Abigail Martinage (Abby)
Student Ambassador

Email: am110@wellesley.edu
School: Wellesley College
Cya Term: Spring 2021

Miss Abigail Martinage, based on your experience with CYA, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester or summer abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?

During my time with CYA, I learned what it was like to feel like an outsider in a new place. As a White woman who grew up speaking English, I've always felt comfortable in the U.S., which was the only place I had ever lived.

This program was the first time I've ever traveled outside of the country, and being in Greece gave me a small taste of what it's like to live in a country where you don't speak the same language as the people around you, which I think gave me an even greater appreciation for what my International-student friends have had to face. In addition to this, CYA specifically has the benefit of being a very hands-on program, which is different from the majority of the educational opportunities I've had back in the States.

Learning through time spent in historical sites, with the stories being studied matching up with the spaces we were literally standing in, bolstered my enthusiasm for the field of classics (I was enrolled in Professor Fassa's myth and religion course), and I think all students would benefit from getting to see the important sites of their field in person (and of course, Greece has been home to huge moments and advancements in fields other than classical studies!).

Generally speaking, studying abroad has helped me to more actively appreciate the huge wealth of brilliant work being done by people all around the world, because I was actually there to see it! I also left the program feeling a greater sense of direction for the rest of my college career. When I got to Athens, I was considering picking up a second major in Classical Civilization, but I was still quite unsure, and even if I did pick up that major, I didn't know what I would want to focus my studies on.

Now, I'm pretty set on a Classical Civ major, and I plan to focus my study on ancient religion, because I fell so in love with the work we did in Professor Fassa's class!

What advice do you have for prospective students who are interested in or planning to study abroad with CYA?

I love to cook, so I was expecting to cook WAY more than I did! While I loved the Sunday dinners I had with my friends, students shouldn't expect to be cooking dinner every single night — souvlaki is incredibly affordable and SO delicious! Instead of trying to stock your pantry in the first week, I would pick a couple simple meals that you enjoy eating (pasta, eggs, ramen, stuff like that!) and have a steady stream of those supplies, and get extra stuff when you need it to cook bigger dinners with your roommates.

That way, you won't end up with a bunch of food waste at the end of the program! Also, set aside some time to familiarize yourself with the public transit system! It's a fantastic way to get around, but it takes some getting used to, especially if you can't read Greek. Learn the names of the subway lines, be able to identify the symbol for a tram versus a trolley versus a bus, and know the final stops in each direction on the subway! It'll save you a lot of time in the long run.

Finally, remember that you're there to take in a new country! Keep up with your studies, but don't let Greece pass you by because you were cooped up studying in your bedroom! Study on your balcony, or at a café, or on top of the Panathenaic stadium!

How was the political climate in Greece different from what are you used to? If applicable, describe a time when you had to navigate a political conversation during your time abroad.

Having grown up in the D.C. area, coming across large protests was nothing new to me, so navigating Athens during demonstrations wasn't too difficult. However, for students who aren't from big cities, the experience of coming across a giant event in the normally-calm square you walk through to get to class is certainly something to prepare for! I was also surprised by the multi-level organization taking place.

Protests were all announced in advance, and we would receive alerts about where there might be additional traffic and which lines of public transit would be shut down. Having to plan my travel around transit shutdowns was a new experience for me! That being said, the content of the protests was not shocking to me, and due in part to COVID restrictions and distancing, I was never asked any difficult political questions during my time in Athens.

Abigail Martinage please select any of the following that apply to you, and that you would be willing to share about your CYA experience with other students:

Mental health while abroad

Briefly describe a cultural experience you had that was significant to you in any way.

During my time in Athens, I got a tattoo at the artist's home studio, and I really experienced the Greek value of welcoming the stranger! I had talked with the artist over email prior to the appointment, but she didn't know me in real life, and yet she was so incredibly welcoming — more so  than tattoo artists I've worked with in the states!

She offered me water and food, introduced me to her dog, gave me tips on how to avoid getting scammed by the taxi driver on the way home, and helped me practice some Greek phrases! She was one of the kindest people I've ever met, and her hospitality and care really shone through in the interaction.

Favorite food in Greece?

The chicken gyro pita wrap from "O Dionysos" in St. George Square!!!

Favorite class you took at CYA?

Ancient Greek Mythology and Religion with Professor Fassa!

Favorite quote from abroad?

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