Julia Molinaro
Student Ambassador
Email: [email protected]
School:University of Southern California (USC)
Cya Term:Spring 2024
Major:Social Sciences with an emphasis in Psychology
Anticipated Graduation:5/7/2025

Studying abroad in Greece was probably the best decision I made in my college career. The opportunities to travel, immerse myself in such an accepting and hospitable culture, and push outside of my comfort zone were immeasurable for my personal growth. I never felt unsafe or unsupported by my peers and CYA staff and it created the perfect space for learning and growth. For my personal development, I learned how to have difficult conversations with friends and peers about my needs when traveling, anxious, or in an environment I was not used to. I also navigated cultural barriers to make local friends, connections, and relationships with businesses. This deepened my cultural competence and adaptability. For my academic development, there is something so special about connecting physically with the history and curriculum you are learning. CYA’s emphasis on fieldwork and academic trips was beyond what I could have ever imagined and was some of the most engaging lectures I have ever attended. I learned how to think critically about the spaces I am in and how to express that in writing and discussion. For my professional development, I wish I had taken the opportunity to do an internship, but regardless I think I made a lot of progress on learning how to talk to anyone about anything. As I was saying earlier with cultural competence, I know that will also be a very important skill for my professional career as I will come across people from many different backgrounds and I will want to communicate with them in a friendly, respectful way. Talking to professors and locals helped me learn the appropriate way to conduct myself in the eyes of Greek people which I might be able to extrapolate to other countries in Europe.

What advice do you have for prospective students who are interested in or planning to study abroad with CYA?

Of course my first piece of advice to perspective students is “DO IT!!!” Next, I would really encourage them to get involved with volunteering, an internship, or all the student affairs events. CYA provides options for cultural immersion that I have not seen in any other study abroad program and it is all such a great way to really immerse yourself into the culture. Another thing I would recommend is try to explore everywhere you can (especially food-wise). Me and my friends would try to go to a new restaurant or neighborhood or ice cream place every day and I feel like I saw so much of the city.

How was the political climate in Greece different from what are you used to? If applicable, describe a time when you had to navigate a political conversation during your time abroad.

The only two significant ways I saw a difference in political climate as someone who was often mistaken as greek looks-wise was in how open people were to talk about politics and some more sexism than I was used to. In conversing with locals they would frequently bring up our upcoming election and ask my opinion on Trump vs Biden, etc. I did not really mind as they were respectful when I pivoted the conversation to something else and I feel like it came from a place of curiosity. However, this would never be the second thing a stranger might ask you in the US. The other aspect was some sexism. Me and my friends frequently got catcalled, and it is apparent that women are expected, at least more so than in the US, to stick to more traditional gender roles. Examples I saw often is that me and my friends were often looked at for dancing a lot in the bars/clubs, and waiters would laugh at us for ordering more than one glass of wine at dinner. I also had a very enlightening conversation with a local friend about catcalling and sexual harassment that someone I know had experienced. I did not like his reaction so I explained why. He listened and said it made sense, then explained to me that feminism was never something talked about or taught in schools in Greece, which made sense as to his initial reaction. Overall, the political climate in Greece was a lot more blunt than I am used to but no Greek person I interacted with was inappropriate or made me truly uncomfortable.

please select any of the following that apply to you, and that you would be willing to share about your CYA experience with other students:

Finances, Greece-based traveler, Mental health, Packing, restaurants, travel tips (countries, ferries, finding flights, etc)

Briefly describe a cultural experience you had that was significant to you in any way.

On my first night in Greece getting rejected from a restaurant because they didn't have space then being invited to the table of a bunch of older Greek people who barely spoke English but saw us getting turned away and wanted to make sure we experienced the food there 🙂

Favorite food in Greece?

Fava and spicy cheese dip!

Favorite class you took at CYA?

Gender and Sexuality in Modern Greece

Favorite quote from abroad?

"τι να κάνουμε!"

What extracurricular activities were you involved with in Greece?

I attended student affairs events, did CYA-sponsored yoga classes, made local friends, visited 8 greek islands, hunted for the best restaurants, and got really into the house music scene!

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