By the time, I finish here at ACT, I will hopefully be able to call not just ACT but Greece my second home!
The first week abroad is filled with different emotions. Every person is going to feel different emotions at different times throughout the week. I remember reading an article about culture shock a week before I departed for Thessaloniki. I was surprised that it did not hit me right away! It took a while, but it did occur while in my first week of classes.
Honestly, this adjustment has not been easy for me. I am still organizing my living space and handling my homesickness as best I can. I am the type of person that wants to know everything is perfect. This is the first lesson of many from this journey: Give it time!
I keep in contact with family and friends, which has helped the transition process. My advice for anyone who is going abroad is to stay in contact with at least one person from their university. I am not talking about friends or advisors, but others such as a professor you have a close relationship with. For me, I stay in contact with a professor I feel at times knows me better than I know myself. I was feeling discouraged and I reached out to her. Her response was very supportive, encouraging, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. It is okay to reach out to others back home, but also remember to form good relationships in the country where you are staying. By the time, I finish here at ACT, I will hopefully be able to call not just ACT but Greece my second home! #GoHawks
Keeping your doors open
I am sitting here on a Sunday afternoon reflecting on my second week here. Where I live, I am fortunate enough to have a balcony with two sliding doors. Today, the two doors are open with fresh air coming in. When I look out, I see all my neighbor’s clothes hanging from a clothesline.
An incident happened last week on my birthday, but I think it was the best birthday gift I received. I was given beautiful flowers from a friend in my program. I had them sitting out on the table by my two sliding doors. That morning, I noticed that my neighbour was waving to me and I waved back with a friendly smile. But then she continued to stand there. I did not know what to do because I knew she did not speak a word of English and I do not know how to speak fluent Greek. In my head, I felt complete embarrassment. I did something that I regret: I just shut my curtains hoping that she would go away.
That night after I returned from my birthday dinner, another woman came to my door. She did speak English and explained to me that the woman who was trying to communicate with me was worried about my health. She saw the flowers in my room and thought that the flowers were taking the oxygen out of the room. I learned that her sister passed away from allergies. In that moment, I felt like the worst person in the world.
My neighbor cared enough to warn me about the flowers. I did not even give her a chance but I let the anxiety and pressure of dealing with a language barrier prevent me from being a good neighbor. In Greece, neighbor helps neighbor and we look out for one another!
And that is why I always keep my doors open. My lesson for anyone who is going abroad is to always be open to cross-cultural communication. Never let embarrassment or fear of not knowing the other person’s language keep you from forming a good relationship. The more open-minded you are, the more comfortable the situation will be. Try and if you mess up its okay! But never say you didn’t try.
To finish my story, my neighbor and I always wave hi to each other in the morning and at night. We do not say words, but just our gestures help us form a special relationship. I hope by the time I leave here I can have a full conversation with her. Trust me I am working on it :)!
Tia Dacquisto is an international relations major at the University of Iowa. She will be spending the academic year in northern Greece at the American College of Thessaloniki.
Student blog entries posted to this International Accents page may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UI Study Abroad and International Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.