There has not been much coverage and media in the United States about the influx of refugees to the island that most of us were not even aware that this situation existed. At first, we did not know how to react but we were encouraged to realize that these people were just like us and that all they wanted was a better life.
We saw literally the world's most beautiful sunset. We got to ride donkeys, cook Greek food, learn Greek dances and hike to the top of volcanoes to see the beauty of Greece. Our surroundings we surreal. I never got used to it, and was amazed every single day; even when we were just at our hotel. We became a family and our little hotel, Votsala, was our home.
I learned more than I ever imagined, not only about Greece and the Island of Lesvos, but also about the Syrian refugees and myself. Never did I dream I would wake up to the cool breezes of the Aegean Sea coming in through my bedroom window, but this became a normal occurrence everywhere I went on this program.
. I knew the Greek economy was weak, but it wasn't until I saw people in line at every ATM in town, passed the rallies and protests led by the people my age, and talked to the store owners who couldn't even go to the banks to get change for their businesses that I began to feel the weight of the situation.
The experiences of living an everyday life in Greece are the moments that taught me the most and helped me understand their culture. This included things such as: experiencing the delicious, and large amount of food served during a Greek dinner, enjoying the simpler, slow paced life that people live in Greece, and dancing to traditional Greek music as a group.
In Turin, I witnessed the outcomes of hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics, and in Milan I attended the World Expo on sustainable food. At this mega event, I critically assessed the World Expo itself and the impacts on the city and people of Milan from hosting the five month tourist attraction.
There are many similarities between Mexican and Greek cultures, but if there is one thing that I will always remember from Greece, it would be the value of family. Everyone will have their own stories and experiences from studying abroad, but I feel like mine will be different because of my background. Being raised in a Mexican household prepared me for many of the traditions of Greek culture and allowed me to welcome its differences.
Although site seeing and learning about the history of Ancient Greek culture was fascinating, the most rewarding experience was when we volunteered at a local refugee camp ran by Non-Governmental Organizations.
A unique event that I did that highlights why studying abroad is better than study on campus was volunteering at a refugee camp. As you may know Greece is not only in a crisis financially which was really interesting to learn about and observe the hardships, but they also have an abundance of refugees coming from places such as Syria.
I found a new appreciation for my major and found more desire to learn and be the most I can be. I also learned that the American way, isn't always the best or right way and that there is validation in accepting other techniques.
I came into Greece not knowing anyone and left with friends that I will cherish for a very long time.
I truly believe that the education that I received while abroad has changed my life, for witnessing and learning about the effects of development and globalization in person is a very unique and valuable experience for a young university student.
Being an Art History major, Greece was one of the best places I could possibly go for a study abroad. With the amount of history that Greece has seen the amount of art and architecture is almost overwhelming.
One of the things that surprised me the most about Greece was that their history is literally everywhere. It was common to go to the beach and find that I was sitting on sherds of ancient pottery that had washed ashore, or to drive through a small town and see the ruins of an ancient temple.
At the bottom, a boat was waiting to take us on an adventure of volcano-sized proportions.
For me the best experience from this study abroad was when the group went and cleaned a campsite that was being used by a NGO to house refugees that were escaping from war torn countries into Greece.
If I wanted to make the most of this experience, I had to make the effort, leave my ideals, and hope for the best. It is about taking a risk. This study abroad has taught me if I want to truly become the best person I can be, I must be open minded. I must take a risk and hope for the best.
I packed certain aspects of this culture and the lessons it taught me to take home and keep with me forever.
The professors in charge of the program focused much of their energy trying to create an authentic experience for us. I believe that the program achieved that goal.
After visiting the study abroad fair on campus, I learned how Michigan State University really strives to expand the learning of students on various levels. The option to study abroad was not realistic for my situation, but with financial help and scholarships I made my dream come to life; study abroad in Greece.