John Helmy
Student Ambassador

School: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Cya Term: Spring 2021

Dear John Helmy, 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?

Studying abroad has been an invaluable experience. I had the opportunity to experience a different culture, meet wonderful people, be independent, and grow exponentially as an individual. Not only did I have the opportunity to experience an internship through CYA, I also learned from world-class professors during my semester abroad.

I learned how differently Greece thinks about politics, medicine, religion, etc., due to being both an EU country and in the Mediterranean. This experience has taught me to empathize and connect with people from various backgrounds, a skill crucial for the medical field which I wish to pursue. I will forever be grateful for my study abroad experience as it has helped me grow both professionally and personally.

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

Pack lightly as you will be situated in a big city with some of the most helpful staff members I have ever met! Also keep an open mind, get excited to meet new people, and be ready to form lasting connections that will last a lifetime! Lastly, prepare for the most formative, thrilling, and enjoyable semester of your college career!

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.

Politics are much more open and less of a taboo than the USA. I noticed it is much more of a casual conversation. Something I appreciated is that whenever politics came up in conversation, everyone was kind of and respected others’ opinions. There were disagreements, but people were polite when debating. Also, after the discussion, there was never any hard feelings and people immediately moved on.

This is in stark contrast to the heated and delicate political climate I am used to in the USA, where it is common for people to get very angry during political debates. Many times I have seen the strongest of friendships end due to a difference in political opinion, something I find very sad about the USA political climate.

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:

Student of color, Finances while abroad, Religion while abroad, Student athlete, Mental health while abroad, STEM major

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

I got to see the more laid back and family-centered culture of Greece. A major part of Greek culture is hospitality. Everyone is so incredibly nice and helpful. When I visited Crete, I had trouble finding my apartment. This nice man, whom I did not know, asked if I needed help and spent the next half an hour walking around the area and asking people for directions until we finally found my place!

This experience really showed me how nice and compassionate people can be. I aspire to be as caring as the man I met that day.

Favorite food in Greece?


Favorite class you took at CYA?

The Orthodox Church

Favorite quote from abroad?

“Everything is better in Greece!”

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