During my studies in the Degree Programme in Tourism I spent a year in Athens, Greece, as an Erasmus exchange student. I highly recommend an exchange period for all students, and especially those in the tourism field, as it is an international industry and success in it requires multi-cultural social skills.
I chose Athens as my destination because I had lived on a Greek island some years before, and figured an exchange would be the perfect opportunity to add on to my limited Greek language skills. I was also intrigued by the idea of living in a metropolis city – as a small town girl I thought it made the exchange all the more exciting. Also, I figured that as the tourism industry brings in a big part of the Greek national income, they must have some expertise there to share.
The first few weeks of my residing in Athens can be described with one word – chaos. Although I had previous experience of the Greek culture, I must admit I did suffer some sort of culture shock. Life in Athens was similar to the life on the islands - multiplied by a hundred. Cars, houses, people, noise, shops, cafes, and then some more cars and houses and people…. It took me some time to learn my way around (I still don’t know how I found my way back to my house the first few times I ventured out J ).
Despite all that, though, I fell in love with the city in record time. I can’t pinpoint what made it so special, but I can say I really did have the time of my life. I met some amazing people, learned many things about other cultures, and gained an excellent new perspective on how the world works.
In Syntagma square after the first day of uni
I studied in the Technological Educational Institute (TEI) of Athens, which is an equivalent to our University of Applied Sciences. The atmosphere on campus was much more noisy and vibrant than what it is here, true to the Greek form of communication, and I did wonder how the students got any studying done among all the hustle and bustle. The Greek students do, however, have to work extremely hard at their studies, and they are not as lucky as we Finns are to be receiving monetary assistance from the government either.
View of Lycabettus Hill from the Acropolis
I was in Athens for the semesters of 2009 and 2010, which was the beginning of the troubles the nation is facing now. There were many strikes held during my time there, and during them many lectures were cancelled. The teachers did their best in making up for lost time, and all of my courses were very informative and useful. All the teachers were very professional and enthusiastic.
All in all my exchange year in Athens gave me some unforgettable experiences and taught me a lot of things about myself, other people, and life itself. I can’t wait to go back J.
At the Finnish Christmas party, downtown Athens
The writer is Janita Nurmi, who is about to graduate from the Degree Programme in Tourism and go on to conquer the world.