Paros Truly is Paradise

Academics: 10
Support: 10
Fun: 10
Housing: 9
Safety: 10

Studying abroad through Athena was my first major trip over seas- prior, I had been to Jamaica with my family for a few days, but primarily stayed within the resort. That trip left me wanting to truly experience and immerse myself in a new country and culture, so I began to scour the internet for a study abroad program. However, finding the right program proved to be difficult for me. I am a Communications Sciences and Disorders major, which makes it difficult to study abroad and take relevant courses. After a year of meeting with study abroad advisors and googling different programs and the classes they offered, I felt disappointed and thought my dreams of going abroad would never become a reality. That is when my friend mentioned Athena Study Abroad to me. She mentioned their incredibly unique programs and how they offered courses that may not align with my major, but that would prove to be a once in a lifetime experience. She could not have been more right. I ultimately decided to take an introductory painting course through the Paros program as a free elective. I was filled with both excitement and nerves- I had absolutely no painting experience, I had never traveled alone before, and I also applied without knowing other participants going on the trip. The trip was filled with a lot of unknowns and a lot of firsts for me, which is why it was one of the best experiences of my life. What made this program so amazing was that I got to learn while exploring Greece. From learning to paint while sitting on a rock by the ocean, to learning about Greek mythology as we hiked through ancient caves and explored various islands, this program utilizes the outdoors as your classroom. The teachers were also incredibly talented, kind, and patient. In my painting course, there were about six of us with ranging levels of painting skills. Some of the students were studying art at their universities, some painted as a hobby, and some were like me. This fostered an amazing learning environment where the teacher was able to adjust her expectations and lessons for each student's skill level, and the less skilled students (a.k.a. me) were able to learn from the more experienced artists. My favorite memories consist of being in the art studio- I would go alone and work on mixing paints and making slow progress on my pieces. I would spend hours alone there, but the hours merely felt like minutes because I would become so immersed in my art. After I would leave class, the HISA building had stairs that led to the roof with an amazing view of the ocean and island. If I left the studio in the evening, I would climb to the rooftop and watch the sunset over the ocean. I still have never felt as content and at peace as I did in those moments.
For other students like me- who have majors that they cannot take directly take classes abroad for, and who want to be able to enjoy their time abroad rather than spending much of it studying and stressing- I recommend Athena Study Abroad. I also recommend applying to be a blog post writer for the program you apply for. I decided to apply as the blog post writer for the Paros program, and it ended up being an incredible way to capture my time there. I frequently go to the website and read my old posts along with the new adventures of students, and it makes me remember small details I had forgotten from my time there almost a year ago.
These experiences taught me so much about myself and my abilities. I left Greece not only knowing how to paint, but I also felt empowered. It was so liberating knowing I had traveled abroad alone for a month and thrived there. I am still in contact with three incredibly close friends I made while I was there, and painting is now one of my favorite stress relievers. Going abroad through Athena has also inspired me to go abroad again. I not only plan to apply to go to Nicaragua next summer, but I am also looking into applying for graduate school in England. I truly believe if it were not for Athena Study Abroad and the opportunities I had in Paros, I would not have the confidence or the drive to reach for these goals.

Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would
Year Completed