It’s All Greek to Me

Welcome to my so far life of roaming Athens for hours, writing down all my random babbling and shooting photos of unsuspecting subjects as best I can. I’ve ventured on the metro (which is like a five minute bus ride from my apartment) almost everyday this week in search of yummy lunch, a tour of the city, nights out on the town and a peaceful beach day in the super duper salty Mediterranean (who knew??).

IMG_6355At first the Metro was ‘alright lets kinda just guess that that Greek word was something tangible and follow the voice of the intercom to see where we end up.’ For being English speaking newbies trying to find a location our friends said to meet at… we did pretty darn well. The tour of Athens in the school bus was the pretty touristy next excursion out of Aghia Paraskevi and man was that interesting to go see the old part of the city and small cobblestone streets! It was similar to a picturesque Parisian street cafe.

beachOk let’s focus on the beach now. First, consider where I’m from (15 minutes from Pacific Coast Highway in southern California where the surfs totally gnarly brah!). Now reflecting on that… the coast of the Mediterranean is more my kind of beach! No waves to annihilate your hopes and dreams, no sand getting stuck in your bottoms and really given you a comfy drive home, and lastly… no crazy seaweed that decides to make you a model for its new dress line. As I swam out to the buoys, I could see my feet and the floor of the ocean at every moment. Talk about confidence in the water my ocean squeamish friends.

The structure of Athens is reminding me quite a bit of Seattle actually. You arrive thinking its all contained in one central area that is the epitome of the city. In reality its spread out quite vastly into smaller little pockets of one lifestyle. For example, I live up on capitol hill but I guarantee those are a different lifestyle set than Queen Anne or Downtown. Just like now, I live in Aghia Paraskevi that highly contrasts from the vibe down in Gazi or Plaka. I’m interested to find each little pocket little by little.

Later alligators!


P.S. title coined from young scholar Michael McDonnell himself (as he made very clear)

What it takes to check off the “bucket list”…

I really do promise that I will get better at this technology concept and learn that blogging, really is not that difficult to work with as a medium. In the near future, I predict posts coming on a semi-normal basis with a less scattered-brain style, as I am sure this will turn out. Anyway, that is my informal apology for what is about to come. 

I will start by giving a bit of background of what the heck I have even been doing during my time abroad thus far. Well I began my journey in early August, flying into not Italy, but Amsterdam. I have family scattered throughout the Netherlands as my father was born and raised in Zutphen for the beginning of his life. As a lovely result, I have family to visit and lean on in the beautiful country of Holland. Once in Zutphen, I was able to leave my big suitcase (yes, only ONE big suitcase) with the family and took my backpack and hopped on the train for part one of Justine’s adventure. Although it gave my parents a slight heart attack, I spent a couple weeks backpacking through Holland, Belgium, and France, only really staying in each place a couple of days. In the end though, they understood how rewarding this experience would be for me, and luckily supported my independent streak. I am going to say it once – traveling by yourself is the number one way to figure out who you are as a person. I spent some serious time reflecting on what I want out of this experience and learning how to be flexible. 

On top of the Eiffel Tower
On top of the Eiffel Tower

I am a self- proclaimed control freak who needs an organized plan at all times. Missing trains, having the wrong address, getting lost, living in dirty spaces are all different chapters of my nightmares yet was my reality for those few weeks traveling solo. I am sure I will touch on this throughout my time here, but knowing when to accept the things I cannot change has been, and will be, the struggle I explore daily. 

Fast forward to the end of August – my mother was lucky enough to come visit me and help me move into my apartment in Florence after my backpacking stunt. My clear piece of advice I can pass on to prospective travelers: though it will seem like a good idea in prospect, saying goodbye abroad is harder than doing so at home. Granted, my mother and I are as close as the Gilmore girls, seeing her walk away down the narrow avenues of Florence while still adjusting to life in this new country was more difficult than I ever imagined. For future reference, I think the way to go is to invite a visit from the family mid-program or near the end; something to look forward to, not fondly think of in the past tense.

Well this brings me to my ‘home away from home’… the apartment.  Another way to learn to be flexible; when there are three rooms, six girls, and only two rooms with a view, perspective is what you need to keep in mind. Due to timing, my gentile way of thinking, and general attitude towards confrontation, my roommate and I are sharing a small bedroom in the back of the house that faces a wall and does not get any airflow. Usually, the girl I am back home, would let that ruin a perfectly unrelated experience. Justine in Florence is a different story, I know that I am fortunate to even be here and know that this is a place that will not define my stay here. I feel the need to share that little anecdote because so many people I know have let the small things affect their attitude in the long run, and I personally think that is a waste of time and energy. Being appreciative can be a ‘hard’ job sometimes, but it is the active perspective that will help you make the most of every day abroad (and in general). 

It could be that I was traveling beforehand and have been here a month longer than my counterparts, or that it finally sunk in that this is my new home, but the couple weeks of life in Florence was difficult for me. I did not adjust right away, and I was very home sick. Everything seemed to be building up and my emotion clouded my judgment. I am not going to sugarcoat it, I really did think of ways to come there for bit. What got me through was planning something to look forward to. My ultimate dream when even planning to come over here was my bucket list goal of getting to Croatia. Croatia is in my opinion, the most beautiful place in the world. If there had been an option to study abroad there, I would have with no doubt made it my final destination. So when I happened upon a student trip to Croatia, I jumped on the opportunity. Between the island hopping, rafting, and hiking, I accomplished this life-long goal in a matter of a whirlwind weekend. It was such a beautiful four days, it feels surreal that I was even there. It was this trip that also saved me from myself and my tendency to ‘over-think’ while abroad. I am happy to report that I am doing well here now, life is becoming more routine, and beside the amazingly large groups of tourists (ironic I know), I would not change anything about where I am. 

Krka National Waterfall Park in Croatia
Krka National Waterfall Park in Croatia

So overall, these first weeks have been a roller coaster of emotion. There are somehow only about three months left. How it is the end of September, I do not know. Moving forward, I again will be more on top of this posting business and will do my best to follow a bit more coherent trains of thought. But for now, arrivaderla! 

Florence from Piazza Michelangelo
Florence from Piazza Michelangelo


Calimera or good morning!

Finally getting the ball rolling, my name is Kathryn Bishop (Kat) and I am a sophomore International Studies and Photography major this year. As of now I am a student at the American College of Greece exchange program. Long story short I’m living in Athens this quarter and diving into the Greek culture headfirst!

I’ve officially completed my first week of hectic study abroadness (there will be a lot of ‘wordsmithing’ involved in excursions) and all that is entailed with international travel. I must say the airport is a solid give and take through the entire process. Yes, you get to fly to an incredible place and have an adventure all your own but on the other hand… lets just throw you in a line of people who have no idea what’s going on but wouldn’t dare ask the person right in front of them in the fear that the Canadian family isn’t as well tempered as we think… Past that, after dad snuck a few goodbye photos of me turning into the security line, I headed off.

One Chaco in front of the other, naturally.

Arriving is one thing but feeling like I’m here to stay is still sinking in. ‘Welcome to Europe and now you must fend for yourself’ is the initial thought I had. Luckily, as soon as I walked into the Aghia Paraskevi neighborhood I knew I was in a place that would break in like a new pair of shoes… the more I walk around and explore the less initial blisters and hesitation I’ll feel.

The first few days of moving in and orienting myself to the neighborhood and campus were a buzz of overwhelming hours met with impromptu naps that lasted two hours longer than intended… but as soon as I wake up I’ve been greeted with friendly faces and many Greek conversations I can’t decipher. I know it’ll take some time to get used to the operations and new environment, especially with my lovely Seattle friends fleeing back to the city we all hold so dear. No matter how much I love Seattle and the joy it brings me, I know it’s my time to be entirely here and to fulfill my travel bug that inevitably sneaks up on me! As of now the tingles of wanting to travel to every surrounding country and list of endless Greek traditions to take part of are growing. Most importantly, as my grandfather told me on my way to Seattle and now here in Athens, “focus on those three things, grades, relationships, and (as I’m sure will be impossible surrounded by these Grecian feasts) weight.” Thanks for all who gave me words of wisdom. Now I just need to roll with the punches and eat lots of souvlaki!

Cheers and yiasou!


Actually in London and pretending like I’m not as awkward as I was at the beginning of high school

Sitting on a plane bound for Reykjavik, I am trying to focus on this blog post while also listening to some podcasts my sister recommended for me. How this will turn out will be interesting.  In any case after much distress and frantic emails, my course schedule is finally nailed down.  I’ll just say I’m taking some social science and humanities courses because I don’t think writing about my future classwork is particularly interesting, for you or for me. I’ll be sure to relay anything particularly interesting or vaguely entertaining here if and when it comes up.  Moving on!

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Alright with a more articulate, less confused, and non-jetlagged head on my shoulders, I’m continuing this post about six days after those flights. We’ve already done a lot, mainly touristy things so far, like a London bus tour, London Eye ride, and a trip out to Hampton Court. And that has only lent more evidence to this blatantly obvious but crucially important fact: London is MASSIVE. Like big. Really big. I’ve been to New York City a few times, LA two times, and other ‘big’ cities but this is a whole different level of huge.  At the top of the London Eye I couldn’t see the end of the city in any direction, there is at least 4 stories of buildings on every block, and every street is packed with people-whether that be on the sidewalk, on the road, in the tube or on the bus. London is BIG. However the real news of the last few days: we’re all awkward freshman. Remember that time at the beginning of a new school when you didn’t know anybody around you and you also knew that nobody else knew anyone else either? And I don’t mean freshman year I mean those first two weeks of school of freshmen year. That’s essentially what’s happening all over again here which is both fantastic, hilarious, and obnoxious (just like those high school freshman days right? Good ole’ days). Fantastic because it forces people to open up, hilarious because we’re all painfully aware how much like high school this is, and obnoxious because…I mean, do any of you want to relive those first two weeks of freshman year of high school? If your answer to that is a “yes” please comment below so we all can figure out your secret to navigating such awkwardness for the future. This is also an interesting happening because for me this is the third time in as many years that I’m starting school in a new place with a new group of students. First it was to the University of Portland, then to Seattle U, and now here with IES in London. So that’s been some interesting food for thought…Well! because of all of this, and all of this orientation stuff (yeah, like freshman year…seeing a pattern?) time has been very sparse; we’ll see about how much time I can carve out for blogging so sorry for the sporadic posts!

In any case our classes are actually starting tomorrow which will be a weird back-to-the-real-world check. We’ve been on summer break for a while and now being in London this almost feels like a continuation of that vacation-that’s a fantasy that needs to be broken quickly in the next few days honestly. There’s still much to do in the meantime (like planning more adventures!) so I’ll have to leave this for now. And with the sun setting over the horizon and the spires of St. Pancras taking center stage in the picture frame that is my window, Ian is getting back to it all!

Until next time



Jet Lag Day 2

My name is Justine and I am a junior this year at Seattle University. I’m majoring in strategic  communication and minoring in Italian. I’m so excited to be headed to Florence, Italy this fall to study abroad! I’ve had this goal since I started high school, really since I shared a dream with Lizzie McGuire, so it is hard to pin point the exact reason Italy was the place for me. Falling in love with the language was stage one though. Although I am so fortunate enough to be taking part in such an experience, it was not an easy decision financially. It is only through the Gilman scholarship program and the other scholarships I applied for that this was a possibility. I am so very lucky, and I recognize what a privilege it is to be a part of the program, as a result, I will not be taking this for granted and plan to make use of this time to grow and learn. My family and friends have been very supportive and have encouraged me along the way, especially on the days where it would have been so much easier to back out, and have a fine experience staying in Seattle. Although driven, I too need a push once in awhile to validate my goals and see that what I am doing and hope to accomplish is worth it.


London bound and pretending like I know how to blog about it

IES-Study London Program

Hey all!

For those who don’t know me, my name is Ian Hajnosz (don’t try and pronounce the last name, it’s hard I know) and I am a Junior here at SU. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many different places, particularly in Europe, so hopefully some of those travel chops will pay off in my first truly long term solo excursion. Here follows an account of my time heading to the UK-specifically the capital and cultural hub of the British Isles, London. Where this little blog of adventures goes I haven’t got the faintest clue, there could be anything ranging from trips, visits with old and new friends alike, to little observations from a street corner. I admittedly have no idea but hey, that’s why I’m trying this British adventure and, possibly, the reason why you are reading this blog post right now. Topping that off I have never written anything remotely close to a blog before so I’ll probably be breaking some unspoken rules of internet writing (if that’s even a thing- I mean, it is the internet). So in essence, expect everything and nothing from this written record of my time in the UK. So, let’s give this thing a go shall we?

Alright, so here we go then, the pre-trip organization of thoughts. I’ve been in the UK once before, I spent part of a summer in high school with a few hundred international students at the University of Oxford. Because of that I have an odd variety of friends speckled throughout the UK, most are international students who have chosen to attend “uni” over there. For that reason alone I am beyond excited to see them again after three years. So I have some grasp on how the place works. Well, the small city of Oxford at least. But I know a few things I swear! A pound is the same as a quid as well as being that weird measuring system those ridiculous Americans decided to adopt. A stone is roughly 14 pounds and is also that thing people chuck at the opposing team’s fans. A line of people is also the letter Q. Telephone booths are the easiest way to spot tourists. Regardless if it even has blood in it or not, everything can be bloody if you say it loud enough. Football is that sport that involves kicking a ball with a foot(…simple enough right?). “Lift” is a noun now (not a verb) and not used in a questionable, dubious fashion to ascertain if somebody does or does not work out. So no matter how much I weigh, I can use my pounds to buy a ticket to an non-confusingly named sport so that I can throw a measuring system at the annoying visiting fans but only after I’ve spent enough time sifting through the alphabet for a single letter so that I can use a verb to get to my seat. It is an English speaking country so that shouldn’t be a problem (they literally developed the language for Pete’s sake)….right?

In any case, I’m actually still working out academic coursework still so that’ll be revealed later but I will be dabbling a lot into the social sciences and humanities it looks like. But that’s enough for this intro, I haven’t even left yet! So in the meantime, keep on smiling for me and I’ll see you in the next post!



To Ireland!

Top o’ the mornin to ya!

Live from American Airlines Flight #92, en route to Dublin, Ireland! This is the beginning of my Irish immersion; soon I will be cartwheeling through the moist rolling fields of the little island that is Ireland. Who am I, you ask? Victoria Renee Derr, San Diego native, currently in the process of getting a BA in English Literature/Creative Writing at Seattle University. This trip is a part of that process.

Ireland is a place of astonishing beauty, a place of speakers and writers, a place that has sprouted as many creative voices as fields of barley. The Writer’s Workshop in Ireland guides students through poetry, fiction, and our own writing to gain a sense of place while in a foreign country, to better enrich our own experiences through the written works of other Irish writers, and to hone our own creative voice. We’ll be visiting places such as the Martello Tower (the setting of the first chapter in James Joyce’s Ulysses), the Aran Islands, and the beautiful Galway near the sea. We’ll be studying Irish writers such as James Joyce and Seamus Heaney who are notable in the way their writing engages the place in which they are in their life. For example, Joyce’s relationship with Dublin is so intimate that walking around the city today, you can find brass plaques marking places or things Ulysses character Leopold Bloom comments upon.

Our focus is to gain a sense of dinnseanchas, a Gaelic term which translates to “place wisdom.” Poet John Montague translates it as a “sense of the historical layers and legends which give character to an area.” Ireland abroad-ers will be peeling back the layers to find what’s underneath, slipping into our work boots to dig into the rich earth of Ireland (possibly encountering some bog people on the way! click here to see what bog people are all about). With our guides, James Joyce, W. B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, and Paula Meehan, we, as students, travelers, writers, hope to explore the place that holds these rich layers and create a layer of our own.

And so it begins.