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This summer has been busy, but incredibly exciting. It’s been about a week since I returned to the U.S. from Greece, where I studied abroad in Athens & the Greek Isles for 8 weeks. I traveled to Athens, Thessaloniki, Corinth, Meteora, Nauplio, Mykonos, Santorini (Oia, Fira & Akrotiri), Crete (Heraklion, Knossos, Malia, Gournia), Delphi, Phillipoi, and Vergina. It has truly been an interesting, liberating, and breathtaking experience!
There are so many aspects of Greece that I adore. To begin, there’s so much history, power, and beauty in the most humble of places here in Greece. Greece has given so much to the world: Philosophy, democracy, the olympic games, theatre, mythology, and the list goes on. Over the course of 8 weeks, I took two classes on Christianity and Bronze Age Archaeology (both of which were VERY interesting) and overall, they reminded me that history well told is beautiful, useful, and indispensable. Greece has a LOT of history; it’s almost overwhelming. Eight weeks was not enough time to absorb it all. Also, I’m really starting to love the color blue. The blue seas, the blue and white flag, the blue-painted buildings on the Greek Isles.... I’ll always associate blue with Greece’s beauty. Every inch of Greece is beautiful. When I say beautiful, I’m talking jaw-droppingly, awe-inspiring, breathtakingly beautiful. I’ve been to a lot of places, and nowhere was as consistently pretty as Greece. Lastly, Moussaka, saganaki, chicken gyros, souvlaki, and fava have officially become my favorite dishes. Eating at Greek restaurants in Michigan just won’t be enough anymore. Until we meet again, Greece!
After spending 8 weeks in Greece without being at least proficient in Greek, I can safely say that English speakers are incredibly privileged. I’m going to be honest with myself and you all: when I first came to Athens, I had this subconscious assumption that people can — and will — speak English with me. I made no effort to learn even a lick of Greek. Since English is a very prevalent language, I didn’t necessarily have to learn Greek, which is true: I could definitely get by without knowing Greek while spending my summer in Greece. In fact, when I was in Fira, Santorini, most of the restaurants, cafes, shops, and bars had signs and menus in English. Fira is a very touristy place that attracts travelers from every part of the world, but it’s interesting how English speakers are the ones they cater to. As English speakers, we don’t have to overcome obstacles to have an enjoyable experience.
However, while it is possible to use only English while traveling, it’s a common misconception that you can travel and expect people to meet you where you are. Sometimes, there won’t be any English speakers around. To add to that, learning other languages opens you up to a new world, allowing you to communicate and thus connect with amazing people of different backgrounds and cultures, build relationships, and create an overall better experience. Also, learning the language of the country you’re visiting shows cultural appreciation and respect while traveling. Since then, I’ve acknowledged and checked my privilege, and I study the Greek language daily (shoutout to Duolingo).