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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Sushmeena in Greece

Sushmeena Parihar ’20 is a Psychology major studying at The American College of Greece in Aghia Paraskevi.

Yassas! This week marks my one month anniversary of being here at The American College of Greece in Aghia Paraskevi - a suburb near Athens. I live in housing provided by the college, which are apartments that are a quick 15-minute hike away from the college campus. The apartment itself is like any other, and ACG was kind enough to provide us with basic groceries, utensils and cutlery. My favourite part of the housing is that each room in the apartment has its own balcony with a view to die for. Each residential building also comes with a mini gym, common lobby and free laundry! At the college, I’m taking 5 courses. The classes aren’t structured too different from those in the USA, but they do require you to be a lot more independent outside the classroom since there’s way less hand-holding when it comes to assignments/submissions and exams. However, one of the biggest learning experience I’ve ! had here is not so much an academic one, but rather a life lesson. To put it simply, Greeks are as loving as it gets. For a country where the majority speaks Greek, they don’t expect you to come in knowing the language. They don’t require a proficiency certificate or entrance tests with high scores to prove you will survive in their Greek-speaking country. When you try and communicate with the few words you do know in Greek they smile wide in appreciation of your effort to adapt and are truly patient with you when you struggle to get your point across. To give you an example of their kindness, on my third day of being here and only knowing how to say thank you in Greek, I got lost on a mountain after sundown. There was no one around me and I definitely wasn’t near the base. As I panicked and ran around to see if I could find someone who could help me, I came across two Greek boys. Fortunately for me one of them understood English. They explained to me that somehow I e! nded up on the opposite side of the mountain from where my tow! n was located. Watching my panic level visibly increase, they were quick to offer to walk me down to the base of the mountain and to the closest bus station. While on our way they explained to me that they lived in one of the houses on the mountain and were just on their way home. This made me feel extremely guilty and I asked them how I could repay them for the inconvenience I’ve caused them, to which they replied saying “repay us for what? We’ve done nothing special” and even after insisting time and again, their reply didn’t change. They walked me to the bus station and waited till I got on the bus. I don’t know their names and haven’t seen them since, but if it wasn’t for them I would’ve never made it back to my apartment that night. Other instances include times when locals have helped me locate which bus stop I need to get off on as I cluelessly stare at the scheduled stops displayed in Greek, or times when my Greek classmates have been quick to befr! iend us study abroad kids and shower their love through tight hugs and big portions of souvlaki. My point being, Greeks have a plethora of love to give, and they don’t discriminate in whom they’re giving this love to. Through my time here I’ve learned how to open my heart and be kinder to all. Their pure hearts have helped me reap the benefits of living and growing in an environment where there’s an abundance of positivity around you, and that’s moved me to try and do the same for the people I come across in my life. I would like to thank Lake Forest College and my donors for giving me the Suzanne T. Hotchkiss Foreign Travel grant, for without them none of this would’ve been possible. I would also like to specifically thank the study abroad office at Deree for being ever so patient with me while I worked out my visa issues. I may have gotten here a week late, but I fit right in because of your thankless efforts.