19 May | Hannah Zoppi | No Comments

And then there was Santorini…

It has been way too long since I’ve blogged last. It’s nearly impossible for me to grasp that the end of the semester is coming near so I’m spending even more time appreciating where I am and less time sitting on my computer. SO MUCH has been going on! School, island life, people, work… It’s overwhelming and exciting. I can’t even talk about actually leaving Paros or this blog will turn into my recent slew of poems. And no one wants to cry right now.

In school we have been focusing in on our final exhibition! At the end of next week we have our poetry reading and the following night is the art exhibition. I have a huge amount of work left to do in all of my classes, on my writing, and finishing touches on my paintings. But it’s so exciting and I can’t wait to see all of the work the other students have created throughout our semester here. They are ridiculously talented people and I have a feeling it’s going to be mind-blowing. The piece I chose to read is a longer monologue that I’ve worked on here and there through the semester and is close to my heart. Nerve-wracking, yes. But I can’t wait to share it with everyone and giving it a voice. One week!!

Peak at my self-portrait…

Backtracking now to Santorini! We took a weekend trip to the island of Santorini (about a 3 hour ferry ride from Paros) and it was… INCREDIBLE. I didn’t think another island could ever compare to Paros, but wow. It was really the most breathtaking place I have ever been. It is the idea of a Greek island that everyone searches for and that’s why it’s no wonder it’s the most touristy of all the islands. 

Pulling into Santorini was unlike any of the other islands we had been to. It was once a volcano so everything is up on the top of a cliff and you have to drive windy roads (or donkeys!) to get up to the top. It also makes the entire island have a beautiful view no matter where you are standing.

Our first night, we took a tour of the island and ate gelato at sunset. In awe, always.


















Meanwhile… back at our hotel we met a greek family in the common area who were celebrating a birthday. We got to listen to them all sing in Greek and drink and eat and like all of the generous Greek people here, they welcomed us without hesitation! 

The next day was a free day to do whatever we chose. There were many different options but Molly and I decided to venture off on our own and see Santorini in a different way… ATV style! On a whim, we walked past a rental place and just said, let’s do this! We had to sign waivers in Greek (hopefully we didn’t sign away anything of importance) and had the greatest time. I drove which was thrilling because the streets are windy and steep but that didn’t stop me from flooring it. Molly and I had our ipods on and we were singing loudly to all the people driving by who waved as we drove all the way along the sea to Oia. 

Oia is a little town filled with crafty things and endless tavernas and cafes. A perfect day!

That night we headed out to explore the town. The bars are always such a great time here in Greece no matter what island we’re on.

The restaurant we went to was the BEST food I’ve eaten since being in Greece hands down. We took a leap of faith by choosing it, but we knew it had to be good because it was packed! I had lemon chicken, and Molly got a Greek classic- Moussaka. It’s like a Greek version of lasagna. DELICIOUS and everyone was so welcoming and friendly. Complimentary wine, selection of fresh breads, and dessert! I love Greeks. 🙂

The following day was spent walking around the main town we were staying in and shopping, shopping, shopping! I think it’s safe to say that everything we saw we bought that day. It’s hard to resist when everything is so white and beautiful. (Note the shirts below!)

All shirts and dresses are handmade in Santorini so after trying on a bunch of them we made our pick and went on in search of some donkeys!

At last!! I was the absolute most excited for donkey riding on this trip. Last time I attempted to ride a donkey in Naxos I ended up falling off when we tried to fit Erin on to the back and the donkey was NOT having it. (I think I may still have bruised ribs to prove it if anyone doesn’t believe me… just saying!)

THE BEST EXPERIENCE EVER! I get choked up just watching this video because we were filled to the top with happiness. UNREAL.

After riding the donkeys down the cliff we took a cable car back up to the top and had lunch with what I would describe as the best view in the entire world.

The trip to Santorini left me walking on air. It is the closest I’ve been to seeing perfection. This world is amazing.

Back on Paros I feel more comfortable then I’ve ever felt. I love everything about it and I’ve been going through so much lately about leaving versus staying and who knows for sure what I’ll decide. All I know is that I will absolutely come back. These past months have changed me in infinite ways… but I’m not ready to start wrapping it up just yet. As I said before… no one wants to cry right now.

xxx Hannah




19 May | Gabrielle Reiter | No Comments

Nice, France

We arrived at our next destination… Nice, France! A city we didn’t know too much about, but heard wonderful things. Our curiosity was racing, not knowing what to expect. I had ideas and expectations of what I thought it would be, and it turned out to be far beyond that. A city with history, beauty, character; I know I have said this countless times, but let me tell ya, this city is by far the BEST one I have ever been too!! I didn’t want it to end; I felt at ease, comfortable, happy, excited, and so much more! I don’t care what it takes, I’m retiring there when I get older!

Our first day there Laura and I headed down to the beach, roughly a 15 minute walk from our hotel, and explored what the city had to offer. First thing I noticed on our stroll were the buildings, they were stunning, classic and timeless. They were absolutely incredible, by far the most beautiful architecture I’ve seen so far!

The city was breathtaking! We relaxed on the beach and enjoyed the company of the ocean, and the beautiful city that surrounded us. Night time was near, so we called it a day, grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the hotel! On our way home we noticed a huge crowd of people surrounding something, street performers!

It was quite interesting actually, a Michael Jackson impersonator was the main performer but on the sidelines a young man with headphones in breaking out his own dance movies, aka crumping, and a little boy probably about 5 or 6 years old who kept running around performing his own dance moves and trying to impersonate the Michael Jackson impersonator! It was hilarious, 3 different people all trying to do their own thing with Michael Jackson music blasting in the background. A fun end to our day.

Street Performers

The next day was an early one, hoping to get a head start one our sightseeing! Down by the beachfront there was a little choo choo train that drove around the city, showing the monumental sights with all of the history! We decided to hop on and explore the historic sights. We learned the history of some of the most important buildings, the history of the city, and saw the old ruins of the Palace from centuries ago! And not to mention the beautiful views…

After the tour we explored the city on our own, backtracking from the places we saw on the tour, viewing all the monumental locations and the incredible scenery. It was such a beautiful and sunny day, we decided to head back to the hotel and grab our swim suits and lay out on the beach!  

The beached in France are a wee bit different the most beached that I have seen, instead of their being sand it’s all rocks instead… which makes it a bit uncomfortable to walk on when you’re trying to go in the water swimming! I swear I was falling all over the place, my feet were sore from walking all day and then making my way through the rocks into the water only to get knocked down by the waves!! I mean, it was a bit funny… but at the time I was not a happy camper! The water was beautiful, bright blue! and also freezing. I still loved it though, now I can finally say I went swimming in the Mediterranean Sea! After a couple hours, and a nice sunburnt we grabbed some grub and headed back for the night.

Monte Carlo, Monaco

It was our third and final day in Nice, France and we ventured out of the city! Our destination: Monte Carlo! Some place I had been dying to see, and only about 30 minutes away from Nice. I’m sure everyone has seen Monte Carlo in movies and on television, the city is famous for its casino life and the Grand Prix race! It was beautiful, Similar to Nice in ways, beautiful architecture and views, but very small. Decades ago the late Grace Kelly was the princess of Monaco, we visited the palace and saw the changing of the guards while we were there! Similar to the tour in Nice, we hopped on the choo choo train tour that drove around the city showing you historic sights. Afterwards we ventured out on our own, walking around the city, and lastly we visited the famous Casino. It was a relaxing day, the weather was bautiful and once we finished touring Monte Carlo we headed back to Nice and ended our day by laying out on the beach. It was a wonderful and unforgettable trip; Next stop: Paris!

Changing of the Guards at the Palace!

The Palace!

The Monte Carlo Casino!


18 May | Gabrielle Reiter | No Comments

Barcelona, Spain

It’s been quite awhile since my last post, my month of April was a pretty boring one. I spent much of my time working on final projects and assignments for my classes, and preparing for my final exams which take place this week.

April 26, 2012- May 7, 2012

A friend and I took a twelve day trip to Spain and France, our first destination: Barcelona, Spain. A beautiful city, full of life and history. We spent five days there, hoping to spend much of our time at the beach, but unfortunately that didn’t work out quite as we planned. The weather was actually quite lovely, a wonderful change from all of the rain we have been receiving in Dublin; nice enough to wear shorts but not quite nice enough to lay out on the beach.

We spent most of our time in the downtown area, Las Ramblas, where the streets are filled with tourists from all over the world. Our first day downtown we trailed off  of the main road and wandered the side streets, not knowing where we were going, hoping to find something new and exciting! It was beautiful, not like anything I have ever seen back home. It was like a city lost in time, much like many of the cities in Europe, beautiful buildings and acrchitecture, narrow streets, old stone roads.

We found this food market off of the main road, famous in Spain! It was awesome, fruits and vegetables as big as my hand! And of course delicious gelato, which I think we ate every single day of our trip. We continued walking around through all of the shops, and stopped for a relaxing dinner at a little restaurant hidden off one of the side streets. A relaxing night with a pitcher of Sangria enjoying life and talking about how crazy it was that we were in Spain, it was wonderful.

The Fruit Market!

Enjoying my glass of Sangria!

We woke up early the next day to start our sightseeing! We met up with a few friends from Dublin who were also traveling through Barcelona the same time we were, and luckily one of them spoke Spanish! I can’t even begin to tell you how difficult it was trying to translate with the people, not many spoke English, or very little! But our good friend Julie kept everything in order, and even taught us a few things!

First stop of the day: the flea market! Not quite what I expected when I though of a flea market, I’ve been to quite a few traveling through other places, none quite like this. I was thinking we would see the Spanish culture flooding the market, filled with home made crafts and trinkets, but instead it was just normal products sold in shopping centers except it was outside slustered together, sold on stands. Not exactly my cup of tea, plus it was pickpocketing central! The place was packed, so trying to be careful is a bit of an understatement.

After we got that out of our system we moved on to our next stop, Gaudi’s architecture. I of course have heard of the famous architecture before, I actually even learned about him in my art history class, but I still wasn’t 100% familiar with all of his work. It was insane, I’m not one who’s crazy about architecture but this stuff was not like anything I have ever seen, it was beautiful, unique, different. I don’t even know how to describe it, all of his different pieces are so different from one another, the curves the detail, so much detail, it’s unbelievable. Instead of me trying to describe it and not doing it justice, take a look for yourself, here are some photos of his work…

We stopped soon after this for a relaxing drink together, then called it an early night to prepare for our next day!

Montserrat, Spain; one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to, with an incredible view. We all met up early Sunday morning at the train station to prepare for our departure to the countryside. Still tired from the early rise that morning, we all slept for most of the train ride, roughly one hour to Montserrat.

Finally, we arrived to one of the most stunning places that any of us have ever seen. To clear things up, Montserrat are mountains in Spain where a little Monastery is build in the mountain all the way at the top, and to get to the monastery you have to ride in a cable car over the mountain to the very top, it’s insane!! When we reached the the monastery, we had to stop and take a moment to enjoy one of the most beautiful sights, and incredible view and an amazing experience.

We could see everything, all of the land, the city far out in the distance, and even a little glimpse of the ocean! We made our way around the little village of people, buildings, and shops stoping to admire the buildings and people. There was a courtyard filled with all different people and performers, little shops filled with home made sweets and yummy goodies made right there at the monastery! We started making our way to the very top of the mountain, taking another elevator/cable car, once we made it to the top we started our little hike, myself and two of my good friends Laura and Tatiana. We were going insane, we couldn’t believe the view!!

I swear we stopped every 5 minutes to take pictures (and for Tati to take a break haha). There was an old chapel and some ruins sitting on the mountain, it was unbelieveable. We continued are hike up the mountains around the old ruins and across and old bridge until we finally reached the end of our journey. There was an old rocky staircase on the side of the mountain that we were walking down, and poor tatiana was not having it! She was in shock that there was no railing with this staircase made out of rocks on the mountain…. no railing on the mountain!!! HAHA, one of the many highlights of my trip.

Laura was playing mother and helping her down the mountain, while I was playing drill sergeant and told her to get her butt moving and get down the steps! One of the funniest moments I have ever encountered. She made it though, tears and all! I have to say, I was very proud of her! A wonderful end to our day in Montserrat. Shortly after we made our way back to Barcelona and ended our evening with a lovely dinner, some sangria, and a night out on the town!

The cable car coming down from the Monastery! 

 My friend, Laura

Tati striking a pose!

Old chapel on top of the mountain

Tati on one of her many breaks…

Laura showing Tati how to work her way down the staircase…

Coming down the mountain, here she comes!

Victory. She finally made it!

Part of the Monastery! 

Laura and I said farewell to our friends the next day, and spent our last day walking around the city enjoying the sights, just seeing the old buildings is enough for me, that alone was so beautiful. We spent a lovely afternoon sitting and relaxing on the beach enjoying the weather and taking in the sight of the Mediterranean, watching all of the surfers! We found a nice little market, with the home made Spanish crafts I was looking for and called it an early night, preparing for our early departure, next stop: Nice, France!


15 May | Pilar Filgueira | No Comments

Athena Finalist in GoAbroad’s Innovation Awards

Innovation Award Finalist GoAbroad announced the finalist for their 2012 GoAbroad Innovation Awards! After extensive review and consideration, Athena Study Abroad was selected as a top nominee for the Innovation in Marketing Award. GoAbroad received hundreds of diverse nominees, so it is quite an accomplishment for Athena to be nominated.Athena’s nomination is for our creative …


12 May | Margaret Decker | One Comment

Santorini (Or, The Weekend of Transportation)

Sorry it’s been forever since my last blog! Between finals and the reliability of Greek internet, I haven’t been able to spare a single moment.

Our trip to Santorini was an actual blast!

The group met the teachers at the port, and as a pleasant surprise, we found out that Sigrid, George, and Cameron were all coming with us. Barry Cooper, who is a visiting ex-professor and current working artist, biked to the port to see us off, and ended up giving his bike to Barry Tagrin and hopping on the ferry with us too! I can only hope that I can still be spontaneous like that when I’m Barry Cooper’s age.

The ferry was really nice, and as always, we found a nice couch to sit on until we were ready to watch the ferry pull in. Santorini is set atop the remains of a volcanic explosion that wiped out an entire culture back in BCE, so all the rock faces have this beautiful coloration of green-gray and clay red and the water in the canyon that the explosion made is a perfect, clear blue. Greece, I hope you never stop taking my breath away.

When we got to the port, there were buses to take us up to the top of the mountain, where all the main streets are, and where our hotel was. Hotel Popi was a gorgeous setup, with a small pool and lounge area, 2-4 person rooms, and a cozy reception area with nice couches, WiFi, and breakfast in the mornings. One thing I love about HISA is that the places we stay never sacrifice comfort.

Once we were settled in our rooms, our trusty tour guide Cameron took us on a walk through the streets of Fira. Once we went in a complete circle and saw all the shops and restaurants and bars, we split up for dinner. I ended up going with a bigger group to a Chinese restaurant, and had hot and sour soup, white rice, and a spring roll. Not your average meal in Greece, of course, but still delicious. And of course, after coming back and getting ready, we went on a Santorini bar crawl, which ended up being only 3 clubs that were all pretty much right next to each other. They were all fun, and I have to hand it to them: Santorini’s party life definitely beats Paros’.

The next morning, Hannah and I decided to split off from the group, and our day by ourselves was refreshing and wonderful. We slept in and had breakfast in town, and then we decided to rent an ATV and explore the island that way. It was only 15 euro per person, and that was for the whole day, including a full tank of gas. I drove for a little bit, but Hannah was much better suited to being behind the wheel.

We drove all the way up to this craft town, Oia, above all the others and surrounded on all sides by a gorgeous view of the water. When we got there, after taking the scenic route along the water’s edge, we walked around a bunch, saw all of the homemade craft stores, and even ran into Cameron, Rhea, and Kayla in this bookstore where the beds are built into the bookshelves! Super cool concept, and maybe a detail I’m considering for my dream home.

Then we got some Baklava and ice cream, drove around some more and tried to find a beach (we were unsuccessful), went home to Fira, and had a really nice traditional Greek dinner at Naoussa Taverna. On the whole, I’d count that day a success.

On day 3, we woke up in time for breakfast at the hotel because we had to be moved out of our rooms by 10. Then we all went our separate ways and were told to return to the hotel to pick up our luggage and meet our bus to the port at 2. So, naturally, we went shopping. Coral, Hannah, and I walked along the streets looking for those glorious white cotton shirts that are so popular in Greece, and found a place on the water with handmade, hand-embroidered white shirts, and we just had to buy them. We bought some more souvenirs, and then we started walking down a path to the port town and found a huge group of donkeys all suited up and waiting to be ridden down. Who can say no to riding a donkey on a Greek island? Not us.

Then once we got there, we decided that lunch would be better spent with a view from above, so we took the tram back up to the top, and sat in a tram car with this adorable little old man and his wife, who were there on a cruise excursion and asked us for advice on seeing the island.

We had lunch, overlooking the water yet again (it never gets old), and then met up with the group and started on the trek back. As great as Santorini was, few things are greater than getting off a ferry, seeing the windmill at the Paros port and thinking, “I’m home.”

TTFN, Ta Ta For Now!




3 May | Shayla Holloway | No Comments

I have A LOT to say!!

I feel so bad for not blogging this time while on Paros, like I must say I’m overwhelmed by my surroundings even though I’ve been here for 2 months already.  Still loving my classes and my teachers, Classmates are THEE best!!!…

But where do I start? Well I did not attend the Turkey trip with the rest of the HISA crew yet I met some pretty interesting people. Hung out with two other HISA students who as well stayed back in Paros with me. We met some backpackers from Germany who were on the island for two weeks (I had NO IDEA what a Backpacker was), and also meet a young lady that lives here on Paros name Dimi. Overall, I didn’t just sit in my room for a week while everyone else was in Turkey having a blast. Here are some of the photos from my week without the whole HISA CREW!!

Last Thursday I celebrated my 23rd Birthday. I can look back at this moment and say, “ When I turned 23, I was in Greece” I cant wait. Along with that, I was surprised at my dorm with a Birthday note….Thanks Guys…( Tear)

This Past weekend, we visited Santorini!!!  Me of course had to venture off and explore the island alone. I just hate structured trips, I like to just go wherever I like and Santorini was the trip. On Saturday I end up taking the bus to Kamiri Beach where I found a movie theater that was playing “The Avengers”. The movie was in English with Greek subtitles, I don’t think I ever been so happy to go to the movies in my life!!! It seemed like forever since I’ve been in fact. That whole day till the movie started I lounged around at Café’s, and had coffee and hot chocolate, like the Greeks do everyday.  That’s when I met this Greek Guy name Jimmy and he basically acted as a tour guide and showed me around the beach.  THE AVENGERS WAS GREAT!!!

Moving on, we now have 2 more weeks of classes and 3 weeks till the show.  I’m sure everyone at HISA are aware that I’m ready to go home, especially HANNAH, she stay giving me that “ IF YOU DON’T SHUT UP ABOUT GOING HOME ALREADY” look. But I must say I did have a great time here no matter what anyone else says. I made friends at my school, even though I won’t be leaving Greece with the same set of friends I came here with, but it was all an experience. Learning different personalities and viewing other cultures made me realize how grateful I am, and how far I came. I will be taking home a NEW ATTITUDE!!



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