I loved studying abroad so much that I had to go back. After studying in Salzburg, Austria in the fall, I returned to Europe to study in Thessaloniki, Greece. Switching from East Central Europe to Southern Europe was definitely a culture shock, but a good one. I spent three months falling in love with the city and the people, while learning that my expectations of Greece were wrong. There is no other place like Greece, and I would recommend visiting just to experience what the country is like. I was absolutely singing ABBA songs through the streets of Thessaloniki, and I would highly suggest you do the same if you visit.
Thessaloniki, Greece is a place that embraces life like no other. From walking along the promenade to dancing traditionally in the streets and having clubs open until 7 am, you’ll find excitement everywhere you look. The city is not the prettiest, but it has character, and the Greek islands are a short plane or boat ride away. Thessaloniki has stunning Byzantine architecture and monuments and I never got used to walking down the street and seeing ancient ruins. I have a million photos driving past the White Tower after taking a cab home at 4 am. I learned how joyful life in Greece is as my roommate and I started our day in our local Mikel’s, where our baristas knew our names and would greet us with a shouted “Kalimera!” We went to brunch every Sunday if we were in town. My friends and I shared a Greek salad no matter what the meal was. The city is not super walkable, but the 2-mile promenade to downtown is a beautiful and easy walk along the water. The nightlife is beyond fun and while the Greeks do not dance at clubs, they appreciate the Americans that do. If there is one thing that Thessaloniki does extremely well, it is the food. You’ll never go hungry and Greek food is the best cuisine, however dinner is usually at 10 pm, so snack accordingly. Greece carves a piece of your heart out and settles in.
ISEP program in Greece at the American College of Thessaloniki is a unique take on the study abroad experience. The campus is about a 30-minute bus ride from the dorms and a shuttle provided by the school has a schedule around the students” classes for pick up. The campus is very pretty, and international students attend with you. The program is larger, but makes it a little difficult to immerse yourself in the culture because you are in a bit of a bubble at campus and with the shuttle system, there is a disconnect between you and the general public sometimes. The program has fun field trips but can be a bit expensive. The classes are very interesting and if you sign up fast, you can get into the sea-sailing class. I was able to take it and it was an experience like no other. We went sailing once a week and was able to see the most beautiful sunsets as well as dolphins! I was able to obtain my international sea-sailing license after I passed the class. The school offers a plethora of classes including math and lab classes. The teachers are more off hand but want you to do well. Because it is a traditional campus, the school offers a ton of support and club activities!
If you choose Greece, enjoy the mainland, but make sure to visit the islands. I was able to travel to 5 Greek islands and each is so special in their own way. Santorini and Mykonos are beautiful but go to Crete and see the site of the Minoans where the fabled Minotaur is supposed to be. See Rhodes and view the stunning rock features and swim in the clear, blue sea. The Greek islands are the epitome of what it means to enjoy life. Have Mamma Mia moments, fall in love with places, and eat so much food. Greece changes you in the best way and you’ll learn so much. I cannot wait to go back one day and see the place that I loved to call home.
Gabrielle Evans (BA Anthropology) spent Spring 2023 studying abroad in Thessaloniki, Greece through ISEP. Gabrielle had the following to say about studying abroad, “If there is one thing a person should attempt to do, it is study abroad. I have traveled to 20 countries, sailed with dolphins while obtaining my sailing license, hiked the most beautiful mountains, eaten amazing food, and made the best friends a person could ask for. There will forever be an ache in my heart as I miss the places I lived abroad, but I would not change that feeling for the world.”
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