14 August 2018, by Nicholas Quek

Singaporean in Greece

I’d only heard of Greece through textbooks and Instagram influencers.

I’ll admit, my initial impression of Greece before stepping foot into the country was one of old white philosophers, ancient ruins, and the blue and white domes of Santorini.

On one hand, Greece was to me the location where all of Western thought began, a former haven for people of all cultures to debate, discuss and explore whichever topic of interest they had.

On the other, it was a tourist attraction that also drew people from all around the world, thought for far more superficial reasons.

This dichotomy was resolved when I went to Greece to study over the summer.

walking through Oia, Santorini

walking through Oia, Santorini

I took a course under College Year in Athens and spent one month tracing the journey of Saint Paul across the ancient Greco-Roman world, and the impact he had on the development of that era’s culture and society.

Sounds pretentious, I know. I have no defence.

Temples of Delphi

Temples of Delphi

One of the first problems I encountered studying overseas was really what to do with my time. My course only took up 4 hours a day, and with a whole city to explore, I found myself initially stumped as to what I should do.

For the most part any form of temporary overseas study is an exhilarating time of exploring and just having fun, but when you’re alone and given a near infinite amount of time each day, the options can paralyze you.

It took me awhile to really get settled into the rhythm of the course, learning to make full use of each day. By the end, I was wishing I had applied for a second course so I could stay for another month.

One of the secrets to making full use of your time is to just commit to doing something, despite whatever other options you might have.

There were some days, especially early on in the month, where I spent more time planning what to do instead of heading out and doing anything!

In the end, what I would do is spend the night before exploring the different options I had for the next day, and make sure that I don’t go to sleep before formulating a plan to stick to for the next day. 

Meteora Monastaries

Meteora Monastaries that we visited as part of the course

Boring as it might seem, I spent most of my time going to museums.

Greece is a treasure trove of ancient culture, and the museums there are top notch (not to mention that many of them are free for students).

It was invigorating to see the cultures and societies I had learned about in the classroom come to life before my eyes. It’s actually inspired me to go visit some of Singapore’s museums; visiting museums really isn’t as popular in Singapore as it is in Greece, so hopefully I’ll be able to bring some of that enthusiasm back home.

Coming towards the end of the course, I also took a couple of days off to travel to Santorini (that Instagrammer haven with the blue and white colour scheme).

It was a bit of challenge navigating around by myself, but for the most part I had an enjoyable time. It was however, insanely crowded with tourists from all nations flocking to catch a glimpse of the famous Oia sunset.

sunset over Oia, Santorini

sunset over Oia, Santorini

Studying abroad also made me realise that I actually don’t spend that much time with my family while studying in Singapore. Since I stay in a residential college on the other side of Singapore from my family, I usually only come back on the weekends; one month away from Singapore is really just 8 days away from my family during a regular semester.

Thinking back, that’s something I want to change in the coming semester.

I’m Year 2 now and my schedule’s a lot more flexible, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to join my family for a meal at least once during the week. There’s no home like family.

I have a couple of friends heading into their first year of university this August. One friend in particular told me about how much she was going to miss her family since she’s staying in hall, so much so that she’s been eating dinner with them every day for the past month.

Man, I don’t think I’ve ever valued or treasured my family to that level. Is it strange that I don’t find the need to spend that much time with my family?

My family has been getting closer in recent years, but we don’t spend that much time with each other. My sister and I both stay in university dorms, while my brother is often busy with studies and CCA.

Spending more time with my family is going to take some intentional planning not just on my part, but on my whole family’s part; a conversation I hope we’ll be able to have before the semester begins.

Parthenon

Parthenon

Whatever the case, I’m glad school’s starting soon. It’s going to be an exciting semester ahead 🙂

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