Katt Lage - 2015 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I am studying international studies and always knew that I wanted to study abroad and travel to as many places as I could afford.

Why did you choose to study abroad in Greece with AIFS?

My family is from Greece and I have always felt compelled to travel to the land of my ancestors. AIFS was the only program approved by my university that traveled to Greece, and I heard nothing but positive reviews about the organization.

What was your favorite part about Greece?

The food and people in Greece are the small aspects of the country that make it fabulous. The history of Athens and Greece as a whole will keep any student enthralled with the architecture and complexity of the city.

Temple of Zeus in Athens, Greece
Temple of Zeus

What made your study abroad experience unique?

The hands on help that AIFS provided allowed for a truly unique experience. By having a local staff member helping me in the country, I felt completely comfortable and supported while in Greece.

In what ways did the local staff support you throughout your program?

Alice was able to take us to see unique sites that we otherwise would never have been able to experience.

We were able to learn about the cultural norms of Greece as well as the hidden spots that made the experience truly one of a kind.

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

I wish I would have spent more weekends exploring the various cities of Greece, instead of traveling to the various countries that I went to. I do not regret the countries I was able to see, but I wish I would have seen more of Greece.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Life in Greece is always filled with adventure. A typical day included going to class, working out in the workout room on campus, and walking up and down the main street of Aghia Paraskevi. Every day was different, but everyday included amazing food and great company among the local students.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoyed exploring Athens during my free time. There were so many different areas to explore that no road would take you to a similar site.

What surprised you most about Athens?

What surprised me most about Athens was how truly tied to their ancestry the city and the people are. Around every turn there are ruins, and the metro even has miniature archaeological museums of the discovery found while digging in the city.

The city of Athens was surprisingly easy to navigate despite the amount of streets, buildings, and people there were in the city. It truly surprised me how walking from one street to another proved to be like entering a new city. Each turn led to another adventure and a chance to discover your new favorite slovaki shop!

Sunset in Athens, Greece
View of Athens

What was your accommodation like?

The dorms were wonderful. There were four girls in two rooms sharing a bathroom and a kitchen. The rooms were small, but perfect for study abroad. The facilities were clean and the RA's were incredibly nice and understanding.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

Communication with the locals was easier than expected. Most Greeks speak at least basic English, and those that do not speak English tried their hardest to help the lost Americans. The most difficult part of communicating was trying to pronounce the name of the street where the student dorms were located, but as long as you know where you are going there was hardly ever any issues.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Knowing a little of the Greek language would help, but learning as you go is also a good way to measure your progress. Also, personal hygiene products for women should be brought with you; they are expensive and hard to find in Athens.

Do you have any other packing tips for individuals headed to Athens?

Bring an open mind. There are many adventures in Greece and, therefore, you don't need to bring that much stuff with you, because you can purchase almost anything within the country. But, do bring female hygiene products and a camera.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in Greece?

I wish I had known that I could stay for more than one semester. I truly wish that I would have stayed for the summer to work on the language and explore the islands. I got so taken away by the other countries of Europe that I forgot to enjoy being in Greece. I wish I had looked into traveling within the country, because I would have been able to see a lot more had I known how to get around.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part about studying abroad is returning home to the monotony of classes and work. Studying abroad forces you to think with a different part of your brain and use all the survival skills that you’ve learned through years of independent self discovery.

You become an adventurer with little ties to home when you go abroad, and that causes one to truly grow as a person when in another country.

But then you have to return home to a place where people know your name, speak the same language as you, and most likely haven't been abroad. It's hard because you've experienced so many incredible and life changing things, and yet people don't want to listen to you, so you have to bottle up all the experiences and eventually all you want to do is return to the country, because there you were someone that you never knew you could be.

Now that you're home, how has studying abroad impacted your life?

Studying abroad has inspired me to travel more and see more while learning more languages. All people should study abroad and all people should travel to Greece. I cannot explain coherently all the ways that studying abroad has impacted my life, but studying abroad does change the way that you view the world.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?

The biggest benefit of studying abroad is being able to connect with more people. I have found it to be increasingly easier to start a conversation with someone when I understand the country they are from or have traveled to a country they have been to. Most people respond positively to me when I say "I lived in Athens for five months..." because they either have traveled to Greece, want to travel to Greece, or know someone that has been to Greece. The greatest feeling is being able to say that you know a place that most people only dream about.

Studying abroad also opens your eyes to conditions and people outside of the United States. Understanding the various political climates and turmoil in other parts of the world would truly help a lot of people that are terrified of places that they do not understand.

Would you recommend AIFS to others? Why?

Yes, AIFS provided everything that any student could hope to have while studying abroad. Greece is a great and welcoming country to study in, and I highly recommend more students to consider Greece when choosing to study abroad.

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

In addition to Greece, I have studied abroad in Ecuador and Thailand. So, I would probably want to go to a country in Africa to experience another continent.