Jayde Hansen - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

The hunger to break my routine. I hit a point in my college career where I thought, “Is this it? Do I just get a degree and continue on with a career?” I wanted to see new things, meet new people, and begin to experience my life in a different way. I was scrolling on my Instagram feed and I saw someone mention they were going to study abroad for a week; I thought to myself “This is exactly what I’m looking for. I’m going for it.” That same day I contacted my school only to find out that I called at the perfect time to attend orientation within the next two hours. That day, I chose Greece. It was my only choice.

River view in Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich, Switzerland

Why did you choose ISA (International Studies Abroad)?

I chose ISA because I liked the idea of not having to arrange the details of my trip. I didn’t want the stress of figuring out where I would live or how I would meet new people my first time going to Europe. ISA was the perfect fit for me because I was able to pay for my schooling through them as well as take multiple historic and pleasurable trips that I otherwise may have spent much more money on or hadn’t known about had I went solo. I wanted to make my trip as smooth and as relaxing as I could.

What was your favorite part about Greece?

My favorite part of my host country was the culture. Greece is very different from a lot of the other European countries. Most activities, dishes, and events revolve around Greek culture. I also met amazing people along the way. I’ll definitely miss the small connections I was able to make with total strangers. Though there was a language barrier, simple smiles and common courtesy made me feel so welcomed. I began to get used to the people I met at the local cafes and eateries.

What made your experience abroad unique?

Documenting! Throughout my experience I intentionally made videos and took photos to always have visual memories of my time abroad. Though I could always go back to those places, I’ll never get those moments back. The freshness of being on land that I had only imagined and dreamed of.

Mountain view in Delphi, Greece
Delphi, Greece

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff was amazing! Though I never particularly got home sick, the staff were very supportive and open to helping the students any way they could. I believe the reason I didn’t feel homesick was because I had the comfort of knowing that, in the case of emergency, there were people I could call who would be there to help me at the drop of a dime.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I have absolutely no regrets, but I wish I would have listened to my parents and staff when they talked about pickpocketing. As a young adult, I feel like sometimes we have this idea that we are invincible. The reality is people who live in a particular area have more experience or know better than we do. My motto is: if you know better, you do better. After going through the experience of being pickpocketed, I realize how much it could have been avoided had I kept my valuables closer.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

A typical day in the life for me was school from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., during the week. Of course not everyone's schedule was so long, but because of the classes I needed, I had no choice but to take evening classes. In the mornings, I would wake up and go get coffee from one of the coffee shops within walking distance, and most times I added a treat to go along with it. In Greek culture, people start and end their day later than Americans, so I quickly became a night owl. Once I got back to my apartment, I would cook dinner or go to a local taverna for a nice Greek meal.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Anything that involved being outside was for me. I enjoyed simply exploring. I remember a friend and I would just go on walks and soak up the scenery, nothing extravagant. I did a lot of traveling. Every weekend, except two or three, I was in a different country. You quickly learn how cheap it is to travel throughout Europe once you are there. I also did a ton of blogging; writing was the easiest way for me to capture and express how I felt at that very moment.

Bread market in London, England
London, England

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I chose a one bedroom single room, for comfort purposes. I think it’s important to choose something that is going to give you the most room to be yourself. In the past, I have preferred not to have roommates. However, all of the study abroad students stayed in one apartment building, which was super convenient. Even though I had my own room, I never felt alone.

Our housing was also close to a grocery store and the bus stop, so getting necessities and traveling was very easy and convenient. For transportation to and from campus, there was a bus only for study abroad students. The only downfall was the inconvenient times. For transportation to campus, the timing was central to all schedules. For the return bus, the lack of frequency caused us to spend hours on campus until the next bus arrived.

What is one thing every participant should know before studying abroad in Greece?

Be available and ready for discomfort, in the best way possible. Studying abroad is not for those who enjoy their regular day to day living. With language and cultural barriers, there has to be some adjustment done on your part. I would say to be very open to everything that can be experienced.

Meet people, become very acquainted with your surroundings, and take a moment to enjoy where you are every second you get.
Colorful building in Thessaloniki, Greece
Thessaloniki, Greece

Has your time abroad impacted your life at home?

Absolutely. I don’t look at my life the same anymore. I now often am able to relate to things that happen on the other side of the world and have become more knowledgeable. I even look at my own culture differently. Now, when I see someone from a different country, I can put myself in their shoes, because I’ve been in their shoes. I have also developed a sense of bravery. Things that I use to be scared of doing, I now am able to just throw myself at, whether I fail or succeed. While abroad, I failed a lot, but I succeeded as well. I also took risks more than ever. Studying abroad has taught me to take risks, because that is when we discover what we’re truly made of.

Would you recommend ISA’s program in Greece to others? Why?

I would definitely recommend my program to others. It’s an easy way to experience a new place, but not be thrown into it. While we did a lot of things independently, there was sort of an initial safety net that allowed us to have others to contact in case we needed anything. The staff throughout myself experience were also very helpful, both in the states and abroad.