First, could you tell me a bit about yourself?
“Hi! My name is Rachel Gischia. My major is Communication Studies and my minor is Sociology. I am currently studying in the beautiful city of Athens, Greece! Some of my hobbies and interests are: I love to adventure, explore and travel. Hence, why I am studying abroad! I also have a strong passion for dancing and singing. I am taking an improvisation dance class here in Greece! I enjoy hanging out with friends and making connections with people. Other interests I have are baking, hiking, and spending time with family.”
Are you enjoying the experience of living and going to school in a different country? If so, what specifically do you like about the change?
“Yes! I am currently enjoying my experience of living and going to school abroad. It is definitely hard at times, but it is more rewarding than anything. What I like about it is the change of pace. I do not like when things get too repetitive; I would rather change it up a bit. Here in Greece, we do not necessarily have homework… that does not mean we should be doing nothing! But, we only have two grades: the midterm and the final. It can be stressful, but it is nice not having to spend 5+ hours on homework a day. I like living in a different country, because it is much different than visiting. I get the chance to connect and make friendships with people from across the world. I am able to truly immerse myself in the culture and learn as much as I can. I love how I can participate in Greek holidays. I like the change of living abroad, because it gives me a chance to learn about myself, create my identity, and gain intercultural skills.”
Is studying abroad what you expected it would be?
“Studying abroad is and is not what I expected it to be. First of all, I really tried to go into the experience with few expectations, just so I was not let down. Sometimes people expect it to be fun, easy, and great, but it turns out to be hard too. I expected to have more difficulty than I have had, so far. It is much easier to make friends and connect with people than I was expecting. The study abroad students share a lot of the same characteristics as you, so that helps! And the Greeks are welcoming, too. I also thought I would miss my family more. Do not get me wrong, I miss them dearly! I thought I would be more down about it, but I keep reminiscing in the moment and reminding myself I will see them soon. Obviously, I expected to see incredible sights and be immersed in the culture, and that has lived up to my expectations, no doubt!”
What is your favorite thing about the country so far?
“My favorite thing about the country so far would have to be people and the sunshine! There are so many kind people here in Greece. Whether it is an Uber driver, a bakery worker, or a classmate, I have had many positive experiences. They are all so helpful and friendly. The sun shines almost everyday, and on the islands it is even better! I always feel better with a bit of sunshine.”
Have you attended any cultural events since you have arrived? If so, what were they and could you explain them a bit?
“Although there have been a few cultural events since I have been here, I have only had an experience with one. My program director took three other students and I to a Cretan Greek dance rehearsal. It was so fun! We arrived and they immediately brought us drinks and food. We then watched all of the dancers perform their numbers, clapping after each one. Next, the instructor taught us some basic steps and we danced for a while with everyone! It was a unique experience that I will never forget. I hope to attend the actual performance with costumes and all, as it is coming up soon.”
Do you feel safe while visiting cities, neighborhoods?
“I find it very safe visiting cities and neighborhoods around me. I am living in a residential area, so there are a lot of families around, which is really nice. I have talked to many locals in the area and they agree that the area is safe. Once one enters the city more, Athens, it is important to be more aware of their surroundings. I feel it is fairly safer than a normal big American city, but it is still good to be cautious! I personally have not felt threatened nor unsafe, and I hope it stays that way.”
What advice would you give for someone interested in studying abroad?
“To someone thinking about studying abroad, I would say that you will not regret it. It is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and it will be worth it. Despite the stress you think it might bring, your experience will top it. You will meet countless inspiring people. You will be challenged and grow as a person and feel free. It has been one of the best decisions I have ever made! I say take a chance and embark on an incredible journey.”