September 27, 2021
I’m about three weeks into classes here at Deree. Time is really flying by which is bittersweet. Before I left America, spending four months in a foreign country sounded intimidating but now that I’m here, I realize how quickly you can fill your days and weekends exploring with friends. It’s just begun but I already don’t want it to end!
This past weekend I went on an excursion with the university to the island of Aegina. As a part of the international student experience here, they take us all on three trips in and around Greece. Aegina is one of the smaller Greek islands and it is known for its love of pistachios. According to our guide, over 20% of the island is covered in trees! As my friends and I walked through the town square, we were offered samples of everything pistachio you could imagine – butter, brittle, baklava, dipped fruits, popcorn, liquor, and even pesto. Greek locals are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met and Aeigna was no different.
Although the day ended on a high note, one thing I kept turning over in my mind as we visited the Temple of Apollo was the tour guide telling us Greece doesn’t own much of their own ancient artifacts. Two main holders of such history are Britain and America and their acquisition was less than diplomatic. While I understand and appreciate the nature of museums in sharing cultural relics from all over the world, I still feel odd thinking that I’ve visited places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art without even considering how exhibits came to be. I’ve had a lot of moments similar to this a few times since being here where my identity as an American is complicated. I’m grateful to have had a critical and multifaceted education up to this moment but experiences like this remind me I still have a lot of work to do in educating myself as a global citizen.
Similarly, I’ve had some really interesting conversations in my criminology and social theory courses. When discussing crimes committed by people who are mentally ill, a classmate was baffled to learn America doesn’t offer psychiatric and rehabilitative alternatives to prison unless someone successfully pleads an insanity defense. Even though I’m passionate about and have devoted my studies to social justice and legal reformation, I was caught off guard by how unsurprised I’ve become to such injustices. Over dinner my roommates and I often talk about how nice things like a living wage, universal health insurance, and comprehensive social services would be. No country is immune from critique but experiencing life at a slower, less frantic, less anxious pace makes me question why Americans have come to accept so little from our government. Sometimes I feel nervous thinking about having to return to a lifestyle defined by productivity and competition. I’m looking forward to how my perspectives and opinions will evolve in the coming months. Until next week :)