Zoe Wildasin - 2015 Program Participant
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I knew going into school I wanted to take advantage of study abroad. I hadn't previously traveled outside the United States, and the idea of finding a home in a foreign country was exciting. I decided on Greece because of the beautiful landscape, rich history, and theatre roots.
Urban adventures in Athens
Why did you choose College Year in Athens (CYA)?
I chose CYA because of the hands-on/on-site learning in the city of Athens and across the country of Greece. In my time abroad with CYA, our entire program went on two week long trips, one to southern Greece and one to northern Greece, alongside our professors and staff.
What was your favorite part about Athens?
My favorite part about Athens was the people. Amidst an economic crisis, the people were so full of pride and wanting to share their culture with you.
What made your program experience unique?
Like I mentioned, the trips CYA takes students on are truly what make this program. On-site learning enhances the abroad experience in an immeasurable way.
Sunsets in Greece are always top-notch
What surprised you most about Athens?
I was most surprised with just how much the crisis has affected the people of Greece and everyday life in Athens, and I saw first hand just how much the city of Athens relies on tourism.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
CYA is the perfect combination of native Greek faculty/staff, Greek American born faculty/staff, and non-Greek faculty/staff, and it is through this mix that they are able to find just the assistance you need when you need it. The adjustment from life in the U.S. to Greece is a smooth one.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
CYA gives students the option to either live in apartments or live with a host family. I chose to live in an apartment, and although I loved my time there, I think that living with a host family could have been enriched by the culture 24/7.
Describe a day in the life of your program.
Classes at CYA run Monday thru Thursday. All of the apartments are relatively close to the school. On the way to your first class of the day, you may stop to grab a coffee and Spanakopita (spinach pastry) or Kouloria (sesame ring). Lunch is served in the cafeteria each day, Monday thru Friday, made fresh that day, and served up by the friendliest staff. Many students may return to apartments to do some homework before heading out to a late night dinner and some drinks after. Greeks typically don't eat dinner until after 8 p.m., so it leaves a lot of time for homework before hand.
What did you enjoy doing on your free time?
I loved in the warmer months taking the tram to the sea to lay out on the beach, tan, and read!
Quick morning snack before class
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
Like I said, I lived in an apartment with four other girls. We had a great kitchen stocked full with all the cooking tools and the apartment was cleaned once a week by a program provided cleaning lady. It was better than I could have ever imagined. It was great living side-by-side with native Greeks from the neighborhood.
How difficult was it to communicate with locals?
Almost everyone in big cities like Athens speak some English, and a good portion are fluent. Taking Greek through CYA definitely helped my ability to communicate though.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in Greece?
I did not plan for the weather very well. I was expecting a warmer climate, but January and February were quite cold.
Do you have any packing tips for students headed to Athens?
Layers are always a good idea, and of course your best swimsuit for the warmer months.
Now that you're home, how has studying abroad impacted your life?
Being in Greece during the economic crisis, political conflict, and the extreme influx of refugees, my world view was certainly enhanced and broadened.
What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?
Exposure of any kind. Different foods, languages, religions, ideologies
Finding beauty all over the country
Would you recommend College Year in Athens to other students?
If you could study abroad again, where would you go?
I would definitely chose a program on another continent - perhaps Egypt or Morocco.