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02 Dec 2022

Branching Out

[This article is written by Fall ’22 CYA Student and MediaLab Intern Samuel Carpenter]

Massive white walls and murals of ancient monuments tower around you. The ATH airport hallways leave you in awe at the number of strangers around you. An unfamiliar (or hardly familiar, via Duolingo) language rings in your ears while awaiting your luggage to arrive on the conveyor belt. The talent of your shuttle driver leaves you in utter amazement as they weave through the 30-centimeter streets. Your apartment invites anticipated dreams to be experienced over these next couple of months. The waiting is over, and the journey starts here… Or is this a continuation of your life journey? How could that affect your time in Athens? I’ve got a suggestion if you wanna know, but let me give you some background.

Personally, arriving in Athens, I was immediately blown away by the novelty of everything. Beginning with food, just the experience of a restaurant is radically different from my home in Cincinnati. First of all, I get to attempt ordering in a new language, which probably leads to a discount, free item, or a small lesson in the new language. 

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There’s rarely a day where I don’t try a new restaurant, food, or drink. However, the best part of eating in Greece is the zero-rush culture. No matter how much food is on your plate or how long you’ve been sitting with your friends, you’re more than welcome to enjoy your company in that taverna as long as you please.

“First Time” experiences are bountiful when you live in the neighborhood where CYA is found,Pangrati. Whether you are coming from a campus in rural Minnesota or a bustling city in the heart of NYC, Athens will be something you haven’t seen before. Ancient monuments and Byzantine churches fill the streets, showing the ancient history of the city. The hospitality you experience from local shopkeepers is like something straight out of the Odyssey. The stray cats that roam the streets are adorable, providing a non-commital pet option while living abroad. The drivers are unhinged, specifically the motorcycles. And the urban landscaping. I mean, it’s something out of my dreams. Bitter orange trees dangle their fruit gorgeously along the roads, the olive trees are heavy with their treats among the silvery foliage, and itseems like all the plants simply just fit into the urban concrete landscape. If you can’t tell, I love nature and all things plants. Branching Out Screenshot 2022 12 02 at 4.29.17 PM

So, even though I’m in a new place, it doesn’t mean that I have to drop all of my fun hobbies from home. Why not get involved in things which I love in an entirely new setting?! 

I’m a sucker for a good tree. It runs in my blood as my grandfather was a farmer, and my mother a gardener. I was bound to love nature, and college did wonders for cultivating a new passion of mine. After taking three courses towards my new Horticulture minor, I was officially the friend you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Walking to class? Check out this Swamp White Oak providing shade just outside your building! Need to stop by the library? Don’t worry, we have time for a lecture on the Taxus growing outside. Did you call me because you’re asking for directions to the grocery store? Duh, I’ll give you an exact route following the blooms of the pear trees down Corry Street. After taking five courses, I knew that my friends didn’t always want to know about the woody ornamentals of Clifton, but I had found satisfaction in my own studies. 

Finding a hobby is the hardest part, and I’m not going to really direct practical ideas on how to find one. But I would briefly say to choose the things that bring you the Branching Out Screenshot 2022 12 02 at 4.29.44 PMmost child-like joy and satisfaction. Once you have that, figure out how that “hobby” relates to Athens and ask the teachers, the locals, and Google for any and all recommendations. After learning more about farming and plant culture in Greece, I began to plan the remainder of my experiences in Greece around what I love about home, and what I could find to love in this new country. I had the chance to work on a farm on Paros. In that one experience, I had the opportunity to learn more about composting in arid environments, feeding goats, and harvesting Black Eyed Peas. “I gotta feeling” that I won’t forget that trip for a long long time in my life. (Sorry, I had to make that joke. It felt obligatory.) Next, I planned my fall break to a honey farm in Northern Italy, and even changed my personal itinerary on a CYA-Field Trip to visit a honey farm in the Peloponnese. Ask for opportunities to experience your passions on this program, and professors will absolutely help you make that happen, as they did for me.

Therefore, I would encourage you to consider what your passions are and figure out how to engage with them in this amazing ancient city.

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I hope I can inspire at least one future CYAer to leave behind the expectation to do everything new, and see all of the “necessary” or “real” Athens areas. You bring your own interests with you to Greece, so follow those interests and see what the city has to offer you.



Here’s a silly lyric that I couldn’t stop thinking about during the writing of this article:

“Don’t grow outside of yourself. Stay within yourself and develop” – Smino’s father on the song, Netflix and Dusse


[This article is written by Fall ’22 CYA Student and MediaLab Intern Samuel Carpenter]