It’s All Greek to Me

I have made it to Greece! Since I last checked in here I spent a few days running around London, flew to Thessaloniki, and have been extremely busy here the past three days. I rounded up London by seeing all the big tourist sites such as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Also, I took a day trip out to Rochester, UK which was a little different than Rochester, MN. This Rochester had a 700 year old castle and a nice more relaxing environment compared to London. Overall, I had a great time in the UK but I was ready to move on to Greece by the end of my stay.

Big Ben in London

My flight took off from London Gatwick early Friday morning and this time I did not make the mistake of taking a taxi. Instead I got an Uber at 4:30 am and it was less than $15 total which was pretty good compared to my taxi experience. The flight to Thessaloniki was about three hours and I was with mostly other students from Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales. They were coming to the American Farm School as well for a week-long program. I would end up spending a lot of time with them this past weekend.  Friday, we walked around Thessaloniki and got a little better grasp of the city. It is very beautiful and is nothing like what I’ve seen in America. I guess to describe it, it has a mix of Turkish and Baltic influences. I’m looking for a photo now, but I guess I forgot to take any pictures of the city! I will add some soon. On Saturday, we took a bus out to Mt. Olympus and climbed in the foothills. It was a really cool hiking trail, but also pretty rough with ice and snow.  My study abroad director here has said that we will take a 2 day hiking trip all the way to the top later in the year when the weather is nicer. We also visited a few traditional Greek villages. From the villages we had a fantastic view of the Aegean Sea.

Mount Olympus from the foothills

Sunday, we visited two different vinery’s. The first was a wine producing vinery and made different Greek varieties of wine. The second made everything but wine from the plants. The primary product was the grape leaves. They used the grape leaves to make traditional Mediterranean foods that were very different than American foods. That night I went to Aigli, which is this 500+ year old Turkish bath house that was converted into a Cafe/Club and the inside was absolutely amazing. It was a fantastic venue and it was really cool to see the ancient architecture on the inside mixed with more modern aspects of a Cafe. So far this week I have had a tour of campus, orientation, and my first class. The classes are very different than at Iowa State. My first class (Livestock Management and Production) there were only two students! It is going to be a little different than the 300+ lecture halls at ISU.

Next week, I should be able to tell more about campus and the classes in general. I also know I will be in the city a bit more, so stay tuned!

Arrival

I have made it safe and sound to the big city of London. With almost 14 million people residing in the metro area, it is just a tad bigger than Austin (25,000) or Ames (60,000). As of this writing, I will have been in the city for the three full days already. I’ve done and experienced what seems like a lot, but I still feel like I am scratching the surface of what London has to offer.

First sight of land at Ireland

On the flight, I was lucky enough to get a window seat with no one in the seat next to me. Even with the good luck I wasn’t able to get any sleep and had a pretty rough start to my trip. I had my first taste of something ‘greek’ on the plane as well. For breakfast one of the sides was greek yogurt but was made in New England in the USA. I’m sure I will get my shot at real greek food soon though. After getting to the airport I took a taxi to my hostel near the London Tower. What I found out was that taxis are ridiculously overpriced and will cost you an arm and a leg. Seriously, I would recommend any other form of transportation because it will be much cheaper for the same or slightly more amount of time.

London Tower Bridge

After getting to the hostel, I was able to unpack and get my bearings a little bit. I walked across the London Bridge and the London Tower Bridge to try and walk off my jetlag. All along the way all I could think of what if the London Bridges really did start falling down like in the nursery rhyme. Fortunately, the bridges held and I was able to manage my way back to the hostel for a nap. (Apparently this was not good if you want to adjust time zones, but oh well I needed it.) When I woke up, the other 7 people staying in my room arrived. Between the 8 of us we had 2 Aussies, a Taiwanese (?), a Mexican, an Argentinean and 3 Americans. These guys and gals were fantastic and I had a great night out with them, whether we were just learning more about each others cultures or dancing at a club.

View of London on the Thames river

On Sunday I did not rest. At least not for awhile. I was up early to start walking around the city and figure out the metro or ‘Tube’ here. First place I went was the Imperial War Museum, where I learned about the British take on the last 100+ years of war. It was very interesting to see the different vehicles they used and they even hosted an old V2 rocket that was to be used in WW2. the WW1 exhibit was also exceptionally good and that was worth the visit by itself. Next, I went down to the Tube and went up to St. International Pancreas station. The station itself is an amazing piece of architecture and absolutely dominants the area. This is near the Kings Cross Station where Harry Potter and the Hogwarts Express take off in the movies. It was very cool to see and I liked seeing a real train station. My next stop was the British History Museum. I could write a whole ‘nother piece on the History Museum, but it was phenomenal. The history nerd in me really appreciated the many exhibits that spanned over 4000 years. I spent almost 4 hours in the museum and I think I still missed a decent amount of it. It was well worth the visit.

Outside of the British History Museum at dusk

Today, I went out exploring the city with an Aussie and an American that were staying at my hostel. We took the tube out to Notting Hill and walked around various parks and went on a mission to find different pieces from the street artist, Banksy. Banksy is a famous street artist that uses his pieces to promote political awareness to various issues. After looking at a few and wandering around we met an actual graffiti artist who gives tours of street art in East London. It was pretty cool to have an insider give the tour because he seemed to know everyone who had done pieces in London. Apparently we also saw some of the tour guides own work, but it is a big no-no to reveal who you are due to obvious legal conflicts. I never have a big fan of graffiti, but going on our earlier walk and the tour I learned to appreciate it when done properly. That is pretty much all I have done in London so far and I still have 3 more days until I leave for Greece. So who knows where I will end up in the next week.

Cheers,

Connor

First Thoughts

Hello, my name is Connor Bollum and I am from Austin, Minnesota. I am a sophomore at Iowa State, majoring in Agricultural Business. I love to play/watch basketball, go golfing, being outdoors, and work with my Shorthorn cows back home. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to different places such as Florida, Yellowstone National park, and Spain in the past few years.

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I have previously studied abroad through Iowa State to Spain for a study abroad program through the College of Agriculture and Life Science Study Abroad Office. With that program I had a semester to learn about Spain and to learn about my classmates that were going across the pond with me. It was a fantastic experience experiencing a new culture and I would consider many of the people that went as some of my closet friends at Iowa State. The program was very structured and allowed us to see many of the highlights from Madrid, the Catalonia region, and Barcelona. Whether we were crossing 2,000 year old aqueducts, visiting snail farms, or trying to find a tv with the Cyclones March Madness game on it was a time I will never forget. I would highly recommend a trip with staff from Iowa State to get your feet wet!

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Studying abroad was one of my goals before entering college and after going abroad for 10 days I knew I had to go for a longer period of time. As soon as  I got back to America I began to research semester-long opportunities. My favorite thing from Spain was the ancient Roman architecture in Tarragona that was about 2,000 years old and I wanted to be somewhere with just as much history. This led me to find a program in Greece or Italy to best enjoy the ancient history. Lucky for me, I found a program at the American Farm School in Thessaloniki, Greece that is associated with Iowa State. I found out that Iowa State has been sending students there every year for summer classes and internships, but no one had spent a full semester there. After speaking with Jodi Cornell at the CALS Study Abroad Office, I knew that the American Farm School would be a great fit for me. After being accepted by AFS and finally buying my plane tickets a few weeks ago it is just beginning to dawn on me that I will be in Greece in less than a month! Being that it is winter break, I have been attempting to learn some basic Greek via Duolingo but time will tell how well that turns out for me. Next time you hear from me, I will (hopefully) made it safe and sound to London as I will spend a week there before I fly over to Thessaloniki.

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I started this blog to help connect with my family and friends from back home, but also for others who are curious about what studying abroad looks like. While in Ames working at the CALS Study Abroad Office I loved telling people about my experience in Spain. Now, I have the opportunity to share my experiences in a more personal manner through social media and this blog. I would like to be an ISU Study Abroad Center’s social media intern, because I have a good track record with improving different channels social media efforts. At the CALS Study Abroad Office, our team of Student Travel Consultant’s helped increase our Facebook pages likes by over 300 last semester and have increased our reach greatly in the same time. Blogging is a cool medium of communication that I can share more stories through writing and photographs, and I am definitely looking forward to taking advantage of it this upcoming semester. I hope that my friends and family stay entertained through my stories and that other students from Iowa State become more excited to study abroad themselves.