Large Dogs, Cold Coffee, and Loud Bikes: It’s All Greek to Me?

There are three things I noticed when I first visited Athens. Large, stray dogs. People drinking coffee outside. Dashing motorbikes with equally wondrous riders. And the Greek.

Once summer commences, Facebook statuses change to new cities, new jobs, new experiences. People who you’ve met in New Haven spread themselves out to places as far away as Beijing and Tokyo to those as close as home turf. We get ready for some time to relax, for more time to think and feel about our personal goals, follow new pursuits, stop harmful habits, and promise to keep in touch throughout it all.

The summer after junior year is probably one of the toughest. It is the time when people expect you to work jobs that you can see yourself working after graduating. (But also remember that it is equally important to break rules and follow your own expectations!) It is the summer during which senior year looms ever closer. It is the summer where you consider graduate school. It is the summer where you realize you only have about nine more classes you can take as an undergraduate — oh how to decide!

This summer, I’ll be working in Athens, Greece for two months as an associate management consulting intern at Accenture through Bulldogs in Athens, part of Yale’s International Bulldogs program. The program itself has a vast network. You name it, and you’re there: Kampala, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Athens, Brusssels, Copenhagen, Istanbul, London, Madrid, Jerusalem, Tel Aiv, Buenos Aires.  

Athens is a city waiting to implode. The economic recession has hit hard. There are protests every day in Syntagma Square. There are strikes during which the Metro (Athens’ underground train system) and/or buses don’t run. There is a sadness around you. One of my coworkers thinks it will all end in violence. Our in-country support (every International Bulldogs site has a contact person who serves as the point person for you), Dionysis, tells us it’s because the government is trying to pay its debt by taxing wage earners, not the rich who got us into this mess in the first place. Things are as expensive. My cappuccino freddo habits costs me anywhere from 1.88 euros to 3.00 a day (but boy do they make amazing coffee here). Greeks are proud. And they love speaking their language. There is so much Greek spoken around me, and far fewer people speaking English than I thought. But why wouldn’t you indulge  yourself in speaking the lingua franca of one of the most important civilizations of all time? 

For now, I cannot wait to continue exploring the city, for as Italo Calvino writes in Invisibe Cities, living in and understanding a new place teaches you not only much about another culture and people, but also about yourself:

Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.