It’s hard to believe nearly a decade has passed since we studied abroad in Greece—in some ways, it seems like only moments ago that we stood in awe before the Acropolis, soaking in new knowledge of an ancient culture, and then sitting for hours at cafes, relishing local dishes (spanakopita, gyros, A LOT of pita and tzatziki, as well as salads with feta unlike any feta I’ve tasted since) and enjoying each other’s company. But in other ways, this adventure seems like a lifetime ago, and many of the details have softened into an overall feeling, a glowing nostalgia, which for me is a blend of gratitude, inspiration, and joy. Studying abroad in Greece turned out to be one of the most momentous decisions of my life, affecting the trajectory of my future in ways that are only now becoming clear to me.
Before our trip to Greece, I’d never traveled outside of the US, and perhaps more significantly, no one in my family had traveled abroad either. I remember the anxiety rippling through me in the days leading up to our departure, but I was also determined, and I’m so glad I didn’t let my nerves win the battle. I had an incredible time exploring and learning, but the experience extended past our weeks in Greece. This trip ignited a hunger in me for more—more places, more explorations, and more learning. Travel is such a sensory experience, brimming with sights, sounds, tastes, and smells that are unique to each city and region, all of which are so much richer when you experience them firsthand, rather than in a book or documentary. Because of my positive study abroad experience, I have been inspired to prioritize travel, and I’ve had the opportunity to travel extensively, exploring other parts of Europe, as well as South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa.
In September 2016—in what was perhaps the culmination of all these experiences—my husband and I decided to move to London for a year. Oh, and for me, that was another wonderful byproduct of studying abroad—connecting with my now husband. We met in Madison shortly after I returned from Greece and shortly before he left to study abroad himself, in Singapore. To this day, we share a love of travel, inspired by our study abroad experiences—his was also his first trip outside the US. We like to joke that our year in London was our “adult study abroad” because we spent so many weekends exploring Europe, from Lisbon to Ljubljana, Budapest to Tallinn, seeing and tasting and learning as much as we could.
Obviously, these experiences have been primarily for personal enjoyment, and I’m so fortunate to have had these opportunities and to have a partner who is equally passionate about prioritizing travel; however, beyond that, I believe traveling and/or studying abroad has another side effect, regardless of a person’s original intent—it creates more curious, open-minded, and reflective people. It’s hard not to develop these traits when you are navigating new places with customs, languages, and experiences that are so different from your own. When you first arrive somewhere new, it can be stressful, uncomfortable, and even a little scary. In this regard, my decision to study in Greece taught me something invaluable, a mantra I live by still today: the opportunities that make you the most anxious or the most unsure of yourself are often the most worthwhile.
Cheers and happy traveling!
A few photos from my life post-Greece: