With my major being as specific it is, I knew I would not be able to take a relevant course abroad so I was primarily searching for a free elective course that would broaden my horizons and take me outside of my comfort zone. Athena Study Abroad was one of the few programs I found that I felt had courses that allowed me to enjoy my time abroad, rather than spending my time studying and stressing. I specifically chose the program on Paros Island, Greece because it emphasized utilizing the outdoors as your classroom and offered a variety of unique classes that would teach me new skills, such as the painting course I enrolled in.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Athena Study Abroad is an external program, so I had to fill out two separate applications- one through my university, and one through Athena. Although I was responsible for gathering necessary materials on my own, both my university and Athena provided advisors that helped me immensely throughout the process. Whenever I needed assistance, both of my advisors responded quickly to my e-mails and helped me a great deal. The Athena advisor was especially helpful as my trip neared and I started wondering what types of materials I needed to bring vs. what I could buy there, the best way to get money abroad, etc. No matter how small or silly I felt my questions were, Athena's advisor always responded within a day which helped ease my worries.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
My biggest piece of advise is to go alone and to say yes to every new opportunity you have (within reason of course). My entire study abroad experience with Athena was a new experience- I had never really been abroad, I went without knowing anyone else going on the trip, and I had no clue how to actually paint. Although those factors made me nervous, they are also why I ended up loving it so much. I made three incredible friendships while I was there- people I still keep in contact with- I learned a new hobby that I love, and I now feel more confident going abroad again by myself. It was very liberating.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
The average week was filled with traveling to different islands, going to class, and having the freedom to explore Paros on your down time. It was really a laid back program that consisted more of learning through travel and experience than sitting in a classroom all day. In an average week, we went to at least two other islands or had a couple day trips to other parts of Paros. On days that we were not traveling, we would have class.
Occasionally, my painting teacher would give our class a small assignment while we were traveling- such as when we went to Santorini for a few days and asked us to sketch or paint a small picture while there. When we did not have classes or trips scheduled, you were free to do as you please and explore Paros.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I think my biggest fear was just all the unknown factors I wondered about before I left. Would I like the people on my program? Would I be completely horrible at painting? Would I get lost? Would I like it there? But as soon as I got there those fears weighed less and less on my shoulders. I made amazing friends, I ended up loving painting, and even though I did get lost my first day in Athens, I ended up finding my way back (like I always say- you can't really be lost if you have no clue where you're at or where you're even going anyways). Despite one of my initial fears actually happening, I was able to overcome those worries just be immersing myself in the experience and being willing to do things I may not typically do.