Meteora Cliffs, Kalambaka
The Parthenon, Athens
Name: Manjot Kalkat
Type of Project: Education Abroad
For my STEP Signature Project, I chose to study abroad in Greece. Here I was able to visit many of the ancient ruins found all throughout the country, and study how they were engineered. Most of these structures were built thousands of years ago, so the fact that they are still standing today shows how well planned and thought out they were during their time of construction. Along with this, I experienced the Greek culture through social immersion and great food.
Going abroad was a very transformative experience for me. This was my first time leaving the country where I could actually remember my experiences while there. Even starting with the first plane ride (of seven), I felt like I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone and truly going out into the world. I also got to see firsthand how the recent economic crisis has had a direct impact on every Greek citizen. Many of my tour guides were professional archaeologists who have come to Greece for the “digs”, but have been forced to find other jobs such as in tourism while the country slowly recovers. This changed my view of the world because I saw humans just like me have their opportunities cut short due to circumstances out of their control. On a more personal note, I also watched myself adjust to a different culture. At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the differences, especially after a long day of travelling. This made the experience unnecessarily hard to adjust to. As soon as I opened up and fully immersed myself I felt an immediate change. This was exciting and something I will definitely remember for future travel endeavors in my life.
There were a few key aspects that led to the transformative change I experienced while abroad. The first and most significant factor would be interacting with the local Greeks at each of the cities or islands we visited. Many of these interactions were not intended as part of the program, but happened anyways. Most of the locals I talked to would be waiters, tour guides, or shop owners. Each interaction on its own was typically small, but combined they were impactful. I spoke with one tour guide specifically who moved from Chicago to the Greek island of Ikaria. This island is known to be a “blue zone” where people live much longer than the average age. I was able to engage in a conversation with her about how she wanted to live and lead a more peaceful life. I really enjoyed speaking with her because her life in the states was something I could relate to, but her life in Greece was something different that I could then learn from.
Another transformative factor in Greece was dining there. Every place I went, except for two restaurants, I ate outside. The weather there was consistently beautiful and nobody ever thought to sit inside anywhere. This appreciation of the weather led me to look further into what was making Greek dining great. I began to look around and noticed that no one was ever on their phone during a meal. Every table consisted of individuals in happily engaged conversation. Meals were eaten peacefully and fully enjoyed. For me, this further gave me a chance to get to know the people that went on the trip with me, which was super fun. I feel transformed because I will take these simple life changes with me, to better my dining everywhere. Even after only two weeks abroad, I can feel the impact this had on me as I am home more relaxed than ever.
The last transformative factor has to do with majoring in engineering. It was super cool to see ruins that have lasted thousands of years. It made me value the discovery of new knowledge, no matter how small it may seem at that time. Many of the principles used by the ancient Greeks are still used today. One of the tunnels we visited was dug from two ends and met in the middle only a foot apart. This is incredible given that they had no technology for surface mapping. Scientists believe the tunnel was lined up with the use of a right triangle. This trip furthered my passion for engineering because it showed me how the impact of engineering is eternal. There is a chance that the things I work on once I am in the field will be studied by future generations thousands of years from today.
The changes studying abroad brought to me are significant in my life because this is one of the first times I have truly chosen to do something on my own and followed through. I signed up for the trip not knowing much more than what was on the OIA information page, and came back a truly changed and more passionate individual. I can now to relate to others who say they only way you can see the the world is if you actually head out there and go for it. I am very happy to have fully immersed myself in a different culture because I was able to learn from them. Any positive changes that I experienced abroad I hope to keep with me as I continue to live my life. This development matters to me because it is one example of where I am working towards my life goal of always being an open-minded individual.