faint colors are starting to paint the Athenian horizon, a view I’ll never get tired of. But it’s not only this spot at this moment that is beautiful; every single place I’ve been in Greece has an incredible view. Be it sunrise, sunset, midday, or even cloudy and raining, every skyline in Greece is a stunning view. Each time, it makes me pause – and not just to take a picture. They are all unique and breathtaking, and the views bring me a feeling of awe and peace. They are the prettiest reminders of how blessed I am to be studying abroad and exploring a new place during this crazy time!

  1. Delicious Food

This one is quite self explanatory, but Greek food!!! I have been here for two months and have not had a single bad meal. I’ve tried so many new things, tasted different dishes, and absolutely fallen in love with Greek cuisine. The only part that I’m not thankful for is how much I’m going to miss it when I go home!

  1. Amazing Support

CYA’s Yiota Vouzna helping student Theo Karplus keep her balance while taking a photo at Lissos Gorge in Crete.

As I’ve already mentioned, this year and this semester have been rife with trying circumstances. If it weren’t for the incredible support of my family, my therapist, my professors, and the CYA administration and staff, this experience wouldn’t be anything close to how wonderful it is. My family keeps me grounded and connected to things at home, while cheering me on and encouraging me to experience all Greece has to offer. My therapist has helped me work through the emotional and mental effects of changing plans and varying lockdown restrictions. My professors have been great about adapting to ever-shifting schedules, instruction formats, and availability of on-site learning. And, most especially, I’m thankful for the CYA staff and administration, who have done so much to make our time here the best it can possibly be. From rescheduling field study trips, to keeping us informed about new regulations, to encouraging our Greek language practice, to providing us with art supplies and other fun things to do during lockdown, they have made this such a fun and exciting experience!

  1. Incredible Friends

Fall ’20 CYAers Jennifer Frank, Benji Hess, Theo Karplus, Gwyn Stith, and Jacki Healy!

With only 9 of us total studying at CYA this term, it was inevitable that we’d spend a lot of time together and hopefully get along. However, I can’t believe what good friends we all have become! I feel so lucky to be here in Greece with this incredible group of people. We’ve been through adventures, challenges, quarantines, and more together, and we’ve definitely bonded and had a lot of fun. This semester has been full of memories and stories for a lifetime, and even if we don’t stay in touch, I will definitely hold these people and this time in my heart.

The sun has now dipped below the treeline, the Acropolis is lit up in all its glory, and the sky’s faint colors have deepened and darkened into a richly colored sunset. A slight chill is now blanketing Athens, but I’m still warmed by all the joy, gratitude, and love I have for these things and more.

All this to say, I am very very thankful for this place, these people, and this incredible experience.

Happy Thanksgiving, from Athens! Χρόνια πολλά! (Idiomatic translation: “Best wishes!”)


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Written by Jacki Healy
Jacki is currently a sophomore at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. She is interested in history, classics, theatre, psychology, and museum studies. She also loves photography, writing, exploring, and more! My philosophy on life is to always be learning!