First Impressions of a Stunning Athens

Hello! My name is Destiny Reyes. I’m a third year Philosophy and English major at Rollins College, and up until now I’ve always lived in Florida. Now I’m spending the next four months of my life studying what most intrigues me in Athens, Greece, a place I am quickly coming to regard as my home and possibly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. In the weeks before I departed, I couldn’t quite grasp the fact that I was leaving everything familiar to me behind and setting off on my own for the first time ever. The morning of my flight however, an unbelievable feeling of anxiety finally set in. I’d been packing, unpacking, and repacking my bags, just to finish then fret over whether or not they were too full to fit carry-on measurements, and unpack them again. Until that day I’d only really felt excitement- excitement of leaving the country for the first time, seeing where my favorite philosophers taught and exploring the ancient Greek ruins. On that morning though, I could only think of how much I’d miss my family and friends and whether I’d made the right decision to study abroad at all. I’d know very few people in the program, and would soon meet my roommates and over 60 other students whom were all total strangers to me.

Once I arrived in Athens after two very long flights however, many of my fears dissipated. When I first landed with one of my roommates who had flown out with me, we happened to run into several other students in the program also picking up their baggage. Once we found our arrival gate, one of the professors waiting for us gave us the keys to our apartment, ushered us in pairs into cabs, and sent us on our way. At first, the city seems much like any other, akin to New York City, with small shops on either side of main streets, topped off by tall apartment buildings. But after even a few hours exploring this city, it’s obviously so much its own entity. Unlike in America, there is graffiti virtually everywhere. But it doesn’t lessen the beauty of the buildings; instead it adds to the character of the area, with political quotes and symbolic illustrations. Many of the people who live here celebrate it, and even have favorite artists whose work they recognize. The people are also genuinely connected to one another. Strangers greet each other on the streets, and shop owners exhibit an incredible amount of patience while I practice ordering in Greek. There are stray dogs and cats everywhere, but they’re well fed and cared for by everyone in the neighborhood. The contrasts between my new home and the world I’ve grown up in are stark. There are no huge supermarkets like Wal-Mart or quiet little suburban homes lined up all in a row. The culture here is incredibly different, and I’m constantly reminded of that in subtle ways, such as the event of holding up entire lines waiting for groceries to be bagged, then realizing customers do that themselves. Or when I waved at a waiter to bring the check, then panicked, realizing that a palm out hand gesture in Athens is the equivalent of the middle finger in the States. Thankfully our server was used to American students, and knew what I meant. Or could simply tell by the rush of embarrassment on my face. Either way, little adjustments are under way.

Classes have started this week, but I’ll wait until next time to tell you all about those, along with my adventures to the ruins and (hopefully) hiking Meteora!

Until next time,

Destiny Reyes

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Filed under Destiny in Greece, Western Europe

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