When I arrived in Athens, my expectation was that throughout the program there would be time to enjoy the program and also to enjoy the beach. In Athens, the beach is just half an hour away from Pagkrati by tram. It’s a quick ride that takes to the waterfront where there are many restaurants like Eden where authentic Greek food is available for a reasonable price and the service is excellent. If you are one of those who don’t like quick trips and packing every day to move from one city to the other, staying in Athens is not a waste of time.
I chose to live on a homestay because my initial goal was to make local friends. My host parents were fantastic. They were there for me to help me with homework, to go shopping, and to spend some quality time on the weekends. Regardless of their agenda, my host mother was always trying to tell me what was on theaters, where to go during the weekends and she also introduced me to friends of hers including one girl my age that was a student at CYA in the past. I felt safe with them and the amenities that came with a host family impressed me. I learned how to use the transportation in Athens and became the go to person to give directions to other students on how to get to many places in town. I discovered that the new public library in Athens offers more things to do on the weekends then I could fit on my schedule. I took sailing lessons there. It sounds strange to take sailing lessons at a library, I know… It’s a unique place and they host concerts among many other things.
I decided to spend a year in Athens because my traveling experiences are longer than what is common. I didn’t get bored… My friends took me to the Acropolis, I went with my friends to the top of the city for souvlaki, another friend and I had breakfast the Acropolis Museum’s café and even though Cape Sounion – where the temple of Poseidon is located – is a bit far for an afternoon trip I went there a few times; during the summer, I spent the day at the beach using the infrastructure of a local hotel where we had a bar, restrooms and chairs to tan. Athens has so many movie theaters… Watching Café Society by Woody Allen in an open-air theater called Cine Paris was quite remarkable. We were on a large group and took almost a whole row.
At first my academics looked boring. I had to choose one course to fill in my schedule and it looked like it was going be a hassle to sit there and study a way of life. I came to class skeptical to anything I could learn. It turned out to be my favorite course. Coming to Athens to study the past is a common thing; learning about contemporary culture like graffiti that is such a strong icon in Athens, burial rituals and even musical movements changed my understanding of Athens. We didn’t practice any burial ritual but we went to a cemetery to see an ossuary (part of Greek culture for millennia); I looked at graffiti with my classmates where it is more vibrant in town. It was truly a good way to engage with a city knowing some details about Greek culture that before many other students it would go unnoticed. Athens is wonderful. If you are thinking about a city to spend a semester, or a year like I did, it will surprise you. I don’t want to spoil the surprise and tell you about the trips around the country. What I can tell you is that Greece is way more than the little islands with white houses. Thanks to my anthropology professor and to the wonderful staff that organizes the trips across the country, now I know that.