a checklist before the trip (Greece study abroad Part 2)

Okay, maybe not a checklist, but things to at least think about before the trip.

An Introduction

Know the teachers who are accompanying you on the trip.  Many times your study abroad leaders are teachers who are unfamiliar to you.  Go to their office and introduce yourself so they know who you are and you can become familiar with them.  Do not wait until you are in Greece before you start asking them questions.  Also, when you have group meetings, and you don’t have a conflict but you do have a warm comfortable bed, just get up and go.  These meetings might be inconveniently scheduled for Saturday mornings bright and early, but you’ll get some questions answered and meet the people on your trip.

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Dr. Judy Bullington, art history professor and Dr. Mark Anderson, sociology professor

Orientation

Pay attention to the study abroad orientation.  So many students either blow it off, getting a friend to sign in for them, bring homework to work on or just don’t pay attention.  It’s three hours of your life that you won’t be losing.  Plus there is free coffee, and sweet treats like cinnamon rolls and morning muffins.  You can do it.

Packing

You will hear this one million times, but here is one million and one: pack light! Start off by packing clothes that are comfortable and light: t-shirts, shorts, jeans, underwear, cute tank tops (remembering a cover for going into churches or monasteries), a laundry line and detergent! My roommate brought along this great laundry line that twisted so you could easily hang clothes on the line without pins, fantastic invention and highly recommended.  Okay, look at all the clothes you just laid out and eliminate 20%.  It’s okay, really you don’t need that many clothes; you’ll be doing laundry occasionally.  Plus, you are there three weeks; you’ll come to find that some pieces of clothing you brought are more comfortable and more practical, wearing these in rotation.

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Me trying to line dry in the mountains, success rate 37%

{Side note – do not try to hang dry laundry in the mountains, like Olympia – your clothes will not dry. I repeat YOUR CLOTHES WILL NOT DRY.  Now, you might have more luck with the weather than I did, but the moisture in the air there is not your friend. Best places to hand wash laundry – Athens, because it is so hot and humid and the Islands, because of their gorgeous breeze.}

Pack both for warm and cold weather, mostly warm, but we hit a 60-degree rough patch one day in Delphi when we were exploring the Upper Sight.  The misty rain and fog did not help the situation, and for someone who had no warm clothes or closed toed shoes, layers became my best friend!  It wasn’t the greatest day, but it was an adventure, so do I really regret not packing warmer clothes… not really.  I’ll sacrifice one day of warmth, for a lighter suitcase.  You have to cart those things around EVERYWHERE, and it is not fun.  Also, packing light keeps you from asking others to carry your suitcases and keeps your personal items safer. Remember you only have so many hands.

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For the chilly day in Delphi some students purchased a heavy sweatshirt or layered almost every warm article of clothing they owned! Well, at least the latter is what I did.

With clothes being mentioned: for the day, I chose to stick with breezy tops and shorts, but for the evening I did dress it up a bit.  I feel like I was taken a little more seriously rather than another ignorant American college student studying abroad.  But then also, you will always look American, no matter what you do, so embrace it to the best of your abilities and be a great representation of what college students should act like or you can continue to be that American, your choice.

Be prepared to lose at least one article of clothing.   It could blow away while line drying into the hotel’s neighbor’s garden, or become missed placed/forgotten while out.  This happened to me, but I miraculously got back my favorite sweater while out one night in Delphi.  Another group of college students from Nebraska happened to also be staying in the three road town, so it was easy to find our group and return the sweater.  A common practice for traveling abroad is packing older clothing that can be left after wearing it. Some students decided to leave old articles of clothing or shoes opening space in their bags before the trip home.  I encourage you to not do this until the end of your trip, because Isabella, the tour guide, will take your unwanted items and give them to families in need.

Shoes: they must be comfortable.  I know this is a simple statement, but it can be easily overlooked.  Just because your favorite pair of shoes to wear around campus for a day doesn’t bother your feet, they will in Greece.  You do some serious walking here which starts to add up to miles and hours, not the short walk in-between classes followed by 50-minute classes where you sit.   I only packed two pairs of shoes: a nicer pair of sandals for dinners and nights out, and I saved up my money for a pair of Chacos, a sporty form-fitting activity sandal with great support.  But with these shoes be ready for great Zoro inspired tan lines on the tops of your feet.

Toiletries:  try to keep them as small as you can.  I know this probably goes without saying, but I had to mention it.  I understand that some items do no come in travel size.  My solution for packing travel toiletries and not knowing how much shampoo and conditioner I would actually use was to pack one travel bottle per week of each.  This way once I finished a set, I could easily throw it out, opening room up in my suitcase! Also, bring a washcloth, luffa, or something. You will need it to scrub off all the dirt on your feet.  Don’t say eww, it is not that gross.  Don’t worry too much about forgetting something, chances are someone else on the trip will have it, or you can buy it.

Homework

Tired of talking and thinking about packing? Well, let’s briefly skim through another unfavorable part of the trip.  Homework. You will be recommended to finish and turn in your work before departure.  You can attempt to do this at the end of an already hectic semester on top of all your essays and final exams, or you can save it for later.  Most days finish around two, so the rest of the afternoons are free to explore and do whatever you like.  On some days, especially in Athens, it was nice to relax on the community porch (from which you can totally see the Parthenon!!) and work on homework. Another option is to save the work for the plane rides.  I mean they are about 11 hours, what else are you going to do? Awkwardly try to sleep in an uncomfortable upright position? I couldn’t do it, so I wrote my little heart out.

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I’m attempting to write a discovery journal about Athens for my Art History course. It didn’t work. I ended up writing the majority of my course work on the long boat rides, the plane, and in my kitchen once back state side.

A travel (suggestion) guide for future Greece study abroad students

This advice was originally written as an eleven page paper, but realizing that nobody would ever read such a long and boring post, I broke it up into smaller sections!  I tried my hand at a different style of writing, keep my thoughts and points crisp and at my best attempt, witty.  It’s different for me so I hope you enjoy!

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Me drinking espresso at a cafe near our hotel in Athens.

Three words to remember Indulge, Appreciate,  and Relax

I want this advice to be casual and personal with my best attempt to be witty and entertaining, and though I don’t have a good history with either, I will try my utmost effort!  There are many times when I simply wished to talk with a former Greece study abroad student, but never found the means to do so.

Understanding through the eyes of a peer is drastically different than asking a teacher or doing personal research, both are still very helpful, but knowing what to wear and what to expect was a challenge.  So, here in this travel guide, my hopes are to pass the knowledge I gained on to the next group of students.  I will share my knowledge about the pre-stages of traveling on a study abroad trip, and advice when you finally arrive, all while tangling in my own experiences and stories from Greece.

First, let me explain the three words I attached to the title of my advice; one I learned to do while there, one I still can’t understand fully, and one that is critical for fully enjoying the experience. All of these culminate together to recognize the value of the journey.

I wish for all study abroad students to indulge, for this is a once and a lifetime opportunity, whether you have traveled abroad before or this is your first time. Each experience is unique and invaluable.  Now, I said indulge, not be immature or obnoxious. You are American and judgment will inevitably be passed on you, but that is his or her problem and not everyone you meet.  You are over the age of 18 and should know how to conduct yourself with composure and humility, while still having a wildly great time!

While abroad, do not forget to appreciate your surroundings and the people who enabled you to be there.  For someone who had not traveled abroad before the Greece trip in 2012, I was naïve in my expectations for I had nothing to base them on.  Once there, I was like a little kid glued to the TV, completely stuck, captivated by the pure joy of being in Greece.  I was grateful for every little reaction to the breathtaking views, interaction with the locals, the knowledge I gained from ancient sites, the incredible art I saw (both ancient and contemporary), etc.

Finally, and most importantly, you must relax, so you can fully enjoy your abroad experience. If you are uptight, worrying, and stressing out over everything you’re vision will become clouded and you won’t be able to see all the potential opportunities for an amazing experience.  I will also admit, that this advice is coming from someone who assumes that you have all the technical things already figured out, such as budget, passport, paperwork, etc.

A transition

Reflecting on my day, it was very long, strenuous, and displacing.  As graduation approaches, I fear that I may not find a job come October, once my internship has ended.  All I wish to recount from this long day is the steam sticking to the windows of my office building from the heat of a Nashville summer.  The building isn’t truly mine; I’m just interning.  I just claim ownership for now.  It is a place I feel at home and welcomed.

With a recent move to the east side of Nashville, my life has been uprooted and replanted.  It is odd to make such as comparison, though. Comparing my transitory moments to the repotting techniques of a gardener seems both fitting and misplaced.

The more cautious side of me hesitates at such a harsh and brutal uprooting; I was happy where I was.  The shock will surely kill my mind screams! But in the back of my mind I know that if taken care of properly, everything will turn out to be all right.

But as usual, impulse is overcome by reason. The nature of the object (my life in question) would be content, as is, but the brutal awakening of the transplant is room to grow.

Queue nurture. As I develop more ideas, experiencing, learning, and living I begin to expand.  I need more room.

As I was packing to move into my new house, my dad mused, “Well, first is was one trip in a van to get you moved into school, then it was two vans and a car to move you out of school, now it is a U-Haul trailer and a car.  Next, is going to be a moving truck, I guess. You sure do collect more things than you realize as you get older.”

My roots are thickening, further penetrating the soil and taking hold.  It is a wonderful feeling, this growing up.  I’m accepting it with every heartfelt laugh and tear, every new exposure and loss, and also, every mistake.  I take pride in those, however, hopefully I don’t have too many.  But by making mistakes I know I am living.   It means I’m learning something new, which for me is one of the most rewarding experiences.

a challenge.

I know I should have posted more frequently about my trip to Greece, but during those moments of living the experiences I never thought twice about stopping, only moving forward to the next new thing.  So, here is my attempt to make up for that!

Location: Delphi, Greece

Date: May 18, 2012

Time: 11:08 PM

An interesting thought just crossed my mind. I was challenged twice today. Not the kind of challenge you and a group of friends play involving some sort of show-boaty finish, but rather two people caught me completely off guard by their wish for me to pursue something, to continue on in something I found to be difficult.

The first time was today was my attempt to draw a sphinx in the Delphi Museum. I loved the enormity of the stone sculpture; the sense of grandeur and confidence conveyed through the posture was striking. I wanted dearly to document it within the cream pages of my travel log, maybe, hopefully, capturing some of its secret power. A secret power I could conjure and call upon later in moments of weakness.  Perhaps it was the mystical gas that surrounds the myth of Delphi that was getting to me. But after getting out my journal, uncapping my pen (already frustrated with myself for not having pencil with me), and positioning myself far enough away to really get a good look at the sculpture, I admitted defeat even before I began. Then a fellow student happened to wander by asking what I was doing – to an onlooker it might seem strange, I was in the correct position to be sketching, but I was withholding the action. I mentioned my intention and received encouragement from him, but still dismissed my initial want. I continued to wander through the room, never straying too far from the Sphinx sculpture, always looking back to make sure it was still there. I don’t know why I thought it would move, but I did. Reflecting on it now, I was already beginning to regret not doing something to document it. Image

Later, running into my professor, we discussed our shared fascination with the grandiose object, which would have adorned a 12.5-meter column protecting the Siphian treasury at Delphi. I made mention of my failed attempt to sketch it, and had completely removed any further pursuit of the object, but then she challenged me, saying that I really should try again. This shocked me, not in the jaw dropping sense, but rather it was a complement that my professor would want me to pursue such a task. I was semi-upset with myself for not thinking of it. I tried to draw it and kind of succeeded. It wasn’t the documentation I had pictured to be staining the pages of my journal, but it was the first step.

— Can I just please note that I’m in a hotel in Delphi up late trying to go through my thoughts, surrounded by Germans. All speaking their native tongue – I LOVE TRAVELING –

The second time I was un-expectantly challenged was walking to find some lunch with a classmate. We were walking back from the Delphi museum, and I was trying to describe the sensation of walking out of the noisy club into the silence last night. In the moment I couldn’t find the words to describe the pressure that coats your inner ears after only an hour of deafening music from a club. To my slight frustration with my inability to describe the feeling he simply said, “Well, try.” Again, the wish for me to continue on completely caught me off guard. I rebalanced my self from the slight stumble that occurred and stood slight taken aback. The confidence that this elicited in me was fantastic. It is almost as if he knew I could, but I was too lazy to try. Which is true, I’m use to things coming easily to me, and when that didn’t happen I chose to disregard the whole situation. I also think it was the fact that it showed genuine interest. He wanted me to continue my explanation of the feeling, rather than the normal person who would just move on to the next story.

a reflection: getting started

This pre-trip benchmark reflection is dedicated to pre-trip emotions and thoughts, and to my parents who are so willing to drive me all the way down to Nashville from Cincinnati to catch a flight.

5/5/12

I have this extremely odd feeling of limbo – floating in the in-between. I have neither sadness for those loved ones I am leaving behind, nor a crazy excitement for the wonderful and what many call ‘life changing’ experiences. I have had this feeling for the past few days and don’t really understand how to explain them.  I should be graduating today with the rest of my friends, sitting there in an ocean of black hats, unrecognizable by my parents who arrived late and sat too far away.  I asked my friend how she was feeling moments before she graduated and in reply said, “…like I’m being herded into a huge pile of runners waiting for the gunshot to signify the start of a marathon with the finish line being a single job.” To this I made a slight mention of there being a choice involved when running a marathon. I feel like I am abandoning my duty of academia and running the other way by going to Greece instead.  It is not that I have a fear of graduation – goodness knows I was ready to be out of this place months ago – I just found another path.

In an odd sense going to Greece will act for me as graduation does for many others, as a closure and a new beginning.  For me this trip to Greece becomes a transitory door: it ends an era of my life while opening up worldviews, future possibilities, and a new page on which to transcribe my life. Before my departure, someone very dear to me kept mentioning, “You were born for this.”  I was born for this?  I was born for this. This will be the first of many abroad trips.  Going to Greece will be an irreplaceable experience, just like graduation would be for me. It will provide for me opportunities, just like graduation will provide opportunities for others.

My expectations for graduation are for it to be long, boring, underwhelming, and hoping that I do not do something embarrassing in front of hundreds of strangers and classmates. My expectations for Greece are quite the opposite.  This trip will not last long enough; I would trade years of my life for chances to interact with other cultures, embrace their unique personalities and traditions.  There will not be a moment in the ordinary; every experience will be new and exotic.  Also, my expectations for my emotions are to be completely overwhelmed, intoxicated with excitement and exhausted from the hyper energy elicited trying to absorb and catalog every moment awake.

My only fear for this trip is not indulging enough in Greece and coming home with a ‘tasting’ rather than a full drink of the culture.  This doesn’t mean wild nights, rambling the streets during the midnight hours, but it means I’m concerned with not taking advantage of the opportunities I am presented.  I want to bargain with the man I am buying my trinkets from. I want to taste new foods, rather than reverting to ‘American’ food.  I want to speak the language, not being afraid of being laughed at for saying something incorrectly.  Actually, I look forward to that, because it means I tried to engage with someone.  I didn’t just sit back and let them speak English because this is what would be easiest, but I’m placing myself within the context of their culture, getting my full experience.

a vision

Intoxicated – with beautiful weather, pure-hearted people, and a future that is blossoming in front of me.
This is the feeling that occupied all corners of my mind and body as I walked out of the Center for Nonprofit Management yesterday here in Nashville.  I had just spent seven hours in a workshop with some of the most passionate and dedicated people I have ever met.  We were all there with one common goal: how to become more knowledgeable and better equipped at grant writing. With over more than 1.5 million nonprofits functioning in the United States, completion is high amongst grant writers to receive funding to continue the forward progress of their nonprofits.
The people I met yesterday were inspiring.  Each person came with dedication and optimism. Many talked of their dedication with heart and soul, fully convinced in the mission and goals of their nonprofit. This leads to the possible impact that could affect an individual, ultimately changing lives and fostering a better community.
This impassioned environment only nurtured my own desire to cultivate a growth and further appreciation in the arts.  It seems lately I have been blessed with opportunities and connections, many of which, have helped guide me through the overwhelming labyrinth of a senior getting ready to graduate.  Many times my connections and experiences will lead me in the right direction, where I only end up being turned around again due to hesitation.  Ultimately, it is their advice and my own decision that will lead me closer to the center of what I want to do with my life.
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Visionaries and Voices is a Cincinnati born nonprofit that opened 10 years ago when two case managers for Developmental Disabilities Services came into contact with self-taught artist through their jobs.  As of 2003, Visionaries and Voices is recognized as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.    Showing great support from the community V&V has expanded to two locations allowing various artists with disabilities into the studio to create, sell, and celebrate their work!
Last summer I had the amazing opportunity of seeing their Northside Gallery while I was an intern at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati. The work I saw here was amazing! Completely outstanding.  Each artist manifested their unique style through the various mediums they used.  One artist was keene to painting rhythmic polka-dots on empty pop cans he collected, one payed tribute to her favorite country singers by rendering the figures in traditional portraiture, another drew inspiration from comic books and is developing a story of his own.
I also was able to see some of Courttney  Cooper’s work, a rising artist with celebratory status.  He generates large scale 3-D arial views of Cincinnati – all executed from memory! An excerpt from his profile states:

These maps take form on pieces of paper he glues together, adding space as he needs it to draw out the obsessive, highly detailed, tapestry-like ink drawings of Cincinnati neighborhoods with his ‘Bic’ pens. Courttney often walks the streets of the city, committing all the places he visits down to memory. This is a unique and astounding process that he has been using since he was a child. Each of his drawings includes current construction and demolition sites, as well as many personal additions expressing current seasons, events, and projects going on locally. Through out the sprawling maps are written thoughts and phrases hidden beneath the landscape and revealed within the open white space of the paper. Courttney’s pictorial portrayal of the city through a fine clustering of lines and detail create a unique and awe inspired image of his surroundings.”

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These artists are truly inspiring.

a thought on love.

I like to think of love as a mystical practice of the occult.  Something that cannot and will not be contained or known; it is a splash of fire ignited unexpectedly in the life of its chosen victims.

Throughout history love has been wanted, captured, persecuted, obsessed, deceived, won, and limitless.  At such a young age when we are most affected by our surroundings, we absorbed fairy tales.  They are filled with picturesque princesses and valiant princes, and their narrated relationship accumulates to the quintessence of love.  Young girls are most affected by this; we search for a prince to slay our dragons.  We find none.   Later stories, books, and novels come into our hands and the fine line of fiction and non-fiction become distorted by our own misconceptions or wanting of a created character.  After all aren’t books supposed to entertain the unimaginable reality?

My point I’m trying to conclude from my ramblings is no single person, movie, book, parent nor peer can teach us the meaning or true actions of love.  It is something that must be felt and learned through two lovers, and two lovers only.  No paramour can be created only found and loved for everything he or she possess. More than likely, their flaws are what have cut their lover to love’s core foundations.   It is always easy to love somebody, but the true challenge is acceptance.  One can only love another, when he or she has seen the flaws and still decides to continue on with that person.

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 I turn to the greats to help me illustrate the intimacy and delicate affection between two lovers in a single kiss.

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The Kiss, Constantin Brancusi, 1908
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The Kiss, Auguste Rodin, 1889
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The Kiss, Gustav Klimt, 1908