There are so many things I could say about my experience and so many stories I could share with you all, but if I were to do that in a letter, you all would be receiving a dissertation-length account of my adventures and encounters in the city of Athens and the rest of Greece. Instead, I will share one experience with you, which I find very significant in wrapping up my semester and summarizing the most valuable things I’ve learned.

Having traveled through all of Athens’ neighborhoods, and all throughout Greece during on-site courses and class field trips, my last week in Athens was spent mostly relaxing, finishing finals and spending quality time with the friends I made, and the locals with whom I became close.

The night before I left Athens, I went to the favorite local café, where all of the CYA students get their coffee, tea, cookies and spinach pies at the start of each day. My intention had been to say goodbye to the owners, and give them hugs before going home and preparing for the airport. However, once I got there and sat down, I ended up having a hour long conversation with Dimitri, one of the café owners.

Before I left, he asked me what the one most important thing is that I have learned from the Greeks. I smiled, shyly looking down at my feet, wondering if I could actually admit to myself –– let alone to him –– what this one significant thing was that has had such an unexpected and fruitful impact on my life and my time in Athens.

After a few seconds, I looked up at him, noticing that he too, was smiling, eagerly awaiting my response — a response, I’m sure, which he expected to be of my typical overly verbose manner.

But when I finally spoke, I simply said to him, “Dimitri, the Greeks, specifically the Athenians, have taught me to be less afraid of life.”

“Yes, Rachael. We do not fear life because we do not fear death.”

I have spent much of my life afraid of going out and doing things. Not even crazy or irrational things, but more often than not, simple things like just being social or traveling or singing in front of many people (because singing is one of my biggest passions). Yet, this semester abroad has shown me how now to be afraid of the passions I love most.