Originally published October 4, 2016
By Yessica Delgado
I spent the summer of 2016 on a study abroad program at the American College of Greece in Athens.
The whole trip was a learning experience, and I don’t just mean in the classroom with Professor Nikolopoulou, but in learning to trust myself, learning to love who I am, and stepping outside the comfort zone that surrounded me at home and allowed me to learn and be part of another culture.
I was 19 and fearless, feeling ready to take over the world. It wasn’t until I was unpacking my luggage in our dorm in a neighborhood called Aghia Paraskevi that it really hit me that I was, in fact, 19, and in a foreign country. The first night was the hardest. I probably cried until dawn and stumbled into orientation that same day, and only then did I realize I would always be part Greek after learning the traditional dances and loving the new cuisine.
Not only did I grow as a person, but my horizons and my perspective were forever altered when I crossed through a Syrian refugee camp, learned about the sex slave trade, and heard about the country’s crashing economy and rising poverty levels. My career goals where altered as well because I came to the conclusion that I want to help people in situations like these.
I cannot begin to explain the importance of the people I met along the way, from my three roommates who taught me more about enjoying myself than I had ever known before, to the friends who were part of the random, disorganized trips we took. Being a small town girl from Clint, I never saw myself living for five weeks in a foreign country and going to the farmers market every Monday to buy fresh groceries, or snorkeling near Santorini or even jumping off miniature cliffs on the island of Hydra.
It was truly an experience to witness firsthand how my classmates, who were of various ethnicities, came to together and helped my learning experience as a nonnative student. It was an unforgettable summer that affected my thinking, my being and my overall perspective in life.
Agapó tin Elláda (I love Greece)!