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Meeting Family Abroad

Written by: Brooke Mayer

I hoped to at least try to meet up with my Greek relatives before going to Greece, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out or not because they are from an island called Karpathos which is much farther south than the KIIS Greece program ever traveled. It just so happened that some relatives were coming into Athens at the same time that we were there towards the end of the trip and worked out really well. I had never met them in person before but had been in contact with them through Facebook. My grandmother tries to keep track of her extended family and had added them even before I had decided to go on this trip.  When she found out I would be going she said, “I’ll tell the family!” She was so excited for me to meet some of her family there and, while it made me a little nervous at first, a big part of the reason I wanted to meet them was because of her.

I’m honestly not entirely sure how we are related (he tried to explain it to me), but it was my great (however many removed) uncle and his son who I met up with in Athens. Apparently, his son didn’t want to come with him, but it just happened to be Father’s day so he came along so he wouldn’t have to come into the city on his own. They came to our hotel in Athens, and we went to a coffee shop to talk for a bit before looking around and shopping for souvenirs. Before leaving the hotel, I made sure my professor, Dr. Ranieri, knew I was going and before they left my uncle insisted on thanking him for letting me go with them and keeping me safe throughout the trip.

We sat and talked at the coffee shop for quite a while. My uncle told me all about the family, where they are in the world and what they are doing. He kept showing me pictures of women and asking if I knew them because they live in the U.S… I didn’t know any of them, so he told me about where they live and what they do for a living. It sounds like we have a lot of lawyers in the family. He seemed much like my grandmother in that he enjoyed knowing about his extended family (and really loves Facebook). His son (my cousin) told me as we were walking around that he got his dad the tablet he had with him for Christmas and ever since he never puts it down. This proved to be true as he took pictures and videos of us walking through Athens together.

We went looking for souvenirs because he wanted to buy something for me to bring back for my mother and my grandmother. He wanted me to pick something out for my grandmother so I chose a decorative God’s Eye that I knew she would love. He also picked out plates with the Acropolis printed on them for each of them. They had actually never been to this part of Athens before, and I had been there quite a few days so I ended up kind of showing them around. How crazy is that? I showed my Greek family around Athens. Me, a small-town American girl from New Haven, Indiana!

This was really great for me to experience because it showed me that the people who are from other places, even across the world, can really be very much alike and highlighted the things that are different in my own life. I think you always get that with a study abroad experience. The bizarre becomes familiar and all of a sudden a new culture makes sense. But this experience for me really showed me how I fit into all of it. For the first time in my life, I really thought about how my life would have been different had I been raised in Greece like my family. The scenery is leaps and bounds different, literally (Northern Indiana is really flat). The diet is different. Siestas are observed. Spiral staircases are practical instead of just beautiful. History is in centuries rather than decades. It gets REALLY hot. But the important things are the same. Good food is not taken for granted. Social media brings people together. The family will be there to look out for you.

Since being home, we continue to be in contact through Facebook off and on. I’m sure we will continue to keep in touch this way and hopefully, I will be able to take my family back to Greece at some point and give them a chance to experience it as well. My uncle said we always have a place to stay with them. So that hope just may become a reality someday.

My KIIS Greece trip was everything I imagined and more. It’s an adventure I won’t soon forget.

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Brooke Mayer

Ball State University

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