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LIMITLESS Stories from the Best Semester Ever: Study Abroad 2012 Volume 1, Issue 1

From the Editor I have more interests than there is time in the day to accomplish them all. I love listening to music and try to dabble at playing the guitar. I am a “retired� soccer player and an avid sports fan. I enjoy reading and learning, mainly about architecture, graphic design, sketching, and photography, but variety is nice. College has made me a chef-intraining (with an abundance of development still needed) and I really appreciate such things a (free) great meal, a (free) t-shirt, (free)time, (free)dom, and that there is nothing better than a good nap. Having said all of this, traveling is my real passion. In my opinion, there is no greater thing than the ability to explore and experience a new place. An abundance of learning occurs through this exploration, both about the place and yourself, and the life experiences will stick with you forever. Contained in this publication are just a few of the travel experiences that I had during my study abroad semester. It would be impossible to capture everything, but this hopefully gives a glimpse into the best semester of my life. What traveling has given me is always having something to look forward to. Now I always have something driving me and to work toward: the next trip, the next destination, the next experience. Currently, the next adventure for me is attending the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.


Contents Home Away From Home - Aigina (4-7) London Calling (8-9) Monasteries of Meteora (10) Barcelona Bound (11-13) Ascending the Acropolis (14-15) Istanbul, not Constantinople? (16-19) I AMsterdam (20-21) From Athens to Santorini (22-23)





Αιγινα Home Away From Home

Aigina is one of the major Greek islands right off the coast of Athens. This island is the place that became my home away from home in Greece for my semester abroad, so much so that I came home practically Greek myself! We arrived to the island by ferry in early February during a relatively cold spell for the “Mediterranean climate.” The very first day we were there, a classmate and I had the bright idea to go swimming in the sea (don’t call it the ocean, Greeks don’t like that!). We assumed that since we were on a Greek island and in the “Mediterranean climate” the water couldn’t be that miserable. We had a hint that this was a bad idea; as we were walking down to the beach in winter clothes and getting looks from the locals as if we had just been let out of the insane asylum, but we swam anyway! The water was so cold we barely lasted five minutes. My friend made it waist deep and I took a quick dive, but instantly felt like my body was going to shut down. There was immediate relief as soon as we got out, getting back into our winter gear right away. Our teacher later scolded us and told us that the average water temperature for the time was usually only 59 degrees Fahrenheit, but it was probably closer to 55 when we were out there because of the cold winter. Maybe we should have just been patient and waited to swim since we were going to be

living on the island for the next three months, but oh well, you only live once (especially on a Greek island)! On one of the many weekend adventures, we decided to start walking on the seafront road and see what types of interesting things we could find, ultimately ending up in a centuries old grove of olive trees. Not even fifteen minutes outside of the main town, we had run into what seemed like an abandoned water park, a Donald Duck children’s playground ride in the middle of nowhere, and an interesting cove. The water park was rather creepy: the water was dark, the slides looked rusty, and there was an oversized clown next to a kiddy pool that looked so out of place. If the water park was able to get this run-down over the offseason and then reopen for the summer and tourist season, it would blow my mind. As we kept walking the seafront road, one of the smaller mountains (maybe more of a large rocky hill than a mountain) struck our attention and we decided to go have a look. It just so happened that on our way to start climbing this mountain, we stumbled on the ancient olive grove. Those trees were massive! There were hundreds of them in the grove, each with trunks that were probably six feet across. After admiring the trees for quite some time, we decided to climb the large hill/small mountain anyway,



with total disregard for time. It had rained earlier in the day, so the large rocks were slick as we shimmied our way up to the top, with all of us taking a few spills on the way (thankfully no serious ones). We barely reached the top in time to see the sunset and have the realization that we had to go back down the way we came up, but now almost in the dark. We somehow miraculously made it back down the hill in the total darkness unscathed.

The island was a paradise for me, and everything seemed like it was better there. The school didn’t seem like school, the food was outstanding and fresh, the landscape was incredible, the pace of life was refreshingly slow and relatively off the grid, and the people were so nice and accommodating. Every day provided an adventure for us. One weekend our entire class decided to climb the tallest mountain on the island. We all somehow crammed into a

goat path to reach the top. The view from the top was incredible, the best on the island, with the sea on all sides and we could see all the way to the mainland and out to some other islands. It was my favorite place that we found on the island, and it was from here where the infamous photo shoot (spread photo) happened. After spending a few hours on the top we began the descent on yet another “trail.” To this day I miss the simplicity and shenanigans of the island life.


tiny minivan and were dropped off at the foot of the mountain where the hike began. Since the Greek idea of clearly marking a trail is spray painting a dot on a rock every fifty feet or so, most of which are covered up by bushes, other overgrowth, or worn off entirely, it makes actually following the “trail” relatively difficult. After slowly maneuvering our way up the mountain, trailblazing a majority of the way because we couldn’t follow the dots, we ended up finding and using an old





To say I was excited to be going to Europe would have been an understatement. I had never been across the pond before, so I was reveling in the opportunity. A few friends and I decided to head to London for a week before we started our semester abroad in Greece. The one thing that I knew I had to do while I was there to appease the music fanatic in myself was to visit the real Abbey Road. The constant traffic made it impossible for a Beatles style photo, but it was still cool to see.

One of the days that we were in London, we decided to go see what an English Premier League football (soccer) Saturday was all about. There were multiple home games going on in London that day including Arsenal, one of my favorite teams, so we decided to go check it out. We didn’t have tickets to the game, but that didn’t stop us from going to experience the atmosphere of the event. Traveling to the stadium was interesting. We left the hostel a few hours before kickoff, taking the tube across town toward the stadium. I remember thinking that it was rather empty compared to how the tube usually was all of the other days we had ridden. About halfway there we had to switch lines, and we immediately found all of the people. Crammed into one small tube stop were thousands of cheering hooligans, all looking to squeeze onto the next train. The police were all over the platform, keeping people back from the tracks, calming the masses, and making sure trains were full before they left. We had to wait four trains before we were able to get on one, and even then we were packed in so tightly that the doors could barely close.


Matchday Chaos

When we got to the stadium tube stop, we traveled through what felt like a mile of underground tunnels with chanting fans until we reached the surface. It was pure chaos on the streets. The stadium was situated in what appeared to be a small residential neighborhood. There were police barricades all over, street vendors and pick-pockets working the crowds, scalpers screaming about tickets, and pubs lining the streets filled to the brim. Just to see what the damage would be, we asked one of the scalpers what he was selling tickets for (100 pounds). We told him we would pay 40 each and he said that was the most insulting thing he had ever heard. Since we hadn’t planned on actually seeing the game in person anyway it wasn’t that big of a deal and we began heading for a pub. A kid had heard us asking the scalper about tickets and said he would sell us tickets for forty each because his friends couldn’t make it. We jumped at the chance, and ten minutes later found ourselves two rows from the top of the sold out stadium to see the kickoff. The game wasn’t even close. Arsenal was playing Blackburn, one of the more mediocre teams in the Premier League, and jumped out to an early lead. It didn’t matter what was happening on the field, what the score was, or where the fans were sitting in the stadium; literally everyone was standing, chanting, screaming, and singing the entire game. These people were the definition of football crazy. There is no real comparison to a fan base here in America that I can make, they were above and beyond them all. Arsenal ended up winning 7-0, but the fans were invested in the full 90 minutes all the way to the final whistle. It was a crazy experience, totally different than any other sporting event that I had ever been to in America.



the Monasteries of

METEORA One of the class trips that we took while studying in Greece was to explore the northern part of the country. Among the many destinations was Meteora, a complex of monasteries that had been built perched on high cliffs centuries ago. One of the most amazing things that I discovered about Greece was the diversity of the landscape, all confined to this small peninsula country, and this trip was no different. Within an hour or two of being on the bus, we had gone from the large sprawling city of Athens through fields, farmlands, mountains, and much more. As we approached the area where Meteora was located, we were traveling through plains with some mountains in the distance. Then out of nowhere these massive rock forms like nothing I had ever seen before were protruding from the Earth, thousands of feet into the air. Perched on top of these rock pinnacles were the monasteries.


The monasteries, which today are still active Eastern Orthodox, were totally surreal. They were somehow built hundreds of years ago by monks high on these cliffs, but it makes you really wonder how in the world they actually did it. Our bus could barely make it up the paved road in a timely manner, so that made the feat of construction even more impressive to me. Some of them were built so close to the edges of the cliffs that it is remarkable that they are still standing. Wandering through these monasteries was one of the most memorable things about my entire study abroad experience. The feeling of the space was spiritual in its own right; it was calm, quiet, and pensive, but the way that they were perched on top of the rocks overlooking the vast landscape added another dimension. The rock formations and monasteries are so unique that they often frequent movies.


BARCELONA BOUND For spring break during my study abroad semester, a few friends and I went to visit another Drury student in Barcelona for a week. I had always wanted to go to Barcelona and it lived up to my fullest expectations, so much so that it became my favorite city that I have ever been to and I am currently trying to figure out how to get back there. There were two main things that I wanted to see while we were there: a Barcelona futbol (soccer) game and the Sagrada Familia, a massive cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi that has been under construction for more than 100 years and won’t be completed until 2026. The Sagrada Familia was the most massive, over the top, impressive church I have ever seen; I’m almost certain that something being gaudy was invented by Gaudi himself! The church itself is already more than 300 feet tall, and when it is all said and done, it will double in height. The entire façade is covered in sculpture depicting Bible stories, as if a Bible has turned itself inside out and was put on display. The inside was even more fantastic, and provided an experience that words and images just don’t do justice to. While we were touring the inside of the church, we were able to go up into one of the bell towers; what we didn’t realize was that it was almost time for the bells to ring at noon. We made it all the way to the top, more than 200 feet in the air, climbing a narrow spiraling stair with no inside rail (so a straight fall all the way to the bottom with a single misstep), when the bells went off. They were so incredibly loud you could feel them shaking your insides, and they scared the heck out of us. Everyone in the tower went lunging for the side railings, scared they were going to fall the twenty stories because of the shaking tower. Finally after a full minute the bells stopped, and everyone immediately started leaving the tower as quickly as possible. I couldn’t really blame them because I was quite uncomfortable as well until I finally made it safely back down to ground level. After seeing the church as it is currently in construction, I have decided that I want to make a return trip to Barcelona to see it when it is finally completed. If it is already so overwhelming, who knows what it will be like then!



CAMP NOU A Temple for Earth-Bound Gods

made history and broke Barcelona’s all time goals record, having a hat trick in the game. The game itself was cold and sloppy, but the energy in the crowd was similar to that of the Arsenal game I saw earlier in the semester. Barcelona ended up winning 5-3, but there were some tense moments before they finally pulled away. It was an amazing experience!


Attending the Barcelona futbol (soccer) game was like a personal pilgrimage for me. They are one of my favorite teams, have some of the best players in the world, and play in a massive stadium, so I was able to see soccer played at the highest level. Not only did we have tickets in the sixth row and were surrounded by a bunch of hooligans who love futbol more than life itself, the greatest player in the world, Leo Messi,




When most people think of Greece, they think of the history: the Olympics, the mythology, the culture and society, and the art and architecture. The country as a whole could become a large museum, and Athens might be the centerpiece. There is an abundance of remnants of ancient Athens, with the crowning jewels being the Parthenon and the other structures on the Acropolis. There were many attempts to scale the Acropolis before we were actually successful. The very first weekend we were in Athens our teacher had planned to take us, but the weather was awful and there was a spontaneous ferry boat worker strike so we had to leave for the island we were studying on before we got stuck in Athens. Another time I was in Athens by myself and had planned to make the climb, but the Acropolis was closed early that day. And still there was another time in Athens and another attempt to get up there, but everything was closed because of the children’s and military parades. Needless to say, we weren’t having much luck. After our class trip to Istanbul, we had to stay the night in Athens because we got in after the ferries had stopped running. Since we were already there, we convinced our teacher to take us to the Acropolis first thing in the morning, and this time it finally panned out. The weather was perfect, the Acropolis was open, and it wasn’t crowded. We started our ascent, and at the bottom of the Acropolis are two theaters, one from Greek times and one Roman. The Roman one has been somewhat restored over time and is still occasionally used today. We kept climbing, working our way around the hill to the main entry and stairs to the Acropolis grounds. The temple to Nike, the goddess of Victory, was pretty much completely restored and



stood prominently right next to the main gate. Entering the Acropolis grounds was overwhelming. The scale was much larger than it looked from the ground, there were multiple massive temples in various states of restoration, and the view was incredible from the mountains to the sea. This place really was an outdoor museum. The scale of the Parthenon was massive. Even in its ruined state you could see and understand the size of the building. Some of the columns had been restored and restacked, while pieces to others were thrown all across the site. The most interesting thing though, were the Caryatid supports on the Erechtheion. They were sculpted female figures that served as a support in the place of a column, and in this case they were framing a porch on the temple. They were the only real sculptures that were still on the Acropolis; everything else that had been found had moved into the New Acropolis Museum. The ones on the Acropolis were replicas (we had seen the originals in the New Acropolis Museum at the foot of the hill), but it was still incredible to see them in context and how it was meant to be. After wandering the Acropolis aimlessly for an hour trying to absorb everything I had seen, I just began to sketch. I drew the temple ruins, the view off of the acropolis down to the theaters, and random details that I found fascinating. Before I knew it we had successfully killed three hours and it was time to head back to the island. For all of the trouble it was and the number of failed attempts, seeing the Acropolis was one of the best things I did my whole semester abroad. There was so much history all confined in one place, maybe more than anywhere else in the world, and it was fascinating.



Istanbul Not Constantinople?


I had no idea what to expect when I visited Istanbul. Originally I had guessed that Istanbul would be incredibly “eastern� feeling, unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was wrong. In fact, it was actually quite westernized and felt pretty similar to Greece.



Mosques Because our class was going from Greece to Istanbul, our views and expectations had been somewhat skewed. Because of history between the two nations, there is major tension between the Greeks and the Turks and their view of each other can be rather amusing. At the heart of their disagreements is Istanbul, the city that has been hotly contested since its creation. The Greeks still have hopes of getting it back one day, renaming it Constantinople, and making it the capital of their modern nation, while the Turks fully believe that it is rightfully theirs and it is currently one of their most important and influential cities. It is a rather interesting dilemma.

mosques in the world that are located right next to each other on the waterfront. Again, their scale was just overwhelming.

The most impressive and unique thing about Istanbul was the abundance of mosques. Their presence was impossible to miss. You could find one on literally every other street corner, and the minarets that accompany them were the tallest things in the area and could be used as landmarks to guide your way through the clustered streets. Beyond their imposing scale was the call to prayer that would accompany them. It was something I had never experienced before traveling to Istanbul, but five times a day no matter where you were in town you would hear the call. As a class we were able to tour two of the mosques, the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, potentially two of the most famous

The Blue Mosque, built in the 1600s, is equally massive and impressive. The name came from the abundance of blue tiles that cover the walls of the interior. This mosque is still used for worship today. It was very cold while we were in Istanbul, but the people going to worship in the Blue Mosque were so dedicated that they used the fountains outside of the mosque to cleanse themselves before entering.

The Hagia Sophia, built around 500 AD as a Greek Orthodox Basilica, was changed to both a Roman Catholic Cathedral and a Mosque, depending on who was in control of the city at the time, and is now used exclusively as a museum. The fact that it was built so long ago makes the feat of the dome even more impressive. It is almost 200 feet high and 100 feet wide, and the main dome is supported by more cascading half domes, sending all the weight out to outer walls.

If the most impressive thing about Istanbul was the abundance of mosques, the most overwhelming thing was the Grand Bazaar. It was a massive network of covered streets with hundreds of shops and vendors, all of whom were looking to haggle and sell you something. Whatever you are looking to buy, it can be found in the bazaar: spices, rugs, lamps, hookahs, leathers, jerseys, glassware, jewelry, bags, sunglasses, and much more. The only problem is that more often than not what you are buying is fake or a knockoff (which is sometimes fine with people). The Bazaar is a huge tourist destination, so it is overly crowded and loud. Everyone is looking to scam everyone – the vendors starting out with outrageously high prices, the buyers looking to haggle them down to a price that they think is a steal.


The Grand Bazaar

While we were walking through, one of the vendors for some reason thought that I just had to have an original Turkish hookah, even though I don’t smoke. I decided to haggle with him anyway because I found one that looked really cool and I knew some people I could give it to. He had convinced me to buy it, and I tried to get the price to an amount that I actually had (I think I had thirty eight Turkish Lira, or about $19), but he wouldn’t budge below forty Lira. He said he was insulted by anything less, and that was ultimately fine with me since it wasn’t even going to be mine. I still find it humorous that he let the sale walk over a dollar though. After walking through once, being asked to buy literally everything in there, dealing with the crowds, and not finding anything worth buying, I decided to leave and not go back. It was too much for me.

A Quick Trip to Asia Istanbul is the only city in the world located on two different continents. While our class was there, we took a boat tour through the Golden Horn, the inlet of the Bosphorus that divides the city into the European and Asian sides. It was pretty incredible to see the density of the city built up on either shore, with minarets sticking up all throughout the city. We had been staying on the European side of Istanbul for our trip, but the boat ended up making the quickest of stops on the Asian side to pick up a few more passengers. Since I had never been to Asia before, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jump off the boat, snap a quick picture as proof that I was in “Asia,” and hop right back on. It might have been the most “touristy” thing that I did all semester, but it had to be done! Asia didn’t feel as different as I thought it would though…




Out of all the places that I was able to visit over my semester abroad, I think Amsterdam may have been the craziest, hands down! It was the most surreal place that I have ever been to. Between the old town architecture, canals, and parks, mixed in with things like the abundance of drugs, red light district, and nightlife, there was a strange clash of old and new ideals. We hadn’t been off of the train for more than five minutes without being offered drugs, so we knew that it was going to be a strange, eyeopening experience. We did a whole lot of wandering during our time in Amsterdam because there was just so much to look at and attempt to take in. I was fascinated by the architecture of the old town, with its density and the way that the canals weave through the town. We found out that the hooks that we saw on the tops of a majority of the buildings were actually used for moving large and heavy things into the buildings since there was no other way. We also happened to stumble on the smallest house in Amsterdam, which was so skinny that it was barely wide enough for a front door.


I AMsterdam

The red light district was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Scantily clad women behind glass seductively looking out at all the wandering tourists was the strangest thing ever. You would see some of the shadiest people quickly ducking in and out of these little rooms, making the whole experience even more weird. The red light district dead-ended into a large public plaza where thousands of people were constantly just hanging out. Among them were street performers of all types, some of which just dressed up in costumes looking for tips. And then there were the coffee shops. They were everywhere, and sold marijuana as if it was any other product. People could just go grab a coffee and a smoke literally whenever they wanted. One of the things that we did besides the usual wandering was tour the Heineken brewery. The tour was full of interesting facts and free beer, never a bad thing! They showed us how the beer was made, bottled, and shipped, and even showed us how to correctly pour for the best flavor. Having said all of these random things and thoughts, my favorite part about Amsterdam was the abundance of bicycles! It seemed like that was how literally everyone got around. There were even bicycle parking garages, housing tens of thousands of bikes. It would be really nice to live in a place like that were biking was so dominant and accepted. The entire Amsterdam experience was like nothing I had ever seen before, like something out of a movie almost.





During the time that I was living in Greece for my semester abroad my parents were able to come visit for a week. While they were there, I a reaffirmation that Greece had become my second home: I was able to show them all around Athens and the island, telling them all of the things I had learned about the places we visited and the experiences we had so far. They were astonished by how quickly and the amount I had taken in. I was able to maneuver my way through the city to all the sites without ever needing any sort of map. I had picked up enough Greek to get around and have (very) short conversations. I was able to get them to places at the perfect times of day for the best experience, namely climbing one of the hills in Athens at dusk for an incredible view of the city. I was able to show them all of ancient Athens, regurgitating all of the information that had originally been poured on me. But most importantly, I was able to show them all of the best places to eat! I had even befriended some restaurant, bar, and shop owners in my multiple visits to Athens, greeting me with hugs and hellos and free desserts. My parents were shocked!


A Family Affair

During their visit we were able to take a quick trip to probably the most famous Greek island, Santorini, for a day. The island is so beautiful and unique, a crescent shape that looks toward the volcano that formed it in the center of the crescent. The island is probably most well-known for the white-wash architecture of the houses built into the cliff looking out over the sea to the volcano. The cliffs are so steep that to get down to the old port and the water there are about 700 steps, and if people don’t want to walk the only other options are donkey rides and a cable car. We walked the steps down to the water in the morning, dodging the donkey feces all the way! The only boats that were using the old port were ferries taking people to the volcano island and out to the cruise ship that was anchored out in the sea. When we were ready to head back up the cliff to the town my mom didn’t want to walk or ride a donkey, so we took the cable car. We also hiked from the main town Fira, located in the center of the crescent, to Oia, a town located on one of the edges that is known for having the best view of the sunset. The hike was probably about four miles of maneuvering paths like the one pictured to the left. The landscape was beautiful, unique and constantly changing during the entire hike. We made it to Oia about an hour before sunset, grabbed some ice cream, and joined the masses of tourists who had congregated to watch the sunset. It was strange to see so many people in one place (and on the island in general) since all day we hadn’t really encountered anyone. I must say that it didn’t live up to the hype: there were some low clouds on the horizon, so the sun ended up blocked in the end, much to the dismay of the gathered masses. Anticlimactic.


Publication Produced by Chris Grosser

Travel Publication  

Stories from my time studying abroad in the spring of 2012

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