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Gina Piccolini '08 - Athens, Greece

Gina in front of the Acropolis

Juniata College promotes studying abroad to all students. As a freshman, I thought I might like to study abroad, but I didn't think it was possible, while participating in both rigorous academic and athletic programs. Towards the end of my first year, I learned of BCA's program with City University in Athens, Greece. The semester started in March, enabling me to finish out basketball season, still study abroad, and not fall behind in my classes. I was hooked, and it was the best decision I've ever made in my life.

Have you ever heard of the phrase, "It's all Greek to me!"? This phrase has been the focal point of my time spent in Greece. It has been such a challenge, and quite humorous at times, especially when traveling outside of the city where not many people speak English. Living in a country where you are the minority and you must adapt the way you communicate and sometimes even act is quite a challenge. I find myself relying on hand motions and actions to communicate with non- English speakers. As education majors, we are taught that good teachers must adapt to our students' different ways of learning and their specific needs- I've learned to adapt to a different culture in order to thrive in this country.

With Special Education as part of my POE, I have learned that students participating in Special Education classes are the minority. In Greece, my friends and I, "the Americans," are the minority, so it has furthered my experience as to what it feels like to be set apart from the majority. I am lucky to have found friends and professors who have helped me feel at home and explain Greek traditions in situations that otherwise would have been uncomfortable for me. As a future teacher I am reminded that I must make accommodations for my students who are in the "minority" of the class and/or school.

I have been exposed to and thrown into a culture that is completely different from my own. The lifestyle here is more relaxed and much less stressful. The day starts later, and ends well into the night. Most Greeks do not eat dinner until after 10 PM, which explains the need for most of the city to shut down in the afternoon for locals to take their "siesta" (nap). This trip has also been about self-discovery. Culture amazes me, and I now know that I have been slightly oblivious to the abundance of it at Juniata College. I now feel that I will look at life differently, and will also strive to get to know different types of people. This has been the best experience of my life. I have met some incredible people, and I have had some amazing traveling opportunities that have been exposed me to most of Greece, including many of its outlying islands. Before I return home I am planning a trip to Egypt.

Every moment in my study abroad trip has been a learning experience. Learning Greek is quite a challenge, but my peers and I work on it everyday. It is extremely rewarding. I'm almost three months into my trip, and I am still adjusting to the different lifestyle of the Greek people. This trip is changing who I am and making me a more culturally aware and well-rounded person. I can honestly say I will be a better teacher because of the awkward, somewhat uncomfortable, yet humorous situations I have found myself in during my stay in this beautiful country. Communicating in different ways I normally wouldn't have is a staple of my everyday life. I am so grateful for this opportunity to study abroad. My professors, especially the professors in the education Department, have been a huge help in making this incredible trip happen. If you get the opportunity to study abroad, do it. It will be a life changing experience!