I’ve been in Greece for just over a week now, so it’s past time for me to share some of my adventures. Here’s the scoop: I’m sharing a studio apartment with Katie, and we live in the same building as all of the other study abroad students and many Greek families. It’s a very quiet residential neighborhood on the east side of the city. We go to school at the American College of Thessaloniki, even though classes have yet to start. This week has been about settling in, making friends, and exploring my home for the next three months.
Katie and I spent the first two days furnishing our apartment and buying groceries. Everyone from our group arrived at different times, so each day there were new people to meet. I’ve made some great friends. 🙂 Our first night, we ate gyros, as one must do on a first night in Greece. Later, we walked to the boardwalk, which runs all along the coastal city, and enjoyed the view of the lights at night.
Tuesday, we finished our grocery shopping and ended up going to lunch with everyone, where I had my first true Greek salad. (My blog is going to feature food and I shamelessly promote that.) Katie and I found a coffee shop right around the corner from our apartment, and managed to get wonderful frappes (iced shaken milk/coffee) and pastries. I have since returned to this place each morning for coffee (oops).
We gathered later that evening for dinner and ate a three-course meal for 10 euro. They served us saganaki, bread, greek salad, red wine, a meat platter, french fries, and ice cream bars for dessert. Served family-style, it was a great meal with even better friends, and a good way to get to know each other. My only regret is that I didn’t document it.
That night, we followed our RA’s recommendation to check out a neighborhood near the White Tower. We walked for way too long (not recommended) and found that huge fountain, the tower, and an outdoor bar complete with music and light show.
On Wednesday, I went with some friends to a cultural exhibition downtown. They had a hot air balloon, 18 million different varieties of olive oil, an art gallery, caramel peanut butter, and neck massagers. I don’t exactly know what the exhibition was promoting, but I appreciate free samples.
We then went up in a space-needle-esque restaurant with a spectacular view of the city at sunset. After the exhibition, we came back to the apartments, and Katie and I cooked a meal, likely making the entire building smell like garlic. It was a night to catch up on sleep and relax after almost a week of crazy tourist travel agendas.
Thursday was much more eventful, with the start of our school orientation. Our whole group, which by then was around 29, got on the bus that will be taking us to school every day. We sat through introductory lectures, learned some survival Greek from a professor there, and got to explore the campus on a (very brief) tour. Our campus doesn’t house many students, as it offers only 4 degrees, but the study abroad/international students are plentiful.
There are two main buildings at ACT – the library and the classrooms. The campus is spacious though – we practically go to school in a vineyard, and it’s beautiful. The campus has had quite a significant historical impact since its installation in 1886. The school started in Turkey, but moved in the early 1900s to it’s Greek campus today. It served as the head of Macedonia and then headquarters of the German army after the surrendering of Greece to Hitler during WWII. It is one of the only schools in Europe to offer elementary, secondary, and tertiary education in one.
That evening, we ate at the gyro place from our first night, then went into the city to dance. We don’t seem to have dance clubs in the US geared toward college students, but this city is full of students, so it was a fun night of meeting them. We found a place where they played a lot of American music, coincidentally, and hung out for a while.
The Greek lifestyle is so different that while we were out, we saw families and children, as well as much older adults, leisurely eating dinner or walking around until around 2 in the morning. Their hours are sifted so that they wake a little later, and they have a mid-day siesta. It’s going to take some getting used to after my crew schedule, but I definitely like the sleeping in late/siesta part.
On Friday, we had a tour of the city, for which I will be posting photos tomorrow (hopefully) or maybe Monday. Stay tuned!