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Student Profiles

Katie enjoys a beautiful sunset in Greece.

Overseas Study Program

Athens,  Greece

I learned so much living in another country, from where things are located to what kind of person I am. Every experience, every conversation, every place is so different from anything you've ever seen or heard before. ”

Katie Thierwechter

Majors: Media & Telecommunications

Term abroad: Summer 2015

Why did you choose this program? This program was the perfect amount of time (four weeks) between my transition from a freshman to a sophomore. I had never been to Europe before, and took this opportunity to visit and learn more about it. Greece in particular I found really important because this is where some of the first people on Earth are from, and it consists of some of the most ancient things and places ever.

Describe your favorite class abroad. The class that I took during these four weeks was not typical classroom style. We were in the classroom a few times, but for the most part we spent our days walking and driving around Greece exploring and learning about new places. I was hoping I would not spend my time in Greece in a classroom, so I was so happy that this class was mostly on feet or in a bus. Discovering Athens on foot was an amazing experience for endless reasons, it's hard for me to even describe it.

What was the housing like on your study abroad program? I lived in an apartment with two girls: one from Rhode Island and one from Singapore. It was actually my first time ever living in an apartment, so having that experience in Greece was pretty cool. I was a little nervous about living with someone from another country, but it ended up being the best possible thing. We all shared our cultures with one another, and I learned soooooo so so much about the people and environment in Singapore, an area I have never been familiar with. It was actually a bonus for me to be with someone from a different country because of how much I was learning from her. It was like I was learning about two different cultures instead of just one.

What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Just go there with an open heart and mind. Things are going to seem weird and possible unorganized, but I promise these people know what they are doing. The friendships that you acquire here are so amazing. You spend so much time with people who are in the same position as you in this place that is so new and foreign. Finally, just have fun!

What’s your best memory from your time abroad? Honestly the people I was with made this trip. It is inevitable that you will spend all your time with these people because you're all in it together. The class itself was so much fun, but the free time that I had was awesome. We went out all the time at night and walked around on the days that we had off. Also the weekend trips were so fun. It's such a feeling of independence when you are buying your own plane tickets to go to Italy for the weekend or taking a taxi to the airport at 5am. I barely slept in Greece because of the long class hours and the early morning flights on the weekends, but it was literally worth every second.

What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? I was in Greece during the protests of Greece's independence from the EU. I saw it all first hand, the protests, rallies, people speaking freely and loudly. I talked to many store owners and random people about what was going on in Greece at the time, and a lot of them seemed hopeless. Almost all of them said "We love Greece, but it's almost time to leave". The people that live there are so passionate about their country, but they truly believed that it was the end of Greece. I was there when history was made, and that is very important to me.

Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. I had very extreme reverse culture shock.. Going to Greece was so important in my life because of how aware I am of things that are happening around the world. While walking through the flea markets, many of them talked about America and how they would love to visit or live there. When I arrived home, it was hard for me to even talk to my friends and peers just because what I experienced was hard to even put into words and even thoughts. I thought "did I really just spend a whole month in Greece?" It felt like a dream to me.

“If I could do it over, I would…” Journal. From now on wherever I go, I am going to carry a travel journal. I would love to look back and experience the feelings I felt in Greece. I thought I was going to remember every little thing, but when you are back in America looking back at your trip, it almost seems like a blur. Your thoughts and emotions within a certain moment can never be retained, especially when you have moments every single day that bring an excess amount of emotion and thoughts.

What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? Every experience, every conversation, every place is so different from anything you've ever seen or heard before. Learning is the theme of studying abroad, and taking what you learned and applying it to your life at home is so so important.

What was your greatest challenge? Honestly coming home was my biggest challenge. I felt that I was ready to come home and see my friends and family, but the second I got home I wanted to go back.  

Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” Going aboard doesn't just mean taking a class in another country. Going abroad is immersing yourself in another culture and witnessing things, places, and people that you could not see here in the US. Going abroad is creating friendships with people who are experiencing similar feelings to you. They are students just like you, there for the same experiences as you. Going abroad is realizing who you are and what you bring to the world. Interacting with people of another culture is important in finding yourself and understanding the revolving world around you.