Clearing the Air…

Hello from Greece!…or should I say yia sas! (Greek word for hello)

This is just my first of many blog posts to come! I feel like I have so much to share already but I will start by attempting to answer a commonly asked question of what the economic and political situation is like in Greece. I obviously don’t know everything about what the country is currently dealing with, but I can give a foreigner’s opinion of what effects I have seen of this economic crisis in the first two weeks I have been here.

Before I left for Greece I had many preconceptions of what the country was like and the kind of people who lived there. In America, we are limited to only what we hear in the media about what is going on in Greece. I was warned several times about all the “dangers” of going to Greece. I had waves of concerns coming in from my friends, teachers, family, co-workers, and even fellow study abroad students. The school in Greece did a great job of reassuring the study abroad coordinators and my parents that it would be a safe and enjoyable place for them to send me for four months. I never doubted my decision and kept reminding myself that whatever is happening in Greece is all part of their culture and what makes living in a different country so interesting. Greece is run under a democracy which allows its people the right to protest. Yes, it was unfortunate that an intense riot broke out in the main square of Athens just two weeks before I left…but as long as you are smart and don’t attend these protests, you will hardly notice the effects of the economic crisis. Many Greeks are mad at their government right now and having to change the way they are living. I’m predicting that the same types of decisions are going to have to be made in America soon and there are bound to be people who are not happy with the results. Getting engulfed in the country’s customs, both good and bad, is all part of the experience. My parents were extremely supportive, even though I could tell they were nervous to send their youngest daughter to a country that is economically unstable at the moment.

I have seen some visible effects of the economic crisis in the two weeks I have been here. A few days after we arrived we decided to venture into Athens. Shortly after arriving in the center of Athens, Syntagma Square, we learned the Metro Subway Station was going to be closed for a few hours because of a scheduled protest happening around the Parliament building (showed to the right). Luckily we were with someone who has been living in Greece for a couple of years and reassured us that we would be safe and able to get back home. We did not see any protest or anything even close to violent acts while we were there. The Parliament building was gated off and there were police vans stationed all around Athens, but this was just a precautionary act. From what I have experienced, the people of Greece are never violent. They are never trying to hurt anyone…they just want to express their opinions, which can sometimes get out of hand.

Talking to people close to my age in Greece has always proved to be interesting. They clearly know I am not Greek, hence the red hair, and will proceed to ask where I am from. I say I’m from America (I don’t even bother saying Nebraska because most don’t know where it’s at), and majority of the time they ask me why I decided to come to Greece to study abroad. My only thought at this point is “why wouldn’t I want to come study in this amazing country?!” I did not expect to meet so many people who are trying to leave Greece. The unemployment rate, especially for people my age, is disturbingly high in Greece. For an American student who is only staying in Greece for four months, it is easy to get excited about everything this country has to offer. I do not have to live her permanently, get a job, pay taxes, and follow under their political system. A large amount of the people I have talked to on campus are getting their degree in Greece in hopes of finding a job in America and moving there permanently. I found this interesting because I absolutely in love with all the culture, people, and scenery I am surrounded with in Greece. I guess the saying is true that “the grass is always greener on the other side.”