First Week Reflections
By Maddi Brenner
An absurd contradiction between dreams and reality
Throughout this past week, I’ve struggled and also made peace with the busy and hectic challenges as a student studying abroad because I am so new to this. I’m bombarded with wrong turns, language barriers, a constant state of tiredness and an abundant amount of stares and stress. I recognize my strong American accent, see the comfort I’ve spent 20 years living with back in the states pulled away at the seams and notice the extra hint of flavor that makes Athens so rich with life. Here’s a recap and what I’ve learned during week 1.
Graffiti is a big thing here. Everywhere I look, I am consumed in colorful details and Greek words that cover almost every building. Though, I have no clue what they say, I understand the art that’s being expressed. Graffiti is a way for people in Athens to let it all out: anger, aggression, happiness, you name it. It’s a symbolic representation of the changing city and the underlining heart of those that don’t know how else to communicate. Yes, there are mixed reviews, but that just goes to show the dynamic and original nature of this environment in Greece.
I do not know Greek, not a lick of it. I’m ashamed and embarrassed for the amount of times I’ve asked my roommates how to say hello. It’s still a mystery, not going to lie. On a side note, the Greeks here all speak decent amounts of English and remain kind, humble and extremely friendly when it comes to me ordering food, figuring out directions and asking for help. The hospitality in this country makes Greece a rare treasure that’s easy and exciting to explore more.
Can we talk about the heat for a hot sec? I’m more of a winter girl, myself. I like big sweaters and comfy thick socks, so the fact that my back glistens with sweat the moment I step out the door shocks and frustrates me. It’s funny because I’ve always had this strong desire to force myself into liking all of something even when I know it upsets me. However, I want to accept what I can’t change and understand that it’s fine not to like something. A new country brings about several new experiences, traditions, values and traits that will confuse me, mislead and spark distaste and that’s okay. It’s okay to not like everything about a country. It’s okay to have differences and see the world in another lens, as long as it’s constructive, recognized and appreciated, it’s all okay.
I want to adopt a cat. Which is a bit surprising for me to say because I am a dog lover with all my heart, but something about these cute little cats roaming the city makes me extremely giddy inside. It could be because they resemble the beauty of Greece or their soft fur I could stroke for hours. Who knows. Whatever the feeling, I can’t stop thinking about picking one up and bringing it home (Don’t worry CYA, I would never actually!).
But, please also don’t get me started about the gyros. What a delicious treat. What did I do to deserve such delightfulness?
Honestly, this place is an absurd contradiction between dreams and reality. It’s all I’ve ever wanted and everything I could have been okay without. It’s a blur of heaven, mixed together with normalcy, regular routine and everyday life. My head can’t wrap itself around the fact that I’ll be here for such a long time. It’s shocking really how much I still have to learn, experience, dive into (and no, I’m not just talking about diving into the beautiful Aegean Sea). I’ve spent the last week believing it to be another worldly dimension and somehow managed to spend an extreme amount of euros, which in my defense, was because I haven’t had the time to head to the grocery store. I live here. I am living here for 100+ days. What. A dream and a reality.
As my weekly reflection comes to a close and week 2 begins, I’m setting a goal, throughout this semester, to continue growing more, looking in different directions, choosing the unfamiliar, the adventure and the path that pushes me. I want to keep engaging in the culture and movement of Greece that I’ve so easily started yearning more for from the moment I got here.
Maddi Brenner is pursuing a degree in Public Relations and Advertising with a minor in English and Profession Writing from DePaul University and is a official Fall 2016 CYA blogger!