Alison is an Early Childhood Education major who studied abroad in Greece during the fall 2011 semester in partnership with Drury University's Center in Greece. Between island travels, Alison took time to talk about her incredible experience:
What have you enjoyed most?
My study-away experience in Aigina, Greece, has been such an amazing experience and I am so excited that I still have several weeks left of the semester.
What I have enjoyed most about the experience is being completely immersed in the Greek culture and finding my place within the community where I live. Through living within a community, I have had the opportunity to observe and experience the Greek island culture firsthand while learning about the past and present history of the culture in my classes.
Not only do I get to see my homework and studies come to life, but I also get to find my own place within the Greek island lifestyle.
When I know my way around the town, have my favorite spots to read or watch the sunset, and the supermarket manager remembers my name, I know I have begun to become part of the island.
Throughout the semester we take several trips with our professors and trips by ourselves that are so much fun and we learn a lot, but the best part of this experience is living in a new world for a few months.
I will have more opportunities in the future to travel to different parts of the world to do the normal sight-seeing and tourist kinds of things for a week or two, but who knows if I will ever get the chance to live for several months in a completely foreign environment like Aigina, Greece, again?
What has been the greatest challenge?
There are several challenges while studying abroad, but typically they add some thrill and excitement while enhancing memories made, as long as the difficulties are faced with an optimistic attitude (such as figuring out transportation issues, not knowing various languages to communicate effectively, etc).
The greatest challenge I have faced is figuring out how to balance my time. While it is important to study and work on homework, it is also just as important (if not more important) to experience the world you are living in while abroad.
Plus, it is essential to factor in time to relax and get some good rest, which is something I was missing in the beginning within my schedule.
Time management is difficult as a student in general, but when abroad the challenge is heightened as the experiences outside of the classroom are new and thrilling on a daily basis. A lot of times I find myself having a hard time focusing on homework because I would rather be out walking around town, getting a gyro from my favorite restaurant, taking pictures of fishing boats, etc. As I am abroad longer, I find more ways to help myself manage my time, such as setting a bedtime, making lists of what needs to be done for school everyday and even planning time to explore the community. When I plan for time to go out in the community I can more easily focus on my reading or studying because I have my "exploring time" to look forward to.
Part of studying away is learning through experiencing, and one of the best ways to learn is to experience challenges and figure out to break through and move past the issue, taking the lesson learned with you for future situations faced while abroad and beyond.