Sam Sabin standing in yellow jumper in front of Greek flag

Sam Sabin ’21, Menahga, Minn.
Major/Minor: Business-Marketing; Communication Studies

In 2008, “Mamma Mia!” came out on DVD and ever since then I have been obsessed with Greece. Then, in July 2018, “Mamma Mia 2” came out. As I was sitting in the movie theatre completely enamored by the scenery of the movie, I knew that one day I had to visit Greece.

When the second movie came out on Redbox, I made my roommates sit down and watch it with me. The very next day as I was walking to class I saw a flyer on campus that read: “SIGN UP FOR A MAY SEM.” Wouldn’t you know, Santorini was on the list. I went to the Global Learning Office that afternoon.

I underestimated how much one month would change my life. I expected to see a pretty place, but the experience was so much more than that. I found myself immersed in a beautiful and hospitable culture, learning patience and the necessity of appreciating all things in life, as well as witnessing the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen. I made lifelong friends and gained an insatiable urge to travel the world. 

Studying abroad is known to be a rewarding experience for anyone. But these are the four main reasons why I think you should go to Greece.

Girls posing together with ice cream

1. The May Sem

A May Sem (short for May Seminar) is the perfect option for those who are new to traveling or are homebodies like me. Different from the majority of semester studying abroad options, during the May Sem you travel with a group of Concordia students (I was one of 25 in my class) and faculty members. Although you are traveling with Concordia students, you still meet so many other amazing and new people. I didn’t know over half of the people that went on the May Sem but became close with all of them by the end. About halfway through my May Sem, I accidentally dropped my phone into the Mediterranean Sea. I thought it was going to be horrible, but it wasn’t bad because all of my classmates were so helpful – whether it was taking photos for me, telling me what the plan was for the day, or even what the time was. My classmates even let me use their phones to check in with my family. I was so grateful to be surrounded by such a compassionate and understanding group of people. I had never traveled outside of the United States before, so I felt a little frightened at first, but I felt safe the entire time. Everything is structured and planned out (meals, accommodations, schedules, plane tickets) so your only responsibility is to learn and have fun! This took a lot of pressure and anxiety away and I was able to appreciate everything even more.

Sam Sabin standing with arms raised, city below

2. The Sites and Experiences

Greece’s beauty is unfathomable. I don’t know how I could do it justice through my words, so instead I’ll use photos. My May Sem was full of amazing opportunities from sailing around the island, swimming in a volcanic hot spring, snorkeling in crystal blue waters, hiking along the edge of a volcano, learning how to throw pots from a master potter, and visiting beautiful and ancient churches (one of which was in the side of a mountain). I learned so much from being in class, but nothing beat actually going out and exploring.

Bay in Greece

3. The Culture

The United States has a fast-paced way of life. It is normal in our culture for people to become frustrated if the car ahead of them takes too much time to accelerate at a spotlight or if the drive-thru at Starbucks is too long. My concept of time was full of structure and organization until I went to Greece. For example, if you plan to go out to eat in Greece, make sure you have about three hours to spare. At first, I was extremely frustrated with how long everything took, but I definitely grew to appreciate it. In Greece, going out to eat is meant to be a time where friends catch up and make lasting memories. Eating out and trying new restaurants was something I really enjoyed in Greece, especially when our whole class went out together as a group. We all got to connect and enjoy delicious food. I quickly grew to appreciate the slow pace of life. Everyone is so happy and laidback and, for someone who is always busy, it was refreshing to be able to really enjoy our experiences and have time to self-reflect.

May Sem group in Greece

4. The People

I don’t think I understood what the word “hospitality” really meant before this going to Greece. In the short month I was there, I developed my own little Greek family. After I had only been in Greece for a week, people in the neighborhood would greet me and ask how I was. I became friends with many kind and inspiring people. For example, every night I would stop by the restaurant that was next to our hotel and practice my Greek with one of the waiters while sharing my gelato. He was excited every time I came and always eager to help. We bonded over my horrible pronunciation of Greek words and our favorite flavor of gelato, strawberry. Everyone I met was willing to go out of their way to help me and always made me feel so loved. I didn’t realize the extent of the connections I had made with my new Greek family until we had to leave and I sobbed on the way to the airport.

Studying abroad in Greece was by far the best decision I have ever made. From the way I now know how to enjoy unrushed meals with friends to the way I have a new passion to help those around me to feel included and appreciated because of the hospitality I was shown, Greece has changed my life for the better. 

P.S. If this post has convinced you to go, you need to try the following things: Cheese and Onion Lays Chips, Orange Fanta, every single flavor of gelato possible, and Il Forno (my favorite restaurant on Santorini).