Abroad101 is please to introduce Monica, a study abroad student with College Year in Athens. Here’s what she has to say about studying in a destination that has some negative press:
It can be difficult to decide where you want to study abroad when numerous destinations await you. It gets even harder when you weigh in political, cultural, economic and many other factors. Greece is an amazing, historical and picturesque country. However, when families and students in America see Greece portrayed as a dangerous and economically unstable country, it can be one of the first to be crossed off the list of study abroad options. After being here a little over a month, I quickly realized how skewed the media portrays the situation here.
On Sunday, February 12th, an important decision was being made about the bailout plan for Greece in a meeting with the Parliament and European Union members. Demonstrations were taking place throughout the day in Syntagma Square where the parliament building is located, and Greek citizens and political parties cordially made sure their voices were heard in the square. Two friends and I decided to standby and witness history in the making. My fellow student, Karen Seif, had an overwhelming look on her face of astonishment and sadness. “The looks on their faces… They care so much about their country,” she said, as she glanced around at all of the people protesting. We had a feeling things might get out of hand, since we were warned by our school not to attend the protests in the first place.
All it took was what Greeks here denote as “the hooded Anarchists” to come and turn a calm scenario into a horrifying one. In a matter of minutes tear gas was thrown, chaos broke out and I was out of Syntagma Square before I could count to ten. The destructive rioters set a bank on fire, destroyed ATM’s and put an ancient theatre up in flames that meant a great deal to the people here. I’m not going to glamorize the situation and make it seem like nothing dangerous happened, because if I stayed there was a chance something bad could have happened. However, what I want to say is the danger didn’t leave the vicinity of Syntagma Square, and as long as harmless citizens weren’t in the area they would be perfectly okay.
I woke up the next morning and went back to life as normal. I was overwhelmed with the Emails and Facebook messages I received asking, “Are you okay?!” I was confused. “Yes, I’m okay, why?” I asked. I was told that my friends were seeing horrible things on the news about what was going on in Greece. I quickly turned to CNN and NBC News in Chicago, two stations which I receive most of my updates from. I was shocked and utterly dismayed at the videos I saw. I was upset because the media portrayed Greece as if everybody is mentally unstable and the whole entire country is up in chaos.
To make things clear, it was only one night where things got out of hand. The people in Greece as a whole are not crazy and it is by no means an unsafe environment for me to be here studying in. I was emotionally affected because my Greek professor, a woman who is optimistic and always smiling, was furious that a group of people would do something like this to make their country look delusional. Demonstrations are a way of life and part of the culture here. It’s normal to voice an opinion. But, being violent and dangerous is taboo and unacceptable to most of this society.
The pictures modify the emotions of Greeks while protesting. I’d like to give credit to Jonathon Churchin for two of the pictures. You can’t believe everything you watch in the media. Don’t let misconceptions keep you from studying abroad in any country. Make sure you do your research and ask people and students currently in the study abroad program about the country’s circumstances. If it wasn’t safe for you to be there, it probably wouldn’t be an option in the first place. I aspire to be a journalist and I am here telling you that the media can sometimes be deceiving. You can’t believe everything you hear on the news and read on the Internet. Studying abroad is an amazing experience, and I would hate for something like the media to sway your decision about where you want to go.
My name is Monica Kucera, I am a junior at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. I’m double majoring in Journalism and Public Relations/Advertising. I’m currently studying abroad in Greece with College Year in Athens. My goal is to work in online journalism specializing in fitness health or sports. Check out my personal blog at http://GoalsForGals.wordpress.com.