Γεια σας! I’m Makayla, a senior studying Organizational Communication with a minor in Media Arts. Through the Franke Global Leadership Initiative, I had the opportunity to spend (most of) my spring semester at the American College of Greece in Athens.
I had no idea what to expect from my abroad experience, having never been out of the country before. My time in Athens was the most rewarding, eye opening, and exhilarating experience of my life. From gyros, to so so many stray cats, I learned multitudes about myself, different cultures, and how differing societies handle environmental challenges.
My global theme is natural resources and sustainability. Although I wasn’t able to dive as deep as I would’ve liked into my theme during my shortened time there, I was able to observe both the differences and similarities of our cultural and environmental practices. Most of the food in Greece was locally sourced and grown, hence the oranges that I still have dreams about. I also took an environmental studies class at the college, which raised thoughts of how to remain sustainable amidst economic crises. As a country growing through financial decline, they still had an appreciation and value of the land they occupy which I found incredibly inspirational. My class also had a section on Yellowstone where I was able to share my experiences from Montana, which was really fun as they all thought Old Faithful was an insane structure.
At the start, I experienced a tad bit of culture shock. To my surprise, Greece is actually very mountainous, so I felt at home in no time. Getting off the train, which we missed twice, to Meteora felt like the whole city was a green screen. It’s home to the largest complex of Greek monasteries, many isolated on the mountain peaks.
Studying abroad was absolutely the best decision I ever made for myself. By being out of my comfort zone, I saw the most incredible views, made the best friends ever, and learned more about myself than I thought was possible in a few short months. The people of Greece are loud, bold, and incredibly friendly which rubbed off on me in the end. The enriching intercultural exchanges I had made me feel better equipped to be a leader and study Communication from a global lens. Overall, the experience not only gave me a greater sense of tenacity and confidence in regard to my studies, but in myself as well.
Although this was an interesting semester to have an out of classroom experience, I feel so grateful to have lived every second of it. I wholeheartedly believe that seeing unfamiliar sites, being surrounded in a cafe with a completely unfamiliar language, and meeting those who are different than us has immeasurable value that I wouldn’t trade for anything.