A brief rundown of the difficulties the trip offered
The significance of what I learned in Greece
What I'm most proud of when it comes to this trip
One of our group photos at the Acropolis, courtesy of VCU Globe
Here we are, the last post in my collection about my experience in Athens. This post will be rather brief. Think of it as a way to tie a neat little bow on all the reflections I’ve made in the past nine posts. Let’s jump right into it.
As difficult as the experience was, I’m glad I went
At the Areopagus, next door to the Acropolis
I was physically exhausted, there was a variety of drama, the food made me sick, the WiFi was spotty, the metro was nightmarish, the ethnic homogeneity made me uncomfortable sometimes, most things were overpriced, bathrooms were disgusting, everything was uphill, a student stole my souvenir, my roommate canoodled in our bedroom when she thought I was asleep, many of us were emotionally on edge, our group of 30 broke a bus, the streets were crowded, and traffic was annoying, but I am so glad I went on that trip.
One new thing the trip offered: More pretty flowers to add to my collection.
The trip offered a lot of new things: Different group size, different trip goals, different relationship dynamics, different modes of transportation—all kinds of stuff—and within all that was an incredibly unique experience, one that offered a lot of learning. I learned more about the things I had seen in art history books, I learned about modern day Greece, I learned about the refugee crisis and what communities were doing to help.
I also learned about myself. I learned I don’t particularly care for Greek food, I learned more about my travel preferences (everything from lodgings to group size to activities), and I learned about my ideal way of helping others. I feel like the trip helped to flesh out my “spectrum of understanding” when it came to myself.
At the Acropolis Museum
I’m also proud that I actually went
This is a Moroccan dirham, which I acquired in 2017 during my first study abroad trip. I found it in my wallet while in Athens and I couldn’t help but reflect on the stark differences between my emotional preparedness during that trip vs. this one.
I was able to accept a unique opportunity, one that really relied on a bunch of random circumstances converging, a prime black & white example of preparedness meeting opportunity. Thing is, I’m always prepared in the ways people think when they imagine what preparedness looks like in relation to an opportunity emerging. People imagine things like academics, finances, time—the practical stuff—the stuff I’m always on top of. But what about being emotionally prepared? I feel as though that is the most important thing and it’s what I feel most proud about having accomplished.
When it came to my decision about accepting a spot on the trip, I was able to get out of my head. I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t overthink, I didn’t do a lengthy pros & cons list, and I didn’t freak out over the impromptu nature of the offer. I didn’t do any of the emotionally draining things I usually did before a trip—I didn’t have any moments of panic—I just did it, and that in itself was a huge accomplishment.
Being able to get out of my head and trying to get into his (having that it was the only thing left).
Very last thoughts
You know, this particular trip was a finalist for a GoAbroad People’s Choice award in 2018? That was pretty cool, and overall, it felt pretty cool to have been a part of something that was genuinely bigger than I was, something that felt “big picture” in a dozen different ways. As someone who tends to focus on the little details of a situation (be it a painting or a humanitarian crisis), I appreciate having been able to learn in an environment that forced me to soak in the experience with a wide view lens. So, to end, I think I’ll say that the best way to learn is through experience and that’s how I think of my time in Athens—a unique learning experience in a lot of different ways.
C’mon, I had to end with a photo of the Parthenon. It’s the grand gift box I’ve chosen to place all my reflections in.