Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Do You Want To Visit Greece Next Year?

Vol State student Samantha Hearn shares her international experience in Greece.

This year, I decided to travel to Greece through the TnCIS study abroad program. What a trip it has been! I've learned so many new things and met some amazing people along the way.

The trip started in Tolo, a quaint little town that can only be described as charming. Everything in Tolo is within walking distance, and it sits right on the sea. While we were there I got to do some truly cool stuff, like having my first real gyro. The food in Greece is amazing, and our hotel in Tolo provided us with breakfast and dinner every day. We've eaten a lot of feta cheese, which I still haven't really gained the appetite for. Everything else though, has been wonderful. We've eaten a lot of lamb and pork and vegetables, and the fruit here is extremely fresh. I'm pretty sure that in Tolo, the fruit we would eat was picked from the tree probably the day we ate it.

While we were in Tolo we met some very cool people, one being a man named George who owns a jewelry shop called Carmen. He makes all of the jewelry himself, and everything is entirely unique and beautiful. I think I bought about seven things from him. :) All of the girls in the group I think got at least one thing, and some of the guys even did too. George told us that he would always remember this group and how kind we all were. It felt good to give back to their struggling economy and to help such a nice person prosper in his business. The staff at our hotel in Tolo also made us feel extremely welcome. We spent a lot of nights hanging out with the staff and getting to know each other, and we all made a lot of memories and new friends. The day we had to leave it rained, and one of the people who worked there said, "Look, even the sky is crying because you all leave." Such a warm experience in Tolo. It's the most charming place I have ever been.

I am in the Western World Literature class, and I feel like this trip is really made for us. We read things from Greek mythology, and we went on excursions to visit the places that the stories took place. We got to see Agamemnon's tomb, which ties directly to what we read about in The Iliad. When we got to Delphi, the story of Oedipus the King just came to life. Seeing places that most people only get to read about in stories or see in movies was a surreal experience. It helped me to really appreciate what we've been learning about here.

Perhaps the most beautiful place we visited was the island of Hydra. When I pictured Greece before I left, this is what I envisioned. White and blue architecture, pretty purple flowers, clear blue water, no cars, and cobblestone roadways define Hydra. Just amazing. Though we only got to stay for a few hours, this was the most beautiful place I've ever been in my life. We got to ride horses through the town, which was so worth the time and money. If you visit Greece, don't pass up on visiting Hydra.

We also got to visit Olympia, where the first Olympic Games were held. This was my favorite archaeological site. Its beauty is overwhelming, and to hear our tour guide bring to life what a day was like in its history just fascinated me. We got to go into the arena and some of the students had an Olympic type race. It was just awesome to me to think that here we were joking around and having fun on this ancient ground, when so long ago people were out here doing it seriously. SO COOL!

The last city we are in is Athens, where the famous Parthenon sits. It was quite a trek to make it to the top of the Acropolis, but seeing the real thing rather than the Nashville replica gave me another moment of absolute astonishment. The Parthenon is an ancient temple that was built to worship the goddess Athena. It's hard to believe when you look at it that people were walking in and out of it over 1,000 years ago. I took a seat and just soaked it all in, and I tried to grasp the fact that so many things had happened there so long ago. Seeing the Parthenon is an experience I will never forget.

Choosing Greece as my study abroad destination this year was not a mistake. I wish I could stay all summer...there is so much to learn about, and there is so much to do. The shopping here is amazing, of course. The people in Tolo are charming and welcoming, while the people in Athens are glamorous and beautiful. Both places are equally amazing in separate ways. If anyone who happens to read this is considering traveling to Greece, take the opportunity! See it all, do it all. As we're reading about in our World Lit class...Carpe Diem! Seize the day! :)

Pictures: Vol State students Laura Myers, Elizabeth Duke, Samantha Hearn, and MariAngel Zumbado in Tolo, Greece.

Volunteer State Community College

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