A Summer in Greece: A Singular Experience that Changed Everything Past Review

By (M.A. in History and Anthropology, Ball State University) for

KIIS: Greece - Experience Greece, Summer Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
"Was your study abroad experience worthwhile?" This just seems like such a strange question, because it feels so silly. My experience abroad did three very distinct things for me: First, it allowed me to pursue a line of education that was not offered at my undergraduate university. While abroad, I was able to take courses in Ancient Greek Literature and Early Greek Religion. My undergraduate university did not offer classics, so I was able to use my study abroad experience as an opportunity to fill the gaps in my education. I did not have to change universities to accomplish this. I actually got to do something better: go and experience it. Second, it allowed me to truly experience history - for it to come alive for me. Being in Greece, surrounded by the natural beauty that inspired or acted as the background for the great works we read for our literature course and being able to visualize the myths of our religion course in their setting, was something wholly different from simply reading about it in a classroom. When I reached the summit of the Acropolis, I felt overwhelmed. In that moment, history became real for me - not some abstract thing that I tried to learn about or understand through secondhand accounts. Finally, studying abroad put me in the path of people who helped influence my professional career and solidified my desire to achieve a Master's in History. I would not be where I am today without that experience abroad. In Greece, I connected with three wonderful professors, all who teach at Ball State University. I had never heard of Ball State before this trip, yet now I am pursuing my M.A. in History there, with a wonderful set of faculty. Further, those same professors wrote my recommendations for graduate school and graduate assistantships, and they are always assisting me in advancing my career. Study abroad was, singularly, the greatest experience of my life. I made lifelong friends, professional connections, and I have a set of experiences and impressions from a culture outside of my own - while gives me a different perspective as I look at the world around me.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload for my program - while challenging - was very balanced. The professors wanted us to go out and experience the culture and history we were studying, so they always made sure we had plenty of time to do just that. They also always made a point to give lectures on site - whether it was the Acropolis or the museum at Delphi. I think this was my favorite part of the educational aspect of my study abroad experience. We weren't learning something in a cold, sterile classroom. We were sitting in the ancient theaters, walking along the same roads as the Olympians and other peoples from our history books, seeing the same majesty that inspired them to write what we call "Classical literature." History came alive on this trip... Our work was primarily reading and writing. There were a few reading quizes, but if you had read the material, they were no problem.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our program directors, Dr. King and Dr. Shea, have been leading this program for over a decade. They knew exactly where we were going, how to interact with the locals - some of whom they knew by name - and how to plan our experience. It was the perfect balance between academic inquiry, experiental journies, and unforgettable experiences. When they would stop to give short lecture at the theater of Dionysus or the ruins at Delos, other independent travelers and tour groups would come to hear what they were saying. I remember distinctly that at the theater of Epidarus, I had a young lady sit next to me. She was visiting Greece with her famiyl from Australia. She chose to come and sit with us because our "guides" seemed more knowledgeable that her dad's tour book. My expectationd for what my directors would do for us were exceeded at every turn. I actually had a birthday while we were in Greece, which made me miss home. My professors treated me to a "real" Greek lunch (lamb) and we got to know each other. We're actually still very close and get together for dinner about once a month - even though I did not know them at all before this trip.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

You travel a lot on this program. But I wouldn't have it any other way! I got to stay in so many beautiful hotels on the islands - and our mainland accomidations were always well situated within the city we were visiting. Typically, our classes were located at the rooftop garden, the poolside tables, ferry, or ruins - so they were never "inconvenient" to get to. We were usually right there - just up or down a few stairs and you were in class. Another great thing about this trip is you don't need to bring anything extra - like towels or sheets. Since you're always in hotels, that is provided.

* Food:

Greek food. That's all I have to say. Gyros, gelato, kibabs, pizza, carbonara, fresh fruits, nutella every morning and GREAT wine every night if you chose! Everything I had on this trip was delicious! And I was worried before we left because I do have some issues with my iron levels, so I was concerned I wouldn't get enough balanced meals - but I didn't have any problems on the trip. There are vegetables in everyhting - and you can get good (lean) meat most everywhere you go. One of my friends on this trip was a vegetarian, and she never really had a problem finding something to eat (though I do think she was getting tired of some of the "same old things" by the time it was over).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We saw "Nora" - the opera - performed at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, just below the Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens. It was BEAUTIFUL! I didn't understand any of it, so during the intermission, our professor whipped out her Kindle and let us read the play. Another memorable experience was walking through Athens with one of my friends - a redhead with an epic beard - and a man stopped us on the street and said "Hello, my friend. GREAT beard!!" and kept walking. A WEEK LATER! We were back in Athens and saw the same man, who stopped and talked to us for abotu 20 minutes. He asked us how we liked Greece, asked where we'd been, etc. It was great. Then he told us that "foreigners", by which I'm assuming he meant the Turkish immigrants, were responsible for Greece's ecomonic crisis. Then the conversation just sort of stopped and we went on our way. It was certainly an interesting encounter. The most memorable experience I had on this trip was Mystras. I went with a friend (the "Great Beard" guy) to visit Sparta. I was so excited! Honestly, I was thinking about 300 and other warrior films...but then when we got there, it was just a boring little town. So we were about to just go back when my friend saw Mystras on the bus schedule. I had never heard of it, but agreed to go. IT. WAS. AMAZING!!! I took almost 300 pictures in the span of a few hours. The views were incredible! The ruins were just breathtaking...It rained most of the way up - and it took us almost 3 hours to climb the fortress, but I have never had more of a sense of "totally worth it" as I did when I reached the summit. But that wasn't even the end! We had to RUN back down the fortress because we were going to miss the last bus back to Tripoli - which was were we had to meet a second bus to get to Nauplion, where we were staying. We ran, but we knew we weren't going to make it, so we slowed to a walk. I'm sure we looked so defeated just walking through the rain...then a car came by and asked if we wanted a ride. I was overjoyed - then my friend told them we were fine, and they started to drive away. I wanted to push him off the road! The car drove about a dozen yards, and then they reversed back to us. It was a couple from Spain. When they asked again if we wanted a ride, I accepted for us. We rode with them to teh bus station. In exchange for their kindness, we shared our experiences with them. They were just starting their trip, so we gave them advice about places to see, skip, etc. We caught our bus to Tripoli - and just in time! When we got to Tripoli though...the connecting bus wasn't coming. They were on strike. I was so dumbfounded. I didn't know what we were going to do...Then one of the men at the restaurant across the road came over and told us his cousin was a taxi driver. He knew we were stuck, so he offered us a ride (almost 1 hour) for a discounted price!! Ah, it was so great! (Even though I was worried he was going to kill us on the ride back...Greek taxi drivers are a bit...excentric!) But we made it back and we had a story that no one else on the trip could top! It was so, so wonderful!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I thought the health isssues were well addressed. I did get sick on the program. My professors gave me one day to see if it was just something I ate, and then they stepped in - helping me get access to medicine and food I could handle. I was better in a few days - and did not have to be sent home, which was what I was afraid of. Safety...I never felt I was in danger while I was in Greece. However, there were protests while we were there - and that had my family back home concerned. What they didn't understand - and I didn't know until we got there - is that the protests and strikes are planned in advance (so you can always find alternate transportation if, say, the trains are on strike because you know a few days in advance) and the demonstrations are localized to one area of the city. So they are easy to avoid.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Hotel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Professors/Directors
  • Food (it's just so good...)
  • Experiential Education
* What could be improved?
  • I really cannot think of anything
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? If you get a chance to go somewhere - even if it's not on the itinerary for the trip - GO! I would personally recommend Mystras. It was a one-day trip and friend and I took from Nauplion. It was AMAZING! Don't be afraid to talkt to people - especially those that appear to be about college age. Most of them speak English and would love a chance to practice/show off their abilities with the language. For goodness sake, just don't be a stupid American. I'm sorry - but it does need to be said. Our directors are there as professors, not babysitters. So don't go get trashed at a bar and go back to a strange hotel. Don't flash you're money around unless you want to get pick-pocketed. Don't start complaining about or bashing the country you're visting, assuming no one can understand you. As I said, many of them do speak English.