I left Boston in January; It was cold and dreary. I was sad to leave behind my loved ones, miss my senior friends’ graduation, and be seven hours ahead of everyone who would be waking up as I finished my day. When I arrived in Athens the following afternoon, I was ushered quickly through the airport, being greeted by faculty members and having my luggage packed quickly into a taxi, meeting my first peer as we were whisked away to our student apartments. I remember that first sunset vividly. It was full of pastels I’d never seen in the sky before. The route overlooked the entire city and my gaze stuck on the magnificence of miles of houses all stacked on top of one another in a city more ancient, more lived, than any I had ever experienced. I wish I had a picture to share, but I was too enthralled to look at my phone. And the memory grows rosy in my head, just as it was that first day.
How do I feel now? The answer is a mix. I miss my family, my cat, my boyfriend, Dunkin Donuts. But I wouldn’t mind another semester or summer in Greece. When I do leave the soil, as the airplane arcs up towards the sky, I know that one day I’ll be back. There’s so much I’ve done, but there’s so much I haven’t. There’s more little islands for me to travel to, I haven’t yet hiked Meteora, and I want to bungee jump off a cliff into clear turquoise water. But for every adventure I haven’t completed, there are two more items I’ve checked off my bucket list. I’ve ridden a gondola during Carnevale in Venice, taken a walking tour with a Hungarian local (gotta shout out Gábor!), and visited a World War II cemetery in Crete, where my Cretan-born professor told us stories about his grandfather during the occupation. Every moment this semester has been special. From the weeks that I didn’t stop moving, from class, to field trip, to weekend getaway, to the moments where I forced myself to sit still, sitting on my bed with my balcony door open and warm breeze fluttering through.
I’ve talked to my University friends about their experiences abroad in different countries, and they all seem to vary. The beauty of CYA is its rooted nature in Athens. It is well-established, it knows you and your home institution, it can provide recommendations on a personal level. I like that it stands alone and doesn’t answer to a larger University in Athens. I have felt cared for at CYA, which is an extremely important aspect of living in a foreign country.
As the curtain draws on my semester abroad, I find myself wanting to record every moment in my journal or on camera so that I never forget a second. At the same time, I need to put my phone down and cast my eyes skyward. It’s okay to let some moments slip by, because it’s the overall feeling of this semester that will stick with me. Every country I visited while abroad, I also couldn’t wait to get back to my home in Athens. I like mucking around my kitchen with the windows open so I can hear the little old lady when she’s hanging her laundry and smell the aroma of dinner from my neighbors. Athens has bewildered me, made me grow, and brought some amazing people into my life.
Though it’s only been a few months and I risk looking like a poser for saying this, Athens has become my home. This won’t change for the next months (I predict most of my conversations will be starting with: “In Athens,” or “When I lived abroad. . .”) and it won’t change until I return one day.