Now just two days into my trip, I almost laugh at the nerves I had in my first post. From the moment I approached check-in at Newark International Airport, I was flagged down by a couple other Rutgers students also joining me in this course. Soon, our small group filled out a little more and it only took us a short while to realize how well we all got along. From that moment on, we’ve spent nearly every moment together. Upon arriving in Greece, we traveled by bus into the heart of Athens and to our hostel – the place I’d call home for the next week. While the WiFi was nearly non-existent and the rooms were crammed, nothing could bring me down from the high of being abroad for the first time.
The first item on our itinerary was a introductory dinner where we’d have the course outlined, get to know our professors & fellow students, and get a glimpse of the Mediterranean lifestyle. En route to dinner, we toured around the city of Athens. After endless little restaurants and gelato shops, we arrived at the central square – filled with vendors trying to sell a wide variety of items. We passed historic ruins set right in the middle of the Athens to then finally arrive at the place we’d sit for dinner. Just thirty minutes walking through the graffiti filled city I find myself trying to compare it with any other place I’ve been, only to realize that this place is unparalleled.
Now sitting atop a private rooftop while we enjoy dinner, I start getting a new perspective on the Greek culture. Instead of ordering a meal for myself to eat in less than a minute after building up an appetite, the food comes out family style in smaller portions throughout the night. Because of this, meals are not as centered around what’s on your plate but the people sitting around you. This important aspect, known as conviviality, is a key component of the Mediterranean lifestyle and something we will learn more about through the remainder of the trip. But don’t get me wrong, I still gave high priority to the new foods that were put in front of me. Greek salad, spanakopita, saganaki, gyros and more. We were told we’d lose weight on this trip, but, we’ll have to wait and see.