Living in the incredible city of Athens with 4 million people is around 3.5 million more people than I am used to living with. My home university, The University of Idaho, is located in a town with 25,000 people. My home city of Boise only has around 700,000 people in the surrounding area. The adjustment of living and traveling in huge cities has been a unique and eye-opening experience. I’m learning to transition from suburbia to metropolitan European cities. After my first two months here, I’m learning the best ways for me to settle into living an area with so many other people.
What I’ve found to be helpful for myself, is having certain days dedicated to what the amazing city of Athens has to offer, and others dedicated to peaceful days. Some of my favorite days so far in Greece have been exploring downtown Athens. Whether this is visiting the Acropolis with ISA, walking through the flea market with my roommates, or enjoying a coffee on a rooftop cafe while the sun is setting, the downtown environment always gives me a new experience and appreciation for Athens. Also, as an ocean lover, I’ve found a couple beaches with my roommates where I’ve spent some of my favorite days. One of my most recent discoveries of Zen Beach has been my favorite. We went on a beautiful sunny day in March and found that we got to enjoy the beach with only a few others around (March is still very early in the season for locals and our cab driver was surprised we were going to the beach when it was 70 degrees outside). The owner of the cafe at Zen Beach was friendly and welcomed us and even introduced us to his cat who wanders around the beach greeting people himself. One of my favorite parts of the Greek culture is how friendly and willing people are to share their personal lives with visitors. Owners of cafes and restaurants always go above and beyond to make you feel welcomed.
Some of my other favorite days have been more relaxed though. When exploring the flea market downtown, I happened to come across a used bookstore where I picked up a couple books for as cheap as 2 euros apiece. Reading has recently become one of my favorite ways to escape social media, school and all the other pressures of life. Finding a comfy spot in the park or even on the balcony of my apartment has allowed me to find peace of mind and re-energize.
The neighborhood of Agia Paraskevi, where the American College of Greece and student housing is located, is a family-oriented area with numerous coffee shops and cafes all within walking distance of one another. One of best I have found so far is The Big Bang coffee shop which is just minutes from my school. They have amazing cappuccinos, friendly owners and even a couple cats that relax next to you as you enjoy your coffee (no one is lying to you when they say cats are literally everywhere in Greece). This is a great environment to work on essays, relax and read a book, or even enjoy a coffee with a friend. Greeks don’t expect you to drink your coffee and leave, so it’s very acceptable to enjoy my time there for a couple hours.
The beauty of studying abroad is that I have a whole semester to spend in Greece, so having one personal day doesn’t make me feel as if I am falling behind or missing out on something. I would recommend this to anyone studying abroad anywhere in the world. One of the things I greatly appreciate about Greek culture, is that they don’t feel the need to rush from one thing to another. This is one major difference I’ve noticed from American culture where everyone seems to be in a hurry for their next task or event. I find it extremely refreshing to sit and enjoy coffee for a couple hours with a friend and enjoy the moment.
I’ve had many amazing days exploring the city of Athens and the surrounding areas, but also many amazing relaxed days. Finding the happy medium between the two is what has made my abroad experience the best it can be so far.