A Rough Guide to Study Abroad in Greece

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Thessaloniki! Credit: Morgan Pettersson

There are so many study abroad guides out there but I have not come across many that feature the wonderful, chaotic and beautiful country of Greece.

I studied abroad in Greece in the first half of 2011, and it was the best time of my life.

It was actually my second study abroad semester, the year before I had studied in Limerick, Ireland and was offered a scholarship to study again in Greece through my faculty.

Having just broken up with my boyfriend I thought why not go to Greece and was fortunate enough to be able to go on a full scholarship as part of the Global Environmental Journalism Initiative (GEJI) program.

I had travelled to Greece the year before on my way home from Ireland and loved the islands and was excited to go back.

Little did I know the person who arrived in Greece would not be departing. Instead a woman with a whole new sense of the world and herself would be flying home to Australia.

I studied at the Aristotles University in Thessaloniki, the second biggest city in northern Greece in Macedonian region.

Thessaloniki is a city mostly overlooked or passed through as quickly as possible by travellers on their way from or to Istanbul or Athens.

It is such a shame because the city is a thriving cosmopolitan buzz with a large amount of both local and international students.

So what should you know before studying in Greece?

  • The main tip I have is: don’t try to understand anything and go in with no expectations.
  • The Greek university system makes as much sense as the economic crisis does and one of my lecturers encouraged us to take time off from classes to go and travel and ‘enjoy life’.
  • Studying abroad in Greece is not really for those who genuinely want to study to a high academic level as the pull of living a laid back lifestyle and the mountains and oceans will distract you, but if you are looking to experience a different university system and a country who knows how to live life to the fullest then Greece is the destination for you.
  • Learn how to spend three hours drinking one coffee, learn why only a tomato, feta cheese, olive oil and fresh crispy bread can be the best meal you ever had.
  • Learn to savour and enjoy your meal which will also most likely take you a few hours to finish with plenty of wine and good friends.
  • There is a saying ‘do it tomorrow, today we enjoy life’ you will begin to understand both the beauty of this saying and that it also means things will not happen on time, shops will be closed when they should be open and it can start to seem like a beautiful curse.
  • You will leave a changed person, whether from learning to live a laid back lifestyle, the people you meet, the stories you learn or like in my case from a combination of all three and living there during some of the worst economic and social upheavals in 2011. Greece will force you to look at the world in a different way.
  • You must try some of the home made ouzo or retsina-trust me its an experience!
  • Pack a small backpack, a tent, a car full of new friends and go camping and really get up close with the natural beauty of Greece.
  • Learn to be laid back and enjoy the simple things in life such as having a coffee on the water front, even though it took you three hours to buy a postage stamp today. Don’t worry about it, live in the now.
  • You will learn that anything is possible, things can be put off, how to really live in the now, that the Greek language is incredibly hard to learn and that smiles and laughter are all you need.

Studying abroad in Greece changed me in ways I still don’t understand. Amidst the turmoil and with a backdrop of ‘the crisis’ I left seeing the world more clearly, less worried about small things, more willing to try new things, to stand up for what I believe in and ten kilos heavier thanks to the beautiful cuisine.

*Have you studied abroad in Greece? What were your experiences?*

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