CYA (College Year in Athens)


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.


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Yes, I recommend this program

Already Dying to Go Back

While I've always wanted to travel to Greece, CYA created such a unique experience for me that I don't think I would've otherwise had. The faculty and staff were all so caring and understanding, attempting to get to know us as individuals first, and they made every attempt to ensure we had the fullest experience possible. I was able to complete a full semester's load of courses both within and majors and outside of them, and I never felt like I was missing out on anything. From archaeology classes at the Parthenon to anthropology classes on walks through the various neighborhoods of Athens, CYA's emphasis on on-site learning really added an essential component to my stay in Greece. Nowhere was this more evident than our field study trip throughout Greece. Within a week, we traveled to dozens of notable sites and towns including Sparta, Olympia, Delphi, and Thessaloniki. Each place had something new to offer, with our helpful instructors giving us deeper insights to every site, whether they were historical or cultural. Even outside of school, CYA encouraged us to explore the country, giving us recommendations on places to eat around the neighborhood, sites to travel to on our days off, and common Greek phrases we could use with the locals. Pangrati, the neighborhood we lived in, began to feel like home, and the people I met both within the program and outside of it began to feel like family. Despite the pandemic, I had a full experience of Greece, and I can't wait to go back for more!

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
In Thessaloniki, I ate cuddlefish in cuddlefish ink sauce. The whole thing was pitch black, which intimidated me a bit, especially as a relatively picky eater, but it was delicious. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, because you might just find a new favorite!
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Yes, I recommend this program

CYA Summer 2021

I grew up in a relatively sheltered environment surrounded by people who thought and looked a lot like me. The first 18 years of my life were spent in the comfort of my own likeness. However, spending the summer at CYA allowed me to broaden my understanding of the world through the people I have met and the stories I have heard. This has been an incredibly important experience for me and has allowed me to adjust much of my perception of how we all fit into the places we inhabit. From this powerful experience abroad, I have learned the importance of exploration, as well as the ability to understand other points of view. I allowed myself to explore and say yes to things you wouldn't typically consider doing. This is how I ended up finding the best views or the coolest museums or the most fascinating islands to visit. It was truly an incredible summer.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
I would say my biggest piece of advice is to go in with an open mind. Allow yourself to explore and say yes to things you wouldn't typically consider doing. This is how I ended up finding the best views or the coolest museums or the most fascinating islands to visit. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and explore the city and country of Greece as much as you possibly can.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Study Aborad with CYA

I learned so much through this program and was able to have such unique experiences. Each weekend I traveled somewhere different amongst the islands or neighboring cities. It was easy to navigate and very affordable. The staff also was incredible and super resourceful. They were willing to go above and beyond to supper me. I loved being in Greece and this program set me up really well for an excellent time. The adventure mixed with history makes Athens the perfect launching point for understanding and experiencing Greek culture.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Grateful for Greece 2021

I am so glad that I took the leap and studied abroad with CYA this year! After a great spring semester, I ended up returning for a special summer program through CYA as well. I had the best Modern Greek professor ever and truly enjoyed all of my classes. The location could not have been better, and I truly felt at home in our neighborhood. CYA is so supportive of its students. I felt that I was in amazing hands, and every staff member and professor put a smile on my face! I can't wait to return!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would utilize public transportation way more! I loved visiting different neighborhoods and the vast reaches of the city. Public transportation is easy and affordable.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Missing Greece Already!

For four weeks in Summer 2021, I was able to take a class on the Anthropology of Food in Greece, taught by Aimee Placas (who is amazing!). The course, and Greece in general was amazing. I learned so much about food, traditions, culture, etc - and ate my way through 7 Greek islands as well (yum!). I'm missing the experience and the people I met along the way already.

I highly recommend taking the ferries from Athens (Pireaus) to islands like Aegina, Naxos, Poros, Paros, etc. Ikaria is another favorite - but fly there!

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Octopus! A must try on so many of the Greek islands.


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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.

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