When first researching studying abroad, the options seem overwhelming. Where do I go? Should I work with a school directly? Should I use a program? Do I plan my own trip?
For me, some of these questions were easily answered. I knew I wanted to study in Greece, and I knew I wanted to be here for a semester. When I contacted the study abroad office at my school (Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana), I was pointed toward AIFS.
As I began looking into AIFS, my excitement about traveling grew. Not only could I travel to Greece, but AIFS could also arrange my flights, allow me to visit London on a two-day layover, and help me plan a weekend trip to Rome. At this point, I didn’t think traveling could get any better or any easier. I quickly agreed to these trips, and I waited all summer for my European adventures to begin.
Once I arrived in London, and then in Athens, I realized AIFS was providing me with even more than I had expected. I had access to people in the United States, England, and Greece who were willing to answer all my questions, so I was never concerned with not having all the information that I desired. But the biggest surprise that I received from AIFS was my friendships.
Spending the weekend in London allowed me to meet some of my classmates before arriving in Athens. We were given a weekend to get to know each other, and this provided us with immediate friendships prior to the semester starting. Rather than trying to understand the city of Athens and the structure of a new university on my own, I was handed comrades who were in the same position.
The first week of school is stressful no matter where in the world you are. The stress of finding classrooms, making friends, and not sitting alone at lunch can be unbearable. AIFS saved me from searching for friends and lunch buddies. I’ve befriended classmates and roommates over the last few weeks, but thanks to my friends in AIFS, I never felt alone.
I never expected my study abroad program to hand me friends, but it did, and I’m incredibly grateful. I always have people to grab dinner with, and I never need to go to the store alone. I’ve already traveled on a weekend trip to a Greek island with my AIFS squad, and that’s an opportunity I would have missed out on if I had waited until classes started to make my first friends.
So thank you, AIFS, for making my dreams of traveling Europe a reality, but I also want to thank you for giving me friends to travel and make memories with. Study abroad is truly the chance of a lifetime.