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Student Profiles

Sarah sitting in front of the Pantheon in Athens

Overseas Study Program

Athens,  Greece

I would tell future abroad students to get out as much as possible and walk around with a friend, get lost in the neighborhood and force yourself to go into a store just to browse. Become as immersed into the culture as possible”

Sarah Gianopoulos

Amanda’s major(s): SPEA - Management

Term abroad: Spring 2015

Why did you choose this program? I chose this program because I knew that I would learn about subjects that I would not be able to learn about at IU. It was a thorough and detailed curriculum of Mediterranean Studies that I will never forget.

Describe your favorite classes abroad. One of my favorite classes abroad was called Ancient Greek Architecture from the Archaic to the Roman Times as Reflected in the Monuments of Athens. This course was taught by the director of the restoration of the acropolis and we had class for two months at the top of the acropolis, a truly unforgettable experience! I also had another class Sports, Games, and Spectacles in the Graeco-Roman World. This class was incredible because we learned about the various sports that were first played in the Olympics as well as reenacted the sport in ancient stadiums all over Greece.

What was the housing like on your study abroad program? My apartment had 5 other girls and it worked out surprisingly well, given the number of roommates and the space of a typical European apartment. The apartment was about a 3 minute walk away from the academic buildings but was also situated in a close-knit neighborhood.

What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? I would tell future abroad students to get out as much as possible and walk around with a friend, get lost in the neighborhood and force yourself to go into a store just to browse. Become as immersed into the culture as possible. It's those little experiences that I remember of stumbling upon a small hole in the wall store with great food for sale or random items.

What’s your best memory from your time abroad? My best memory comes from a class I had when I was at the acropolis. With my professor being the director of its restoration, one day we went inside the Parthenon itself, which is very much blocked off to all tourists. This moment will stay with me forever as only a small fraction of the world can say they have ever done this.

What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? People say that New York City is the city that never sleeps...I would disagree and say that Athens never sleeps. People are always out at every hour of the day or night. I wasn't sure what to expect of the Greeks, but they are so welcoming and were always interested in why my friends and I chose to study there. Being half Greek, the decision was easy for me but I got to learn so much more about the culture and my family that still resides in Athens.

Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. Culture shock was of little issue to me. If anything I just noticed differences in Greek characteristics that I was not used to but nothing kept me from acting normal as I would in the US. However, reverse culture shock was a different story. Once I returned from my time abroad, I could suddenly understand everyone's side conversations around me and I hated it. Although, it was nice to finally be around Americans who understood what personal space was. It was also hard not to plan out-of-the-country trips on weekends for the next 4 months. Driving everywhere I needed to go took a little getting used to again. I miss being able to walk to the store once a week for everything I needed instead of driving there to the store, or using the metro which was usually reliable, so long as you knew when it would go on strike and not be operating.

“If I could do it over, I would…” I would have put myself out there more to make more friends that were from Greece and other areas of Europe. College Year in Athens had students only from the US so it wasn't as easy to make friends that were from all over Europe. Several of my professors also taught at other schools so it would have been a good idea to ask them for contact information of their students if they were willing to meet.

What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? Now I know I can handle a wide variety of situations. When planning weekend trips, not everything is going to be reliable when you are in Greece and planning a trip in London. Some things you just can't find out until you get there, and that's okay! The important thing is to not stress!

Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” I don't know why more people don't study abroad. Once I came back from Greece, I had a completely different appreciation for IU that people who always stayed on campus would not understand. You come back with a different perspective and it is worth every penny.

What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn? I think that people might be surprised that Greek people are so welcoming and friendly, even if you just met. The language barrier is rarely an issue, too. There was a gentleman who owned a wine shop below my apartment and he frequently invited my friends and myself down for homecooked Greek food and free wine! He always gave us advice on life and filled us in on his life, I wouldn't trade those days for anything.

How did you find scholarships for study abroad? I utilized the Study Abroad office for scholarships and was awarded one. Scholarships are definitely worth the time and effort. The Study Abroad office had plenty of resources.

Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? If you qualify, definitely check out Hutton Honors College. You don't have to be in Hutton to qualify!