University of Calgary

Postcard from Greece

July 9, 2009
Damanpreet Gill participated in the Psychology Group Study Program to Greece and has never looked back. Here is her postcard home.

Why study in Greece in the Winter?

I have always loved to travel and was also particularly interested in Greek history which prompted me to go to Greece. Also, I definitely wanted to escape the cold Canadian winter for a while and go to a warmer climate, preferably with a beach. The country also was very appealing in that I had friends that have travelled there and they definitely recommended that I see the country and its historical sites. 

The people of Greece are very easygoing and friendly, and they are a lot of fun to have around.  The streets are always crowded no matter what time of the day or night it may be and it is never hard to find something to do (especially when the hotel is located in the heart of the city right next to the shopping district).  The country itself is very beautiful especially the islands which are warm with great beaches and are a totally different experience from life in Athens. The Athens countryside is also very green and the view from the hills is spectacular!

Why go on a Group Study Program?

I did a group study program in Greece which lasted for only nine days during the winter reading week. It was for a 500-level psychology class, which looked at psychology’s early Greek roots, and we stayed mostly in and around Athens, although we went on a day trip to the island of Hydra. I chose to take this trip as I wished to participate in learning while I travelled, as well as experiencing a new culture that I have always been interested in. I also wanted to try studying abroad but a semester seemed too long for me so I settled instead for a shorter trip, and this was a perfect fit.

It was very interesting to learn how much ancient Greek thought really pervades our society to this day. There were many important thinkers back then that set the stage for modern thinking and when you look closely, you can see many roots going back to Greece.

Did you learn any cultural tidbits?

The most different thing I found in Greece was their mealtimes. Breakfast could occur anytime during the morning, but lunch was around 3, and dinner was served very late (around 9 or 10). Many restaurants didn’t even serve dinner before 7, which could be difficult especially considering that we always set out early in the morning and so got hungry very early in the day, which meant that we had to snack a lot during the day.  However, during our short stay I surprisingly got really used to eating during their times and when I returned, I found it more difficult to return to Canadian eating habits than I had when arriving in Athens and adapting to their times.

The Greeks are known for great food and it was an amazing experience to try out authentic Greek food day after day. I tried things that I would never touch at home, such as a salad made of pickled weeds or fried zucchini balls (which ended up being my favourite).

What did you take away from this experience?

Although my trip was short, it provided me with a very different outlook towards cultures other than my own. I realized fully how although in many ways we are similar, major cultural differences also exist. Having knowledge of these differences and embracing them was something I personally learned to do, and enjoyed doing it. Hopefully, future employers will recognize that worldwide travel is an asset to their company.  Experiencing different cultures and understanding them to some degree would be helpful in any career, but especially for me as I hope to be a lawyer some day and would therefore meet a diverse range of people. 

Future plans?

I plan to graduate U of C in a year with a degree in psychology and then hope to go to law school.  Before law school however, I plan to take a year off and go travelling with a couple of friends.

Words of wisdom

I would definitely recommend taking some type of course where you can go abroad.  The experiences you have will be one of a kind and there really is a program for anyone no matter what your preferences are. School can be fun and exciting when you’re travelling, seeing new things and experiencing a different way of life.  I have not yet met anyone that had regretted going either for a semester or a shorter time, so try it out for yourself!

For more information on study abroad programs please visit the Centre for International Students and Study Abroad (CISSA) website (www.ucalgary.ca/cissa/). This postcard was supplied by CISSA.