CYA

CYA (College Year in Athens)

About

CYA (College Year in Athens) is a non-profit educational institution that has been acting as a cultural and educational bridge between the U.S. and Greece for nearly 60 years. Our study abroad program helps students to develop new perspectives on the world, their own countries and themselves.
CYA offers outstanding academic programs (semester, year, winter and summer), Virtual Internships and Gap programs all of which embrace the vibrant experience of day-to-day contact with the people, the monuments and the landscape of Greece. All the programs place an emphasis on learning beyond the classroom, offering hands-on learning experience in the rich and diverse environment of the country. Our extensive curriculum is complemented by on-site classes adding a new dimension to learning as well as a global understanding of the subjects taught.
Our CYA expert faculty and passionate staff are dedicated to offer students the best learning and life changing experience.

COVID-19 FAQ

Curious about how Greece & CYA has handled the COVID-19 crisis so far, and how we’re preparing for upcoming semesters? Check out the COVID-19 FAQ on our website here:

Reviews

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Bradley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This program is unique for the warmth and welcoming atmosphere created not just by the faculty and staff, but the students and strangers in the surrounding neighborhood as well! Even during the difficulties caused by the pandemic, CYA managed to provide us with the full Athens (and Greek in general) experience while keeping within safe, healthy guidelines. I would recommend this to anyone remotely interested in Greece, and especially to Classics students. Be especially ready to take any opportunity for adventure—there's so much to do!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
On literally my first day out of post-travel quarantine, it snowed. A lot. Enough for our professors to remark that they'd never seen Athens like this. I went for a walk alone to explore the neighborhood for the first time, and the entire city was out there with me—parents taking pictures, kids making snowmen, couples trying and failing to bike around. The snow made everyone so excited that strangers were yelling to each other about the weather, me included. The thing that really got me, being from the American South, was seeing palm trees covered in snow. It was a wonderful introduction to my new home for the semester; I felt the immediate connection with everyone else outside with me of experiencing something for the first time.
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Abby
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

While my time at CYA was a little non-standard due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it was still a phenomenal experience that impacted me as both a student and a human being! I participated in the program through a specialized program made in partnership with my college (Wellesley), so my time in Greece was also a little shorter than usual — we were on a quarter system during the pandemic, so I was only in Greece for 6-7 weeks, but the typical CYA student spends a full semester abroad! It's definitely a bummer that the pandemic/shortened term prevented me from taking part in the cultural activities that are usually offered (like joining local workout groups, babysitting, volunteering at the farmer's market, or learning how to carve marble!), but I still feel like I got to enjoy a whole lot of Greece! Through the CYA program itself, I got to travel to Nafplio, Kalamata, Olympia, Mystras, Sparta, and Delphi for a field study! This experience was genuinely life-changing — I fell in love with classical art and the history of the religious sites I saw, and I've actually decided to declare a second major in classical civilization with the hope to focus my study on classical religion! I think one of the best parts of Greece (and this program) is how many "ins" you have. Whether you're interested in history, or architecture, or art, or religion, or literature, or natural spaces, it's an INCREDIBLE place to be! I found myself feeling frequently overwhelmed by how cool it was to physically be in the spaces where stories I've read for YEARS were actually told (or even took place)! It was especially wonderful due to the weird period of time when I was in Greece. My time with CYA overlapped with the reopening timeline set in place by the government, so I got to explore places like Delphi and the Parthenon before tourism reopened, and being able to be in those places without the noise and bustle of hundreds of tourists was really really special. Aside from Greece itself, I really loved the academic program at CYA! Due to my shortened schedule, I was only taking one class with CYA (plus a virtual class from my home institution), but it was one of the BEST courses I've ever taken. My professor, Eleni Fassa, was so kind and enthusiastic, and she totally reawakened my childhood obsession with Greek myth and religion! We used the landscape of Greece as much as possible in this course, having classes at the Acropolis and at the sites on our field study. I just have so many good things to say about my time with CYA! The courses were amazing, the sights were amazing, the museums were amazing, the people were amazing, the food was amazing, GREECE was amazing! I highly recommend it!

What was your funniest moment?
When my roommates and I visited the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, I swam out really far (I'm a strong swimmer!!) and found a partially underwater cave! Exploring the cave is one of my favorite memories from the trip — but my roommates couldn't see me and thought I had disappeared into the ocean! It was definitely scary in the moment, but now we all laugh about the time everyone thought I had turned into a fish 😳
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Lorelei
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I studied abroad in the spring 21 term at CYA, and was impressed despite occurring on the back end of the pandemic. The in person Mythology and Art & Archaeology class research papers were new and challenging. Classes also took place at archaeological sites so we experienced in person what we learned about. Our field study involved lectures at historical archaeological sites throughout Greece including Delphi and the Peloponnese. Being a group of 83, plus the other CYA group of 30, I was especially impressed at CYA's high level of coordination and planning to accomplish this during COVID. The location of CYA, next to the Panathenaic Stadium, is very ideal for social and academic adventures throughout the city; the neighborhood of Plaka and Pangrati felt very safe at night and CYA has supportive staff that are available 24/7 to help you out.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I tried local mountain goat in Delphi while on our class field study. It tastes like lamb! I also tried the classic Greek taverna food of fried octopus.
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Samantha
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I studied abroad with CYA during the 2021 spring semester and even though travel was restricted and various places were closed due to Covid, I still had an amazing experience. During those times when I couldn't go to museums or archaeological sites, I walked for miles around the city with my friends. From the beautiful Plaka neighborhood, the lush National Gardens, and the farmer's markets on Tuesdays and Fridays, we had a blast getting to know the bustling city of Athens. I was also able to take classes centering modern Greek politics and anceint Greek topography. Even though those two subjects have very little in common, it was interesting to learn about Greece from a modern and ancient perspective. I loved every minute of my time in Greece with CYA and wouldn't trade it for the world!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I was able to take a marble carving class! This class wasn't offered through the CYA school, but CYA staff has a connection to a local marble carving artist who teaches you how to carve marble like the ancient greeks did. I'll be honest, it was so hard but so satisfying to create art out of a blank slab of marble. I'm so grateful CYA was able to curate this experience with local artists, it's definitley a once in a lifetime opportunity!
Response from CYA (College Year in Athens)

Samantha, thank you for your positve review of CYA. We are so glad to hear you had such an amazing with CYA this Spring despite the COVID-19 epidemic. It sounds like you made the most out of your time in Greece. Remember to keep in touch!

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Anna
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

College Year in Athens (CYA) has the most supportive and caring staff. Starting before the program begins the pre-departure orientation was thorough and the staff was also helpful in the visa process. While in the program any time I needed anything I could email any person in the CYA staff and they would respond quickly, helping me solve any problem that arose. The program also has top notch professors that allowed me to be involved in field study as well as class discussion. I know I will continue to stay in touch with my professors throughout my life and use their input and advise. Finally, the program fosters an environment of peer connection. My program had about thirty students in it and by the end of the semester we had all gotten very close. I know that these people will be in my life for a long time to come and it is all thanks to CYA for bringing us together and holding events to encourage peer interaction. The time when all of these elements combined and allowed me to see the quality of the program was through the end of the semester field study. We spent eight days all together traveling mainland Greece together. This trip was full of cultural and historical significance that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was also a chance to spend quality time with my peers making memories. We visited the Peloponnese, Nafplio, Thessaloniki, and Delphi. We were able to sit in the Theatre of Epidaurus where Alexander the Great would have visited and the Venetian city of Nafplio which illustrates the strong history and resilience of the Greeks. I am more culturally educated and experienced because of the CYA program and I would recommend any student to participate.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
On the island of Aegina at a taverna I tried fried sardines and grilled octopus. I did not like the sardines because you have to eat them whole but I loved the octopus. It tasted like scallops.

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

When I was choosing where to apply, my study abroad advisor told me how familial and communal life is in Greece. He described how Greek people often participate in extremely direct and honest conversation and welcome you into their home with open arms. When I heard this, I was reminded of my own family and it gave me immense comfort to know that I could experience a completely different culture and geography while also maintaining the values I hold near to my heart.

Every hope that I had about Greek culture was affirmed through my experience with CYA. By choosing this program, I was able to live in a local neighborhood detached from the artificiality of tourism. I was able to make real connections with locals and challenge myself to see daily life from a very different political and cultural perspective. Yet, no matter how great the differences were, I always found that my program and neighborhood facilitated and cherished a warm and welcoming attitude that made me feel as though I had a true home in Athens.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

At the beginning of the semester, CYA provided a comprehensive list of contacts for extracurriculars ranging from sports to volunteer opportunities to craft-based activities. Through this list, I was able to connect with the Orange House Project, which is a non-profit in Athens that serves the refugee population. Volunteering with the Orange House Project was an incredibly important aspect of my study abroad experience.

CYA also took us on three program-led trips in Greece: Delphi, the Peloponnese and Thessaloniki. These trips were completely organized by the administration, but we were almost always responsible for our own food. CYA did offer to help with other personal travel itineraries, but I think most of my friends and I did that planning on our own.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

One piece of advice that I would give to someone going abroad, in general, and specifically in Greece, is that learning the basics of the native language is essential for a fully immersive study abroad. I had absolutely no experience with Greek and took a basic level of Greek language and culture class at CYA.

While I have always had trouble and anxiety surrounding language-learning, I loved my professor at CYA and felt so comfortable practicing my Greek in her classroom and in my neighborhood. Almost everyone in Athens can communicate with you in English, but whenever I at least attempted to use my Greek, I found that people were far more receptive to me. Learning and practicing Greek helped me make connections with locals because people were so excited to understand why I was learning the language and almost always offered to help me with my homework (whether I asked or not).

Learning the language is both a sign of respect and an extremely helpful tool in battling a sense of isolation in a new culture.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average week is different for everyone. I did have some regularity to my schedule, but often enjoyed not knowing how my days would end up.

In the mornings, I would always go to the local gym about a half-mile up the street, shower and then go to class. I would have program-provided lunch between classes and then head to one of my three favorite neighborhood coffee shop. Coffee culture in Greece is huge (I went to a coffee shop on average once to twice a day). I would then spend my evenings with friends by going to dinner, going out in other parts of Athens, or exploring the tourist/local parts of the city.

I would have classes from Monday-Thursday and would spend most weekends either traveling around Greece or taking a few side trips to other countries.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

One of my biggest fears about going abroad was that I would feel completely isolated from my environment and that I would shut down and miss out on important experiences.

I overcame this fear by both challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone while also cutting myself slack by taking time to myself when I needed it. Small moments of bravery led to some of the most impactful experiences: trying out Greek with someone I don't know, intentionally getting lost in a new neighborhood, volunteering with a local organization. Yet, it was also so important for me to recognize that it is ok to need alone time and that designated alone time can actually help lessen a sense of isolation.

I learned so much by simply observing my surroundings at coffee shops alone and going for daily runs around the historical sites and natural landscapes.

What happens when things go wrong? How do you best prepare for the inevitable sicknesses, travel issues and personal troubles that arise when abroad?

In short, remember to take a breath and find a contact where you are to mediate the situation. As long as you are in no immediate danger, you truly are ok. Take everything as an experience in and of itself.

When I was in Crete, a massive storm hit the island and my friends and I found ourselves stuck on the island for two days longer than intended. It was initially extremely stressful to figure out how to handle delayed and canceled flights in a foreign language and unfamiliar place. Yet, after we took a deep breath, my friends and I found that Aegean Airlines was more than willing to pay for our hotels, food, and transportation.

When my friend became sick in Athens, another friend and I took her to the hospital. We were all overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of the procedures in Greek hospitals, but called our program and had them translate for us. It's ok to ask questions and to ask for help!

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Cheyenne Paulson

Job Title
Campus and Student Relations Coordinator
Cheyenne started working in her current role with CYA January 2020. However, she is not new to CYA as she attended the program in 2015 and spent Fall 2018 with CYA representing the program at study abroad fairs across the country and Summer 2019 onsite in Greece as a MediaLab intern.
Cheyenne sits on the steps of the Acropolis

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory is while I studied abroad with CYA in 2015, I took part in the Excavating in the Aegean class. While the class involved excavating on a real archaeological excavation, the memories with my classmates both on the excavation and off are ones I will never forget. We hiked the nearby hills of the island we were staying on, spent endless hours at the beach, and ate fresh seafood everyday. It was a blissful time and I remember it so fondly.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Since I started working with CYA in 2018, I have grown immensely. I finished grad school and developed new skills in the field of international education. I have become a representative who can speak highly of the program as well as giving my personal experiences in Greece. I have thought intellectually about what makes CYA a successful program and hope to continue to grow with the company!

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

I've had several interactions with CYA alumni, however, my favorites revolve around the students I met the following summer (2016) while excavating in Romania. While in Romania, I met several other CYA alums and we all bonded over our experiences of Athens and Greece. Each had amazing stories about their times in Athens, hiking Mount Olympus, volunteering at the Ancient Agora, and spending countless hours at Kekkos drinking coffee and doing homework! While none of us were in Athens at the same time, all of our stories seemed to be shared and we bonded over how much we missed Greece and CYA.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would say that my biggest regret from undergrad was not attending CYA for a full semester. While the summer was great and it fit perfectly with my academic schedule, I left longing to return and wish I could have added a semester to my summer abroad. I wish that I could have taken the Topography in Athens course and the Ancient Greek Sports classes. Outside of Classics, I would have loved to take a sustainability course or an economics course as well!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

As one of the leaders in Greek study abroad programs, I think CYA is unique because of its academics and experiential learning opportunities. CYA aims to take its students out of the classroom as much as possible, and we continue to make the program even more immersive. I am proud of CYA and study abroad in Greece as a whole when I look at the Open Doors reports and see how much study abroad within Greece is growing! It makes me happy to see students interested in Greece and CYA!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I think that the biggest factor in being a successful company is ones ability to adapt to changes in student needs and interests. When CYA started it was a Classical Studies Center, now CYA has grown to include disciplines such as Environmental Studies, Psychology, Economics, Political Science and more! Adaptability is key and I strongly believe that any successful company must be able to understand not just the obvious needs, but also the needs that may not be immediately apparent but could lead to a positive international experience.

Professional Associations