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Over the last three weeks, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to see two of my friends from Bethel who are also studying abroad this semester. At the beginning of the month, my friend Natalie, currently studying in Belgium, came to visit Athens (the above picture is us at the Parthenon) and just this past weekend I was able to travel to Barcelona, Spain and see my friend Nicole (who also writes for this blog). Although each visit was different, they came with a number of shared realizations.
1) Despite the fact that I’m having an amazing experience here, I do miss home and Bethel. Getting to see friends, regardless of how close to them you are or not, can be a welcome relief. Even just reminiscing about school for a half hour can do wonders for getting past any homesickness.
2) One of the things I wish I could change about my experience but cannot is the fact that I can’t share all of my adventures with the people I love firsthand. There are so many people I wish I could share my time abroad with and have them here with me and even getting to do that for just a little while with Natalie and Nicole was really nice. We can blog and post pictures and skype all we want, but there’s nothing quite like being around in first person.
3) As my return date to the U.S. looms ever nearer, the harder it is to imagine going back to daily life in the states, at home or at school. After being on my own in a different country, a concept that was overwhelming and foreign and hard to image when my journey first began, it’s even hard to image going back to my “normal". But seeing my fellow Bethel friends who are studying abroad has reminded me, I’m not the only one who is having trouble picturing going home and that when I get back to school, I won’t be the only one trying to adjust back into a life that was so familiar and comfortable, but now sees a tad strange.
4) Places change you. When Natalie came to visit Athens, there were a number of strikes and demonstrations going on in the city because a new austerity deal was being reviewed in Parliament. (For those of you who don’t know what’s going on with Greece’s economy, this will give you a general overview of recent legislation and why it was needed: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/11/greek-austerity-budget-approved-by-parliament_n_2114890.html). While we were walking through the streets on our way to visit a popular neighborhood, we passed a number of buses that transport riot police and are often used to block streets during protests. She thought it was a little intense, while we barely noticed them. We’ve gotten so used to their presence everywhere that we barely process them anymore. Walking through a big protest doesn’t shake me anymore, it’s just a regular thing here, and I didn’t even realize that to some it’s scary and that I’d gotten so used to it. I realized places force you to adapt and even the strangest things can become common.
5) What I found to be the most interesting, though, was how similar some of our experiences have been despite being in different countries. Nicole is currently studying in Barcelona, which is also in the midst of a financial crisis very similar to Greece’s. The people of Spain are very unhappy, just like the people of Greece, and austerity measures make citizens take to the street and strike more and more frequently. I’ve seen this so much in Greece that I wasn’t surprised to hear about it in Spain, nor did she see that surprised by Greece. It just sees like the typical thing to do nowadays. Actually, the fact that Americans rarely choose to exercise their right to protest seems odd to me now. Governmental discontent is a worldwide event and rarely are separate occurrences unrecognizable.
I have loved getting to see some of my Bethel friends, but at the same time, it’s also helped me realize how much I’ve come to love the place I am and the people I’m with. There’s a bond I’ve formed with my Athens friends and the city itself that will exist for years to come, which I can’t say about many of my experiences before this semester.
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