This past week has been incredible. As much as I enjoy the classes at my study abroad program, College Year in Athens (CYA), and feeling at home in Pangrati, there’s nothing like being able to travel to other areas and experience the utterly unfamiliar. Last weekend myself and a friend of mine were able to go to Paris to visit another friend studying abroad there. It’s easy to think that a city so celebrated in film, books, and more could be over-hyped and as a result, disappointing in reality. However, Paris instead turned out to be one of the most amazing cities I have ever seen. The architecture on every street had something miraculous to offer; a truly beautiful city. As a suburban girl used to living closer to forests than cities, that’s saying quite a lot. Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower were far more incredible in person than I had ever imagined them to be. We were also able to see the Louvre Museum, and it was gigantic. In the four hours we stared incredulously at the art before us, we were only able to see a little over one of the four floors of artwork. To see the entire museum in a day would be absolutely impossible. The perfection of Parisian food rivaled the beauty of the city itself. Each and every dish I ordered over our three day stay–from French onion soup to macaroons, meat and cheese platters, and cheese fondue– was exceptional. In short, I’m already looking forward to the day I can return!
Once back in Athens, we were only home for one day of classes before CYA began our next school-wide trip to Thessaloniki, the area of northern Greece that was previously Macedon. The city is famous for its university, one of the best in Greece, and the students who make up 20% of the city population. As a port city, ships can be seen passing by day and night, and people are constantly gathered outside reading, playing music, and talking to friends. The atmosphere of Thessaloniki is far more young, vibrant, and calming than Athens thus far. I have to say I still love Athens just a little more; it’s home, and nothing beats home.
We’ve spent the past few days learning about the importance of how the town of Thessaloniki was planned and talking about the numerous Byzantine structures still standing sporadically throughout the town from the period of Roman Christian rule. The detail in many of the Christian churches constructed from that period has miraculously survived, and is still used in a modern sense. Between this learning experience in Thessaloniki, and my long weekend in Paris, the past week has undoubtedly made me realize the degree of appreciation I have for learning in an experiential manner, and solidified my gratitude for the way CYA runs our program.