Studying in Greece
Friday, Dec. 17, 2010
It is hard to express my feelings about my time spent abroad. The crazy thing is that my feelings will change, making it even more difficult to describe once I return to America. With that said, and to be a little more specific, it was a life changing experience. I must add that I don’t use that phrase lightly. To absorb a different culture and understand alternative viewpoints and lifestyle has had nothing but a positive influence on my perspective on life. For any student even remotely thinking about studying abroad, I urge them to please not pass up the opportunity.
Thinking back upon when I arrived, I think this is the most I’ve grown as a person over a three-month period. The following things I was unable to say before I arrived in Greece:
- I am comfortable speaking a foreign language.
- I have a strong relationship with family members outside the country
- I lived outside the country for an extended period of time.
- I have many new friends that I care about dearly.
- I feel a strong connection with my Greek heritage and roots.
I could continue listing achievements, accomplishments, and changes in my life but I will spare you for now. I’ll wrap things up with a bunch of pictures, which can be viewed below. Again, I hope every SCU student has the privilege and opportunity to study abroad as I did. You will not regret going.
From left: Chris Stamas '11, Kellie Scullin, Sena Chun, Chase Tucker, Jordan Esterkin, Anna Chapin
Chris Stamas '11, Joey Murphy '12
Sandy Peterson, Bri Peterson, Ambi Peterson, Chris Stamas '11, Noah Smutz
Meg Fitzpatrick, Chris Stamas '11
Friday, Dec. 10, 2010
My study abroad experience has been unique due to my background. My grandmother emigrated from Greece to come to America over 65 years ago. To live in her home country and attain a better sense of my family’s origins has been the cherry on top of my study abroad experience.
I have been able to explore my roots by growing closer with the only relative that still lives in Athens. Zoe, my dad’s cousin, has been overly hospitable in welcoming and spending time with me. It has become tradition to meet every weekend for lunch to catch up and keep each other company. I have subsequently learned much more about my grandma, the rest of my family that remained in Greece, and the differences in life lived in Greece and America.
As I return home in a week’s time, there are many things I will take home with me. One of the most important, though, is my new relationship with Zoe. Building a stronger relationship with any family member is something special, and it is nice knowing, as she always reassures me, the next time I return to Greece I’ll have somewhere to stay. I urge those students deciding where to study abroad to choose somewhere where they have personal ties. It adds a personal level of interest to the study abroad experience and will make it that much more meaningful.
Zoe and myself
Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010
Studying abroad is an undertaking built upon new experiences. One such experience often overlooked is the chance to live within a major city. The vast majority of my classmates neither grew up nor attends college in a metropolitan area. Therefore, I believe for most students, studying abroad isn’t only eye opening through attending school in a foreign country but also through the experience of city living.
I feel as though I have grown immensely due to my living situation abroad. Getting off campus and into a city has given me independence and has forced me to encounter many new things. Public transportation, for example, is integral while abroad. Also, attaining a general sense of direction is something I have learned quickly. Finally, accumulating your lifestyle to a living, breathing city is something that takes getting used to.
The comforts of campus are so important in personal growth during college. It allows you to meet people, feel a sense of community, and focus on things directly related to school. Getting outside the campus and into a city, though, has proven to be an experience I am truly grateful for while abroad. It has given me the perfect taste of my soon-to-be independence after graduating.
Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010
Over the last 4-day weekend, my friends and I decided to rent a car and road-trip around Greece. While many students choose to fly from country to country while abroad, we quickly found out that traveling by car can be a far better experience.
The fact that none of us knew how to drive stick shift didn’t stop us. Rather, it made for quite a story and allowed us to acquire a new skill in the process.
Our first stop was in the town of Patras where St. Andrew’s Greek orthodox church rose high above the city. Inside, it was ornately decorated from floor to ceiling. It is one of the most spectacular buildings I’ve ever seen.
The beauty of the seaside town known as Anfilohia forced me to pull over. While it wasn’t a planned stop on our trip, it turned out to be quite memorable.
While in Athens, it is easy to forget how beautiful and diverse the landscape is in Greece. During most of our trip, my friends and I could not believe what was in front of us.
Along the side of the road, a green grocer had all his produce outside for sale. A delicious apple was the perfect snack for the road.
These small replica churches serve as monuments for the deceased. It is a reminder of how prevalent the Greek Orthodox religion is across the country.
Stray dogs and cats can be found all over Greece especially in smaller villages in the countryside. While on a walk, we were followed by this little guy. Clearly, I wanted to take him with us for the rest of the trip.
Our final destination was the city of Ionnina since we were told over and over of its natural beauty. Clouds cover the adjacent lake in the morning creating an effect that is hard to believe. It felt as though we were standing in the middle of the sky.
The road-trip was a perfect way to see Greece in its natural state. It was a long weekend well spent and allowed us to appreciate one of the most beautiful European countries.
Monday, Nov. 8, 2010
One of the best opportunities while abroad is to travel. While traveling over a weekend is great, I enjoy when a friend visits me just as much. This past weekend my friend Joey, a junior at SCU studying abroad in London, came to Greece to visit.
I made sure to show Joey an authentic, Greek experience. We spent time playing backgammon in coffee shops, eating gyros, and visiting some sites. Naturally, we spent some time at the beautiful Acropolis overlooking Athens. The history combined with the incredible view that extends out to the city of Piraeus and the Mediterranean Sea made for an unforgettable experience.
Later, Joey and I visited the Athens Amphitheatre and Lycabettus Hill, the highest peak in all of Athens. The Greek Orthodox Religion dominates the Greek population and churches of all sizes can be found in Greece. Not surprisingly, a Greek church sits on top of Lycabettus Hill. Although small in size, the church was beautifully whitewashed on the outside and was covered with icons and decoration on the inside.
After spending the rest of his trip hanging out with my abroad friends, Joey was off to Rome to continue his travels. The weekend turned out perfectly; it allowed me to spend time with my good friend as well as see some amazing sites within Athens.
Chris Stamas '11, Joey Murphy '12, Lycabettus Hill
Chris Stamas '11, Joey Murphy '12, Acropolis
Chris Stamas '11, Athens Amphitheatre
St. George Church, Lycabettus Hill
Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010
Greek people love to converse. Dating back to the ancient philosophical days of Socrates and Plato, talking amongst one another can be regarded as a national Greek pastime. It is no wonder then that coffee shops line the streets in modern day Athens. After watching the Athenians pass the day with one another over coffee, it became my goal to call one of these cafes my own. After befriending a waiter and frequenting a coffee shop near my school, I accomplished my goal.
Through this process and other experiences while in Greece, the stereotype of Greeks as overly hospitable holds true. From day one, the owner of my coffee shop went out of his way to make me feel at home. Although he doesn’t speak English, the owner visits my friends and me at our table bearing gifts. In one such instance, he brought flowers to all the girls at our table. Other times, we’ll receive free coffee or hot chocolate. On my way to school, he won’t let me pass without stopping me to say hello and give me the typical European greeting, a peck on both cheeks.
Some of the best experiences I have had abroad involve integrating myself with the natives. Although a language barrier exists, it won’t stop people from being gracious and welcoming. This past week, several of my friends and I received a box of cookies from a bakery owner simply because we were foreigners. It is these types of experiences that make you feel welcome and want to help those when they are in your neck of the woods.
Leonidas, Chris Stamas, Bri Peterson
Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010
To say I’m eating better here than at home is a drastic understatement. For instance, let me describe exactly what I had for lunch today. To start, I made a traditional Greek tomato salad. This salad is a Greek staple and is eaten throughout the country religiously. It is laughably simple to make since it relies on quality ingredients. Add the following to a bowl: tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, green pepper, kalamata olives, and feta cheese all drenched in olive oil and a drop of vinegar. Add salt, pepper, and oregano and it’s ready to be served with a hunk of freshly baked bread from the bakery.
Greece’s mild climate helps yield excellent vegetables, not to mention the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. Every Tuesday and Friday, farmers from the countryside venture into the city to sell their goods at the open-air market. Think of a larger scale farmer’s market that is cheaper, not more expensive, than the supermarket. Each trip to the open-air market is an adventure, with vendors yelling at you and locals bargaining as if it were a sport.
My lunch’s main course was pastitsio, the Greeks version of lasagna. The layers include breadcrumbs, cheese, noodles, ground meat, and an egg-based custard top. I’m salivating just thinking about it. I have to admit I did not make it, though. My Greek relative deserves all the credit there.
For dessert I had galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek pastry made with phyllo dough, custard, and sweet syrup. Bakeries line the streets in Greece, and I could not help myself when I saw this in the store window. As someone with a sweet tooth, Greeks make it hard to walk somewhere without stopping for a little pastry or some gelato.
People say the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest. If this is true, it’s the cherry on top. The Greeks did not sacrifice taste for healthiness, I can assure you of that.
Pastitsio and Greek Salad
Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010
Like most any Greek-American, I was enrolled in “Greek School” at an early age. Every Saturday from age 6-12, I was dropped off at my church and taught the Greek language. Though I dreaded going to Greek School at the time, it has turned into an invaluable asset since arriving in Greece.
Due to my lack of fluency and newfound love of Greek culture, it has become my primary goal to achieve a better command of the Greek language. Thankfully, Arcadia requires every student to enroll in a Greek Language class. Unlike other language classes, it focuses on conversational skills over grammar and writing. It has helped everyone immensely in learning how to get around Athens, order food, and communicate on a basic level with locals.
Outside of the classroom, I have met several Greek friends who have allowed me to struggle through my Greek in front of them. The time spent drinking coffee and hanging out with them have been valuable in helping along my proficiency. They, along with the shopkeepers and other locals love to hear me attempting to speak Greek instead of taking the easy way out and speaking English.
Which brings me to my final point; it is amazing how many people speak English in Athens. In fact, it is hard for me to remember a time meeting a local who had zero knowledge of the English language. This has fascinated me, and led me to inquire why. The responses I have gotten are twofold. First, all Greeks are taught English in school starting at a very early age. The more fascinating reason why Greeks are able to speak English is since the vast majority of the movies and music they consume are in English. Therefore, they learn through a sort of osmosis.
Over the course of living in Greece, my language has vastly improved. I hope to use every opportunity possible while here to speak in Greek. Through class, speaking to friends, and immersing myself in any Greek media I can get my hands on, I will come away from my study abroad experience knowing a second language.
Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010
One of the beautiful things about studying abroad is meeting new people. Though a little intimidated at first, I quickly realized everyone in my study abroad program was in the same boat. Each student arrived in Greece without knowing anyone. Therefore, I quickly realized that everyone would be friendly and open to building new relationships. With this knowledge, I have met as many people as possible and feel as though I have already known certain classmates for years.
The most popular aspects of studying abroad are living in a foreign country and having the opportunity to see the world. In my opinion, I think being forced to meet new people away from the friendly confines of your college is just as important. Although at times I might feel uncomfortable or I might not gel with certain people, I know that my conversation skills are improving and that learning how to connect with new people will help me later in life. Within the several weeks I have lived in Greece, the people, not the country, have made me grow most as a person.
Brett Balling, Petros Santamouris, Chris Stamas
Brei Peterson, Sara Harper, Chris Stamas
Chris Stamas, Maggie Gignac
Thursday, Sep. 23, 2010
After arriving in Athens, it was up to me to get acquainted with the city and more importantly, get to know my future study abroad companions. I choose the Athens study abroad program foremost because of my background as a Greek-American, but also for its small size. So far it has been the perfect choice. There are about 50 students in the program, which is an amount that will allow me to meet everyone. The students come from tremendously diverse backgrounds, which has allowed me to meet interesting people as well as learn more about myself.
Getting to know so many people seemed like a daunting task, but thankfully Arcadia had a week of orientation planned. After several days figuring out Athens, I was off to the tiny island of Tinos where our goal was to rest, relax, and get to know one another. Im happy to say I was successful in completing all of the above.
Unlike the more popular islands of Mykonos and Santorini, Tinos is not a popular tourist destination. This fact made the trip that much better. The highlight of our stay was having dinner on a tiny village overlooking the sea.
From the picture, youll understand how I felt as though I was standing in a painting. Greek people are known for a much slower pace of living. We abided by Greek culture and took two and a half hours to complete the meal. It involved appetizers, dinner, coffee, and sweets all while immersed in great conversation. Everything was scrumptious but more importantly, I got to know some amazing people from all over America. It was the perfect starting off point for the future relationships I will have with my classmates.