Aristotle said, “The energy of the mind is the essence of life,” and nothing will feed your energy like study abroad in Greece. This beautiful country is a land where myths come to life against a background of bright blue water and stark white stone. Its location, at the junction of three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa), makes Greece an incredible place for international studies. With over 6,000 islands to discover, 3,000 years of history to explore, and the birthplace of western civilization to immerse yourself in, Greece packs a punch when it comes to study abroad; and, luckily, you don’t have to run a marathon to be eligible for study abroad in Greece.
From its capital in Athens to the island of Knossos, Greece has an incredible topography that offers a huge variety of cities, beaches, mountains, and climates. In the south, you’ll find the Mediterranean Sea dotted with islands that have the most picturesque beaches imaginable (yeah, we stand by that statement!). In the north, you’ll find winters that are a force to be reckoned with. Most universities are located in Athens, and as such, it is the most popular place for international students to study in Greece; however, there are other cities that offer more uniquely-Greek experiences as well.
Athens, Greece’s capital and largest city, is an inviting place full of temples, theatres, and modern conveniences. With the recent economic downturn that has plagued the nation, few cities were visibly hit harder than Athens. What has emerged in the aftermath is a grungy, artsy, tough-as-nails-city; a good fit for the renegade student. As the metropolis is both ancient and modern, it’s a great place to study in Greece if you want to experience immersion and diversity.
From the famed Archeological Museum to the Church of Agio Dimitrios, the city of Thessaloniki is a thriving, slightly chaotic, city that lets you step into the pages of Greek history. There are a number of universities in Thessaloniki that will allow students to study whatever they wish, while also offering access to historical and cultural sites from the Byzantine and Classic Greek periods. With pristine beaches, an incredible social life, and a crazy, yet delicate, mixture of ancient and modern, Thessaloniki is a great option for study abroad in Greece for those who desire the city life without the tourist crowds.
Away from mainland Greece lies the island and town of Rhodes. It’s the perfect place to put yourself in a time capsule and travel back to the Medieval ages, a contrast of Italian and Ottoman architecture are trapped in Old Town Rhodes. In contrast, New Town Rhodes boasts upscale hotels and shops that will take you back to the modern era and let you lounge in the lap of luxury. While the town itself is small, there are several program options available that offer a non-traditional experience to set you apart from your study abroad peers.
Study Abroad Programs in Greece
Due to its incredibly wide array of sites, cities, and universities, Greece has an abundance of options when it comes to choosing which course you’d like to take. Students will often choose to take courses that play to Greece’s strengths, such as philosophy and political science.
What’s the first word that pops into your mind when someone says Greece? For us, it’s history. At Greek universities there are so many history classes that it’s possible for students to really focus in on a period that interests them, and the same goes for study abroad programs in Greece. Classical or Hellenic classes are great options as field trips can be taken to the many ancient ruins that only exist in Greece. If you are interested in history, you should also check out courses in archaeology as well.
As the birthplace of tragedy and comedy, Greece also boasts some of the most interesting theater and drama classes in the world. With excursions to 3rd Century B.C. theaters and access to plays in traditional Greek amphitheaters, it’s tough not to feel the thrill of the stage. Due to its importance in Greek culture, there are quite a few different options for students to choose from, and it’s possible to earn multiple credits in fine arts if you study abroad in Greece.
Scholarships & Costs
Whether you want to book a mini sailing trip to the Mediterranean, buy a meal in a traditional Greek street market, or lounge with a drink on a beach, Greece can sneakily eat away at even the most carefully-planned budgets. Research what you want to do outside the classroom beforehand, and know exactly what’s included in your program as many study abroad organizations in Greece offer cultural excursions. And who wants to go climb Mt. Olympus twice?
There are plenty of scholarships available for those who choose to study abroad in Greece, with many specifically for students interested in historical or archaeological research. There are also scholarships available that are sponsored by Greek universities which can cover almost the entire program price! Don’t forget to ask your program advisor about the kind of discounts they offer, as some providers offer small but easy financial aid opportunities.
Greece is part of the European Union, and therefore uses the Euro as its currency. If you’re really on a budget, try to choose a study abroad program in Greece during one of the “shoulder” seasons, such as autumn or winter. An average meal will typically cost around €10, but there are cheaper options available at market stalls and street food stands. Carry your student ID with you everywhere, as there are some great deals not only on grub and entertainment, but on fancy historical sites as well.
Accommodation & Visas
One of the most important parts about planning your study abroad trip is choosing what type of housing you’ll live in while overseas. Thankfully, Greece has every type of housing available. If you’re looking to get that truly “Big Fat Greek” semester abroad, then consider staying with a host family, which will offer the most immersive experience (and the most tasty, considering all of the home-cooked meals). However, there are also independent housing options available for those not comfortable living with a local family, including dormitories and apartments, which can be rented solo or shared with other students.
Visas required for international students to study in Greece depend on your country of origin and the length of your stay, but in general visas for students won’t require much. For most nationalities, Greece gives out free 90-day visas that usually cover the duration of study abroad programs. If you’re planning on studying in Greece for a semester or year, check with your program advisor to see what kind of visa you’ll need, and visit GoAbroad’s Greek Embassy directory to locate an embassy closest to you.
Benefits & Challenges
It can be a Herculean effort to fit in. Due to its ever-important place in world history, its make-all-your-friends-jealous beaches, and its open culture, Greece is a mega-destination for tourists. This can be off-putting for some study abroad students, as it can be hard to integrate in a place specifically geared for short term travelers.
Remember: the Greek experience is what you make it. Don’t let the thriving tourism of Greece get you down; get off the beaten path, ask locals for insider tips on which exhibition to attend, which gyro to taste, and which neighborhood to call your new home. The more integrated you become, the less you’ll rely on your Lonely Planet and the more you’ll find the hidden places and adventures that make study abroad in Greece so magical (with the help of Pegasus, of course).
Greeks are social beings. Their families are extended and they are quick to welcome in newcomers, whether for a coffee, a shot of ouzo, a chorus on the bouzouki, or a heated debate. Greeks are passionate, and this passion continues to drive society forward despite the recent economic turmoil. Life is lived to the fullest, even at the most difficult of times, and herein lies the secret of how a country, seemingly riddled with challenges, is full of people who remain so in love with life.
So, go study abroad in Greece, love life, fill your tummy full of feta with olives, and become Greek yourself.