My Home Away From Home

Rachel Gischia is a student at Grand Valley State University. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and studied abroad with ISA in Athens, Greece.

Some people say that home can only be one place: the place you grew up or the place where your parents and family are. In some ways that is very true. Up until this study abroad trip I thought it was true, too. Everything opens your eyes once you study abroad. In some ways, I have made Athens (more specifically Agia Paraskevi), my home away from home.

Usually at home you have a parental figure or someone who is watching over you.  For me, this was my ISA director, Natasa. Natasa is a dedicated woman with a husband, two kids, and many different jobs and responsibilities. Amidst Natasa’s busy life, she still managed to care for us ISA students as her own family. She took us to activities and sightseeing, prepared information packets for us, and dropped everything if we were in need. Her work ethic and passion is inspiring and I am glad she was here to support me during this amazing experience. She is now my appointed Greek Mother, and I could not be more thankful!

At home, there are often little moments that make the specific place distinct. Maybe you see these things or people every day on your walk to school or work. Maybe it is something that happened once and is repeatedly brought up because it is a great memory. I have created these moments here in Greece. Everyday on the way to school I pass stray cats and listen to the birds chirp. It is one of my favorite feelings. Everyday I see people pushing their children in strollers. A lot of the time it is older grandparents pushing kids. I have a favorite bagel place I stop in on the way to school at least 2 times a week. I will never forget freddo cappuccinos, along with spinach pies and how I most likely will not get these in the U.S. My apartment is by a few shopping stores, two of them being Bershka and Pull and Bear. Almost every Thursday after class, my friend and I stop in, just to look! All of these moments and more have become a ritual here at my home in Greece, and it is these little moments that will soon be memories for me.

Home is a place where there are people who care about you, and I’ve had that while studying abroad and made so many friends. Studying abroad seems wonderful and fun, but there are hardships we all have to face while here. That is when these friendships really show their strength. Meeting people who are truly there for you and care about you is a priceless opportunity I wish upon everyone. Friendships that will last my whole life are what made my experience so positive and what made Greece home.

Home is not so much the exact place you are in. It may rather be the people you are with, the memories you are making, and simply, the little things. I learned that I will have many homes in my lifetime and I am perfectly okay with that. I am happy to have a home in the U.S. and now, a home in Greece. Thank you Agia Paraskevi, for being my home away from home.


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