I officially leave for Europe in 2 weeks and because of my overzealous planning I have nothing left to stress about… which is stressing me out. Not having anything left to plan has left me with nothing but growing anticipation, which for me closely resembles anxiety and has led to many a stress dream, including a recurring one where I can’t find my terminal and miss my flight. But putting my anxieties aside I am actually incredibly excited for this experience! I will be traveling with a couple of friends in London, Paris and Rome for 10 days before heading off to join our global learning program studying in Greece for about 2 weeks. The cool thing about my program is the class was on campus, so while we’ll be studying in Greece the majority of the trip will be excursions and since we’ve already studied the places we are visiting, our understanding will be so much richer. Even though we’re not studying for the rest of the trip I have done an insane amount of research about everywhere we’re going, to the point where I should probably be committed.
In London I am most excited about visiting the museums. The 2 big museums in London (The British Museum and the National Gallery) hold pieces from all across the world and all across history. I do feel guilty visiting these museums as most of the pieces were stolen but as a history major it’s also an experience I can’t pass up. Off the academic track, if I’m being completely honest the thing I’m looking forward the most to is visiting the Harry Potter Studios. Like most of my generation Harry Potter was (and still is) the overarching constant in my life, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t absolutely in love with Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling taught me more about life and being a good person than any teacher ever did and has always inspired me to love academics and to write and explore my own imagination. Though I’m not the biggest fan of the movies (please don’t hate me) I am still incredibly excited to experience a bit of the magic.
2nd only to Greece (and it’s a very close second, in fact lets just call it a tie), France has been my #1 destination since high school when I trotted off the beaten path and took French instead of Spanish. I fell in love with the language and the culture, and while I know Paris is not really France, I’m so excited to visit. I have been recently contemplating spending a year teaching in France so this will be a good opportunity for me to decide how comfortable I would be in that situation.
Rome has also been on my bucket list since I was a kid. As I get older and get more into my major I realize that there is so much history to be experienced outside of Europe and I have expanded my list since, but alongside Greece, Rome has always been in the corner of my mind as a treasure trove of history to explore and I am really excited to match my knowledge with the place. While in Italy one of my friends and I are going to break off from our group to visit Pompeii and later to spend a day on the beach, I imagine we’ll need it after such a crazy 10 days!
After Rome we are heading to Athens for a few days before traveling through the rest of Greece. The two places I’m looking forward to the most are Olympia (because I’m from Olympia and find it a little humorous and can’t wait to make a bunch of stupid jokes) and Thessaloniki because there is a huge modern historical significance to the city that is rarely recognized. In 1943 54,000 Jews from Thessaloniki were kidnapped and murdered. As a society in general, we acknowledge the German and Polish Jews who were murdered but we rarely talk about the fact that nearly every European country willingly handed over their Jews to the Nazi party because they also resented and hated the Jewish people. Not only is this important to me personally, but in today’s political climate where it is becoming more and more acceptable to be racist and to create policies which exclude members of certain identities (not just the US but in many European countries as well) it’s important to remember that it wasn’t just one evil group that contributed to the murder of over 11 million people, it was a collaborative effort by every day people and we are all equally capable of committing the same atrocities.
In general I am excited to experience Greek life and culture. The great thing about my program is that we aren’t just staying in Athens or another big metropolitan area, we are going to be traveling all over Greece which means we really get to experience Greece like the Greeks do. I kind of look at it the way I look at Seattle, just because you’ve been there doesn’t mean you’ve been to Washington.
As I mentioned in the beginning I am feeling a lot of anxiety about this trip, and normally I wouldn’t broadcast my own personal brand of crazy to the world but as other potential study abroad student may end up reading this I think it is important to share. I have intense anxiety when it comes to being in control and knowing what’s going to happen, obviously that means this trip has been fairly difficult for me. I’m sure once I’m on the plane things will get easier, but for the moment it’s just a lot of stress and anxiety and that’s ok. This is a once in a lifetime experience but that doesn’t mean my anxieties aren’t valid and yours are too. If you want to do a study abroad but your anxieties are weighing you down, know that you are not alone and you can get through it! And it is OK to feel this way, don’t let anyone let you feel guilty for not being 100% excited and grateful 100% of the time.
Going into this experience I am not taking any expectations or goals with me. I want to experience Greece without my own personal lenses and I think if I go looking for something I am going to be too focused on finding it that I will miss out on discovering something I wasn’t looking for.
I’ll probably do another update between now and when I hop on my plane on Aug. 24th. The next one will *hopefully* be a video post talking about my experience in preparing for a study abroad but this is my first time doing a vlog and I have never edited a video before so who knows?
Avoir for now,