One thing that has been really different being in Europe compared to being in South America is the travel opportunities. In Europe, it is really easy (and pretty cheap) to travel to a variety of countries within a pretty short timespan. For example, I just returned from being in Istanbul for a long weekend. While I was in Ecuador, the travel was not quite so convenient, often taking a bus was the best option, but could last 7 or 8 hours in travel time, making it less feasible. I also think I was not quite so good at planning while I was in Ecuador, which limited my travel as well.
This has been a wonderful thing! I love being able to travel to a variety of different places and cultures with only an hour on a plane. However, I think it’s important to note that traveling needs to be balanced with spending time in my host city. After all – I chose to be in Athens for a reason! It’s a beautiful city full of museums, sites, and “hole in the wall” spots to explore. Since I traveled less while staying in Quito, I spent more time in the city, exploring the city center and the surroundings. I am hoping to have the same opportunity in Athens, but realistically I know it will be a little more limited.
The advice given to me by every professor here has been: enjoy traveling, but don’t miss out on Athens. I have friends who are planning to travel every weekend, hoping to see as much of Europe as they can. I respect that, but it’s so important to get to know the city you’re living in.
And, of course, traveling needs to be balanced with work. Study abroad (despite what my family might think when I send them photos) is based on the “study” portion just as much as the “abroad” portion. It can be tempting not to write that essay when the alternative is seeing the Hagia Sofia (that might be the voice of experience), but at the end of the day I still need those credits to graduate.