08 Mar 2018

Spontaneity – Mid-Semester Reflection on Study Abroad in Greece

Approaching the halfway point of my time in Greece has me reflecting on people I have met, places I have seen, and foods I have eaten (of course). One word sums up my time here so far: spontaneity.
I came to Greece with few expectations, knowing that I would be the only student from my school at my study abroad program, and excited to see what I would learn. I had no idea how to speak Modern Greek (taking classes on Ancient Greek hasn’t helped that), where I would train for lacrosse, or how I would spend my time, but I have come to love where I am. Greece is home #2.

Since being in Greece, I have visited Italy twice. Italy is super nice, has clean but smelly streets, delicious food, primped and well-dressed people, and ornate buildings. Italy also has tons of obnoxious tourists; I guess I was one of them, but I was definitely not obnoxious. I won’t rant on them here. When I compare Greece to Italy, or Athens to Rome, I immediately think of trash. Athens has a lot of trash. Sometimes this trash finds its way into the streets, inside unkempt bushes, or maybe even into trash bins. Rome doesn’t have much loose trash in its streets, but trash makes Athens raw, real, and dare I say authentic. I like the trash in Athens because there is a feeling that these people have nobody to impress. They don’t really care about putting on a show for onlookers if it means faking who they are. Maybe its because Greek is not a romance language… Whatever the reason, Athenians are pretty confident.

I like Greece, trash and all. There are definitely some things I wish were different such as Greek people’s lack of timeliness and the cost of a metro ticket to the airport, but you can’t have it all. Back to more reflection.

I have lived in Greece for two months now and I feel like I am living four different stories:

Story one: School. This story is a pleasant one so far. I enjoy my classes, even Ancient Greek, and they are helping me gain a better understanding of Greece. My favorite class is an Anthropology class where we talk to people. That’s the point of the class: get uncomfortable and talk to people you wouldn’t talk to otherwise. I like that. I also don’t have classes on Fridays, which is key.


Story two: Training. Working out in Greece has been nothing short of an interesting experience for me. I have been doing a program called Insanity off of my computer at the local park. I feel like a total dweeb running in front of a screen, but it’s the best I got. Finding a wall for lacrosse has been even more interesting. I started, for about a week, throwing against a marble stadium reconstructed in the late 19th century for the 1896 Athens Olympics. The only problem with this wall was that when I missed, my ball zipped across the busiest street in Athens. In order to save lives, I searched for a different wall. Now I throw on a wall in the park, but people still yell at me for ‘banging on their wall.’ Someone almost called the cops on me this past Monday. I came back the next day.


Story three: Internship. I’m starting to really enjoy this story. While my internship with Athens Insider Magazine is not too strenuous, I have found that I like to write. Fortunately, they like my writing, so it’s official: I’m a published journalist/intern. Fingers crossed for my articles getting published in the International New York Times because that actually might be a possibility. This internship has also opened up some pretty crazy opportunities that I never expected to do. First off, I got some delicious ice-cream-smothered waffles on day one (you bet I came back for day two). Secondly, I am getting published blah blah blah. And thirdly, and this is still crazy, I am running the Athens Marathon courtesy of my ‘boss.’ Yep. Have you trained? Not at all. Isn’t training for lacrosse similar? Nope. Are you going to die? Probably. I have never run a marathon before, and I’m sure I will be walking a lot of this one, but I’m excited to experience it. If you had the opportunity to run the 120th original marathon in Athens, Greece (from a town called Marathon to Athens) wouldn’t you run/walk it? I would. I should probably stop saying ‘run the marathon’ though because all I’m looking to do is finish without injuring myself too badly.

Story four: FaceTime. Keeping in touch with people back home has been great. FaceTime is an incredible tool and I love telling people that I am 7 hours ahead of them.

In Greece, I have dreamed pretty big and stepped into lots of unique opportunities that appeared irresponsible at first. Queue booking a four-day trip for five across Italy without telling three of the people beforehand, climbing Mt. Olympus, walking [4 miles] to the beach, climbing roofs, exploring attics/basements, and getting lost in Athens. Those experiences, where I have had to figure out how to respond effectively on the fly in the midst of being a little uncomfortable, is where I have learned the most.


Today I read a story about the Apostle Paul’s trip to Athens. His trip was also determined by spontaneity: he was supposed to hang with his friends Silas and Timothy in Berea for a while but was forced to leave because some crazy Thessalonians were trying to kill him. He got separated from his friends and ended up in Athens, but instead of taking a second to wonder what happened, Paul started learning about the Athenians. He learned that they liked Greek mythology, which involves a lot of idol/cult worship. He also learned that they liked Greek poetry. In Athens, Paul gives a speech at the Areopagus, which attempts to define the ‘unknown god’ they carefully worship. Paul uses Athenian culture, quotes poets like Epimenides and Aratus, and gives his speech with the Parthenon as a backdrop (aka the Acropolis; the biggest hub for cult worship in the city). Paul gets invited back to talk more about the Jesus he claims.

I’m so thankful for the spontaneity that has shaped my experience here in Greece. I pray that big opportunities continue to arise so that I can step into them with purpose, passion, and conviction like Paul. That’s the goal.

By Justin Brendel

Originally published October  26, 2016, on Justin’s study abroad blog.
Read more about Justin’s experiences in Greece on  A Greek JB
Take a look at more of his wonderful photos of Greece here