My first impression of Greece was “Wow, this looks like home.” The airport in Santorini is up on a cliff and looks a lot like the Sonoran Desert at home in Arizona, except with an ocean view. It was so funny that I had to take a picture. It was at that moment that I realized that I’d turned my cell service off to not be cahrged international roaming, and not use up my small international plan that I’d bought. I was so excited when I landed. I was finally in a place I’d dreamed about visiting since elementary school when I read my first book of Greek myths. I was surprised that I didn’t need to go through customs at the airport when we arrived. Apparently, when entering a member country of the EU you go through customs at the first member airport you land in, in my case Zurich, not at your final destination.
The views and the food are unreal. The food is so much less expensive than in the states and can be healthier too. There are fruit stands everywhere, as well as ice cream shops and bakeries. All of the food was fantastic and not overly processed unless you wanted it.
My program is a class that travels all around Greece to all the major sites like Athens, Olympia, and Delpi among others. In the mornings we travel to the site for the day and lecture there while perched on rocks, stairs, or anywhere else we can find. Then we tour the sites and their museums learning about some of the artifacts and taking photos for our journal assignments.
For the most parts in major tourist locations the locals speak some English, and if you know enough basic phrases you can ask for help easily. Otherwise if you have a map or a menu they usually include Greek and English side by side and pointing to what you want after a few attempts takes care of that easily. That being said there were several times that having a professor and one other student that spoke Greek helped tremendously. In all the making of an attempt to speak Greek goes a long way, even if it’s something as simple as good morning.
It’s important while abroad to have a plan for dealing with dirty and clean clothes. If you are traveling constantly, like I am, find a way to sperate the clean from the dirty so that packing and unpacking becomes easier. If you see a souvenir you like, buy it. If you’re in one place long enough you can shop around or haggle for a better price; but if you’re constantly moving try to buy it when you find it. There’s no garantee the next place will have it. Also try to keep customs and the space in your bag in mind. That massive statue might be awsome but if it’s the only thing that will fit in your suitcase maybe you should look for it on a smaller scale. Remember that chances are you’ll need to haul this thing through an airport and jetlag only makes your bag heavier. I can’t believe it’s almost over. Sure I’ve missed a strong wifi signal or strong cell phone service, but the lack of these things can help you bond as a group. That said, I’ve found that the old addage “Guests, like fish, start to stink after three days.” certainly holds true. If you’re always surrounded by the same people their little eccentricities may start to get to you. Try to be patient and work past it. No one likes to be ostracized from the group or left out of activities. The Golden Rule especially applies here. You don’t have to LOVE your classmates, roommates, or tripmates; you just have to keep trying at a minimum. Lastly, just remember that each person you interact with may have different mannerisms and habits than you do and it’s best not to judge unless you want the same treatment.