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Out of the nearly 3,000 pictures I have from my four months in Greece, I think the one above represents my experience the best. It was taken on Lykavittos Hill, the highest point of Athens, rising 910 feet above the city. As we were nearing the end of our time studying abroad, the other international students and I realized we had yet to make the venture to the top of Lykavittos Hill. As this was one of the top attractions in Athens (and an item on our Bucket List), we knew we would have to make it a priority. About a week before everyone was scheduled to leave for home, we decided to make our way to the hill. I made the trek with five of some my closest friends that I had met during my time studying abroad. Every step we took towards the peak, we became more and more astonished by the view. On the top of the peak we found the small whitewashed chapel of Agios Georgios (St. George). We also had the privilege of watching the nightly ritual of the Greek flag being taken down by members of the Greek National Guard. We strategically planned our trip so that we would reach the top of the hill in enough time to see the sun set over the city that we had called home for the past four months. We were taken back by how incredibly quiet it was up there compared to the hustle and bustle of the city below us. Everyone became silent as they looked over the observation deck and onto the breathtaking view of the city. It brought back so many memories of everything we had done and all sights we had seen along the way. As we scanned the horizon we could see the famous Acropolis, which we had explored multiple times with the various friends and family members that had come to visit us. We had a clear view of the open air amphitheater, the Parliament building, and the Temple of Zeus, where so much history had been made. Our footsteps had made their mark on the same grounds as the ancient Greeks of the 6th Century BC. We could see the mountains surrounding Athens and the Mediterranean Sea in the distance. If we looked closely we could even see the ships in the port of Piraeus where we had docked for our ferry rides to the Aegean Islands. Not only could we see all of Athens, but we could see four months’ worth of memories that were spread out across the historical landscape. Every museum we visited, each ancient monument we toured, and all the shopping, dining, and adventures I had with my new-found friends became the stories I will tell forever and hold close to my heart as the best experiences of my life. I have the Northwest Study Abroad Office and its faculty to thank for this. They helped make this process as beneficial and rewarding as possible. Best of all, they introduced me to the Missouri-Greece program which allowed me to have the best learning experience of my college career, meet life-long friends from around the world, and see places and things that I would have never thought were possible in my lifetime. I thank them for this extraordinary opportunity and would highly recommend the Missouri-Greece Program to anyone who is interested in having a meaningful study abroad experience.
In the summer of 2012 I studied abroad at Central University in Hyderabad India, I have been to many other countries but never to this part of the world so my heart and my mind was wide open for learning and discovering. Upon arrival I lived in a house on campus with other international students and bonded quickly with several of them, it was great to see students having the same passion of culture and travel like I did. During the day time I would be in class taking the language of “Hindi” and “Culture and History of India.” The classes were extremely rewarding and I was surprised how much about a different country and language I could learn in a short time of a summer break. I loved the food and the clothing and the genuine love I felt from the people, especially the woman and children I met in this amazing country. India has so much history and I wanted to experience it all. On the weekends when we didn’t’ have class I would spend my time traveling to Goa, Delhi, and Agra to see the amazing Taj Mahal and I soaked up every moment. I learned to eat healthy, enjoy the simple things like music and conversation at dinner and how to bargain down my price at the Bazar (English translations: Market).
One of my favorite parts of India was the extracurricular mission work I was able to do within a few orphanages in Hyderabad. I have been on mission trips out of the country before to Haiti and Panama but prior to entering India I wasn’t sure if I would have the time or resources to be able to reach out how I wanted to. I learned about a few orphanages after being in India for about a week and knew that I had to visit them. After my classes in the morning I would spend my afternoons speaking Hindi with orphans, playing and loving these beautiful kids who would enjoy anything from a smile, to patty cake, and felt spoiled to be held by me. I wanted to bring every single one of them home with me and fell in love with all of them individually. Upon return to the United States these kids have never left my heart and I have sent them boxes of toys and bubbles (they had never seen bubbles before I brought some). In a way I felt that the kids gave more to me then I could ever give to them, I do and will always love them.
Traveling was always a dream of mine. However, I grew up in a town of less than 300 hundred rural Missourians and never imagined that I would travel very far until well into adulthood. This all changed during my first semester here at Northwest. A study abroad trip to Italy and Greece was presented to my freshmen seminar class at the very beginning of the year. I was amazed- these were the very two countries that I had always wanted to go to! Less than two years later I was on a plane with 25 strangers heading into what turned out to be the most amazing experience of my life.
You never know exactly what to expect when you actually get to a foreign country. Sure you can try to prepare, have all your documents in order, and do a little research but there is no way to expect what you will see and feel. Rome was overwhelming. Everyone was busy; half locals, half tourists, all rushing through the crowds and going about their days. Rome was intensely fast paced- everyone was always moving, shouting, never stopping. Greece was just the opposite. The pace there was leisurely; it was obvious that the Greeks were content with their lives. It would be hard not to be content in Greece- it was by far the most beautiful place I have ever seen.
However, my favorite memories did not come from the big cities of Rome or Athens. It was the little countryside towns, Alberobello in Italy and the island of Mykonos in Greece, that really impressed me. In Alberobello, our entire group was warmly welcomed. The locals were more than willing to invite people inside of their homes and have them try all the homemade goods they had to offer. One woman kept us inside for well over an hour, feeding us treats and drinks that were all homemade. These Italians made us feel welcome, and they were just as interested in our home lives as we were in theirs.
Mykonos was a different kind of amazing. The small Greek island was all whitewash walls and paths surrounded by some of the clearest water I have ever seen. This island was also home to two giant pelicans which was probably one of the coolest thing I saw on the entire trip. In Mykonos, it was possible to get really lost and escape the crowds for the first time the entire trip. Plus, the sun was setting just as we reached the island, and seeing the light bouncing off the whitewash was intensely beautiful.
Studying abroad was the best decision that I have made as a college student. Although I was only able to go for a two week period, it gave me memories that will last a lifetime. I realized just how narrow minded people can be, not just Americans but foreigners as well. It was also obvious that no matter where a person is from we all inherently are trying to achieve the same things in life- a better standard and purpose. I am so blessed to have had this opportunity and cannot wait for future travels!