Making Friends Abroad

My program is pretty small. There are 30 students, total, in the Spring 2021 class participating in the College Year in Athens program. You would think this makes it easier to makes friends, but with the reality of COVID-19, it is not that simple. My classes are all online and everyone in my program has housing that is spread out in the Pangrati area of Athens, with only about 2-3 students per apartment. In addition, I only have about 5 people in each of my classes, and most are the same people. With these conditions, it became more difficult to meet people.

The first thing I did was make friends with the guys who live in the building across from me while they were in their mandatory quarantine. We yelled across the street for about an hour getting to know each other, our majors, and more. I think this is an emblematic experience of what it takes to meet people during COVID.

Photo of me from students living across from me during their first week in Athens.
Photo of me from students living across from me during their first week in Athens.

This was the first real socializing I had, and it was so great. Going forward, making friends was honestly very much based online. We had a few zoom calls as students and eventually formed different WhatsApp groups based on our interests. I am most involved with a running group chat of my closest friends in the program. We run to the beach, the Acropolis, and different neighborhoods of the city. Running has been a great way to stay active, get fresh air, and chat and hang out with people!

The photos above are from a few different runs! The far left was a few days ago; we met a horse named Mikos that my friend, Molly, had met a few weeks prior. The second photo was a run that we took down to Pireaus, the coastal port city 5 miles south of central Athens, on a beautiful day. We took the local tram all the way back up for €1.5. The 3rd photo was on Philoppapos Monument, a Roman era structure that no one really acknowledges because it exists in the shadow of the great Parthenon. The final photo shows the gorgeous view from Phioppapou Hill which is a popular sunset view in Athens. All the students in my program have never been together as a group, but a few days ago we experienced the Greek Orthodox holiday called “Clean Monday”. Four separate groups of students ran into each other while watching the dozens of kites flying (a typical Clean Monday celebration) on Piloppapou Hill. I was on a run with my running group!

Kites Flying on "Clean Monday" the beginning of Easter celebrations in Greece
Kites Flying on “Clean Monday” the beginning of Easter celebrations in Greece

Overall, I have met some awesome friends who I am sure I will be close to for a long time. Despite weekly COVID tests, social distancing, online classes, and a national lockdown, I have managed to get to know these people while learning a great deal.

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Published by Vicente Bickel

Class of 2022 Cultural Anthropology & Spanish Double Major College Year in Athens

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