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Anna Gibbons

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Environmental Science, Marine Science, Public Policy
Program: College Year in Athens
Location: Athens, Greece
Term: Spring 2021


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I have always been interested in travel, but my family never had money for it when I was young. CYA was a good fit because it was still running during COVID, it had classes that were applicable to my major, they taught in English, and I was interested in learning about ancient Greek history and culture. I was lucky that I chose this program. I applied last minute because the online semester in Fall of 2020 was not going well for me and I wanted a change of pace. I thought if studying abroad was an option I should take it and run. I was confident the program would get cancelled but it never did and I ended up in Greece for four months. I tried to be as flexible as I could during the process just because of all the pandemic uncertainty.


What did you learn about yourself?
While I was traveling in Crete, Greece my group had taken an earlier plane back to the mainland and I had decided to take an overnight ferry that left later in the day. I explored the island for the day and all was going well until I went to find my ferry. At this point in the day I was over exhausted and not feeling well. The ticket said that the ferry would be located at the port of Chania. I was at the port and only saw small fishing boats. At this point I had about an hour until the boat was supposed to leave. I had no idea where to go so I went to Google. I was searching and searching for an answer to where my boat was located. I found nothing. At this point I was feeling very overwhelmed that I would miss my boat and have nowhere to stay. I sat down in the street, crying and tried to call my roommate, Molly. She was still on her plane home but called me back a few minutes later. Before she called me back I found the coast guard in the port and he told me I needed to take a taxi to the port a few towns over. I made my way out of the port and toward the street where I could call a taxi. At this point Molly called me back and I was freaking out to her on the phone trying to explain the situation. She talked me down and helped me find a taxi number to call. I called the taxi and waited outside of a cafe. A few minutes later the taxi arrived and I got in. I was able to use some Greek to communicate with him and I filled out the necessary forms for the ferry. I got to the ferry dock and checked-in. Finally, I got on the ferry and found my seat with a few minutes to spare. In the meantime Molly had booked me a hotel just in case I did not make it on the boat. I learned a lot from this experience: stay with your travel group, have a personal contact in the country you are traveling in, and do not overexert yourself on travel days. I originally split from the group to save money but in hindsight the trouble this caused was not worth the money saved. Having Molly on my side and helping me through this uncomfortable situation was a life saver. She was so encouraging and truly helped me so much just to get back to the apartment in Athens. In another abroad experience such as in Cairo before traveling solo I would make sure I had someone I can contact when things do not go as planned. Finally, I learned that if you have a late flight or ferry, do not try and do too many activities that day, especially if you are by yourself. I had a rigorous and exhausting day which did not go well in the concoction of travel fatigue. In the future I will take travel days easy in order to be fully alert and strong willed to get through difficult situations. The most important lesson that I had to experience to learn was how to advocate for myself and be confidently independent to get where I needed to be. I was the only one that could ensure my safety and I had to take care of myself. Now, no matter the situation I know I can handle whatever life, family, school, or work can throw at me. I feel more prepared to lead a full life of adventure while being able to take care of myself.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
My favorite memory from the program was the day before my peer and I left for a week of field study travel. Travel outside of Attika had just resumed and a few of my friends and I jumped at the chance to leave the region. A group of five of us from the CYA program took an early ferry to a nearby island called Aegina. We were all bursting with excitement because we had traveled in the Attika region (2 hours outside of Athens) for the past three month and now we were finally able to visit the famous Grecian Islands. The whole day was so magical and it felt like that day was never going to arrive. The ferry arrived in Aegina in an hour and spent the day exploring the Temple of Aphaia, took taxis to Perdika to have lunch by the water, met the sweetest taverna owner, tried sardines, walked through an abandoned resort, ate pistachio ice cream, and finished the day by the beach. It was the perfect day to begin my one month of travel in Greece before returning to the US.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
My advice to future students who are considering studying abroad is if you are uncertain or scared you can be afraid but do it anyway. The only way to get over that fear is to be in the situation you are concerned about. Everyone should be able to have the experience so if you are able to and card line up jump at the opportunity. The UNC study abroad programs are absolutely superb and I would not trade the experience I was able to have through them for anything. Even though COVID-19 programs have continued to run and keep students safe. While in Greece we had thirty students in the program and not one student fell ill with COVID-19 (we were tested weekly). The people that run these programs are professional and are willing to help you in any way necessary. I know any person I was abroad with would be more than willing to share experiences and answer every little question that may come up. It may feel daunting and lonely at times, but the support is there if you reach out.


How do you identify?
Covenant Scholars, Scholarship Recipient, Rural County Resident