Simply put, Greece is an amazing country. Everything that you hope to see and experience is there in droves, such as; amazing food, incredibly hospitable people, and scenic vistas that will absolutely knock your socks off. Even more so, Greece is a country filled with unexpected splendour and unique educational opportunities.
Through the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s WorldStrides program, I was given the ability to experience everything that the magnanimous country of Greece had to offer while also gaining new friends and learning many new things.
It has been about a week and a half since I have returned from Greece and I have noticed that my entire worldview has changed. I always enjoy travelling internationally because this idea of my general psyche changing is not necessarily unique to any particular country. However, each new country adds unique perspectives to my inner monologue. When it comes to culture, seeing how the Greek people treat religion and their youth – things that are particularly prominent in American society – I find that my experience in Greece has fundamentally changed how I feel about these topics. Luckily for me, the study abroad experience that was provided by WorldStrides was incredibly varied in the locations that we went to and the people that we met. As such, I saw the complexities of these topics first hand and through multiple guides. As a Classics and Philosophy dual major, I am deeply gratified in experiencing how my personal beliefs and perceived culture can change in topics such as these.
I think that religion was the cultural difference that struck me the hardest. In America, we see religion as an institute that is varied and rather removed to the normal day-to-day life of any particular citizen. While this fervour for religion can vary person by person in America, it is not nearly as prominent as it is in Greece. The largest tourist area in the Greek capital city of Athens is called Monastiraki meaning “Little Monastery” due to the fact that there is literally a small Eastern Orthodox monastery prominently showcased in the centre square. No matter where we walked, we would see priests in the Eastern Orthodox Church wandering around and talking to the Greek citizens. In our hotel in Athens, we were down the hall from a Greek Orthodox priest who was also enjoying the amenities as we were. And even in the far removed Greek Islands of Crete and Naxos, I regularly saw Greek Orthodox priests going into shops and eating food at the local cafes. I wonder how America would react to a religion that is this prominent and uniquely friendly to people. I am not particularly religious, but after enjoying many conversations with these priests, I have certainly found a new respect for this religion.
Our guides, provided by WorldStrides, were my age. They were either in college or recent graduates and they were far and away some of the best parts of the trip. Their professionalism, candor, and intense breadth of knowledge that they brought to the table was simply astonishing. This was the second major cultural shock I had. I work in a customer service based environment and, because of this, I have certainly found that sometimes people my age and younger can be incredibly challenging to interact with due to our education system failing us. Everyone I interacted with in Greece seemed to have a different attitude when it came to the retail or customer service environment. I hope to one day embody their incredible patience and intelligence in continuing with my job here in the states.
While I have many more cultural shocks from my time in Greece, I find that these two were the most significant since my return home. They have caused me to change how I am personally in my day-to-day life. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has given me by allowing me to participate in this trip, and I hope that other people, perhaps the people reading this essay, take part in the study abroad trips because they do indeed change you far more than what you were expecting at the beginning. And that is an opportunity that cannot go to waste.
Nolan Cicci (BA Classics and Philosophy) spent part of May 2023 participating in a faculty-led trip to Greece with the Classics department. Nolan had the following to say about studying abroad, “Greece: Living proof that you can’t beat natural perfection.”
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