Friday, November 4, 2022
Maya Torrez at the Parthenon at Greece
Maya Torrez at the Parthenon


My name is Maya Moon Torrez, I’m an English and creative writing major on the publishing track, and saying hello is just one thing I learned during my study abroad experience in Greece. 

As a person with Native American and Mexican ancestry, I have often felt adrift in America, a country that suppresses its own indigenous history. Thus, it was a privilege to travel to Greece, where the culture of the native people is not only preserved, but revered. Visiting sites of worship and community that were frequented by people thousands of years ago—including locations where Aristotle and Socrates spoke(!!)—was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. I could feel the history around me, as though remnants of those past people still lingered. The staggering amount of history around me, even just walking on the streets of Athens, was humbling. Even getting on the metro required walking past infrastructure built by Romans. I loved how everyday moments contained the opportunity to learn some new historical tidbit, aided, of course, by the wonderful Dr. Trusty, Laura, Jordan, and Nikos, who acted as our guides for this trip. 

"Standing in the mountains of Delphi, looking down at the olive trees that lined the valleys for miles, I understood how ancient Greeks were able to craft such enduring myths."

Maya Torrez at the Temple of Poseidon
At the Temple of Poseidon

Although we spent most of our time in Athens, one of my favorite portions of the program was when we traveled to other cities, especially Delphi. Standing in the mountains of Delphi, looking down at the olive trees that lined the valleys for miles, I understood how ancient Greeks were able to craft such enduring myths. The landscape itself invites divine inspiration. As a writer, I hope to translate the awe I experienced on this trip into my own creative work. I certainly have enough material to last me a lifetime. Not to mention the delicious gemista and pastitsio I ate at a restaurant in Delphi: can’t recommend Greek cuisine enough. 

While I’m gushing, I have to mention that locals were not only willing, but often delighted, to help me practice my limited grasp of their language. I’ve never felt so welcomed by complete strangers, which is saying something considering my Midwest upbringing. On one specific occasion, I spent hours talking to a tourist shop owner about his philosophy on travel and education. By the end of our conversation I almost felt like I had gained an uncle, that’s how friendly and inviting he was. Not to mention, at every restaurant we ate in, the owners would come out to personally greet our table and offer us free appetizers or drinks. The people of Greece made me feel comfortable right away in this entirely new environment and for that I cannot thank them enough. 

Finally, if you’re concerned about the long-term commitment of an entire semester abroad, let me assure you that summer sessions are equally rich. In just three weeks I was able to make some of the strongest friendship bonds I have ever forged with my fellow Iowa students on the trip; learn more about architecture, epigraphy, and religious beliefs than I ever thought possible; and eat some of the most delicious foods I have ever encountered. I think I would have been too homesick to stay abroad for much longer, so the summer session’s schedule allowed me to travel to my heart’s content without stressing my FOMO too much. I never felt like I compromised on value even though I chose a shorter program. In fact, it suited me so well I can’t imagine my study abroad experience going any more perfectly than it did in actuality. Greece holds a part of my soul now, irrevocably, and I already can’t wait to go back someday. 

Life is short, the world is wide. I want to make some memories.
Maya Torrez


Maya Torrez (English and creative writing major), a Diversity Ambassador Scholarship recipient, participated in the UI faculty-led Ancient Perspectives, Modern Eyes program in summer 2022.


The Diversity Ambassador Scholarship program provides awards to study abroad for a summer, semester, or academic year. The scholarships are intended to support the diversification of students who study abroad. Upon completion of the study abroad program and return to UI, award recipients are asked to submit a photo and an open letter to prospective students or suggest an alternate means of sharing with prospective students.


Please note that the opinions and views expressed by diversity ambassadors are solely those of the students and do not reflect or represent the views of International Programs or the University of Iowa.

International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.