Diana Biesecker
Student Ambassador

Email: dbiesecker99@gmail.com
School: Gettysburg College
Cya Term: Spring 2021

Miss Diana Biesecker 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?

There are so many benefits that became evident during my semester abroad with CYA. For starters, I was able to experience a completely unique culture alongside new lifelong friends from the U.S., and you very easily build connections with some Athenians to a point where there is literally a home for you in Greece at any point following your abroad semester. The spring 2021 semester abroad specifically allowed for a deeper understanding of how the government and surrounding community handle difficult situations in terms of healthcare and keeping everyone safe with the COVID-19 pandemic. Learning to make the most of every situation became a daily habit, and I think we were able to really grow personally in this sense, alongside all of the CYA administration as well. With new restrictions changing every week, we were able to keep in touch with our adult peers both in CYA and locals in Pangrati, to figure out what the possibilities were at the time and how we could go about making it work. Something that also became clear to me in the midst of my studies is how the professors truly care about the students and they have an understanding that this semester abroad is not solely meant for academic achievement, but really it is meant to guide you in a direction of personal growth. You learn how to balance on one side the school work, and on the other side, the new life in a city and culture you have just been introduced to. In reality, there is an endless list of benefits to spending a semester abroad in Greece, and these benefits contribute greatly to the personal, academic, and professional developments that undoubtedly you will acquire while there.

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

Be curious and ask questions! CYA has been running for many years as a study abroad program, and they have seen a lot of uncalled-for situations, so the chance of someone out there having an answer to your question is very high. Greece is one of those perfect places where you may appear to be engulfed in city life in Athens, but really, the Ymittos Mountains are filled with trees and beautiful scenery, and they are just a bus ride or an easy walk away from Pangrati. It becomes more evident as you leave the Athens area as well, Greece offers every landscape you could ever think of, and I think that makes life here even more special. You will never get sick of your home in Greece, there is entirely too much to see for that to be a problem. You just need to get out and explore more.

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.

It was definitely interesting to navigate the differences between the U.S. and Greece's handling of COVID-19 during my semester abroad. The conversations that I had with locals were not too politically charged, but living in a place that was drastically behind in vaccination availability or had heightened restrictions in comparison to the U.S. was very interesting. I took these casual conversations as learning opportunities because the perspectives of the local community are not always the perspectives you hear about from higher-up news or political networks.

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:

Religion while abroad, Mental health while abroad

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

One of the most meaningful and cultural experiences that I had during my semester in Greece was on Καθαρά Δευτέρα (Clean Monday). Leading up to the day, CYA prepared us with all of the knowledge we needed on the food that Greeks eat and the activities that traditionally occur, in order to understand the significance of this day. Fish is a staple food on this day, but I am vegetarian so I made sure to pick up some lagana bread from Kekkos, a local cafe in Pangrati. We were told that many Athenians string a kite, take it up to Philopappos Hill to fly it, typically with the guidance of an older man/father-figure. One of the owners of Kekkos, Dimitris, was basically our Greek father during our time in Athens, so he helped me to string the kite that I had bought, as well as instructed my friends and I on how we should fly it, since he was not able to be there with us at Philopappos Hill. The memories that were made that day trying and failing to fly this kite are ones that will never leave my mind (long story short, we completely destroyed this kite without even managing to fly it). I brought the disheveled kite back to Dimitris, and he could not help but laugh at the outcome. Καθαρά Δευτέρα was such an important cultural experience for me, that I have made it a point to plan another trip to Greece another year around this time so that I can experience it all again, and hopefully have a more successful kite flying experience!

Favorite food in Greece?

Pastichio (vegetarian) / mushroom dishes / tzatziki & pita bread / hummus & lagana bread

Favorite class you took at CYA?

Intro to Digital Archaeology with Hüseyin Çınar Öztürk

Favorite quote from abroad?

"It is not the destination that matters the most, it is the journey that gets you there."

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