1. Firstly, the most important aspect for us, being poor students who can’t manage their student loan… FREE SCHOOL MEALS. So, in Athens we receive 2 X free school meals a day, including weekends. The food may not be that amazing but its free and means that you have money to spend on other things, like trips to the many sights available in Greece. Obviously, in Brighton you can end up spending £4 on a sandwich and that’s without thinking about a drink or a snack to go with it (this can be tough when you’ve got full days of lectures) but Greek students don’t have this problem and always know there’s a hot meal (with starter, main, salad and dessert) waiting for them at university.
2. With these Free Meals you obviously have to get out of the house and head to the canteen at your university campus, however, this may be the only reason students go into university. This is because Lectures are not compulsory, and this results in students retaking as many classes and can mean students are going to university for 5 – 7 years. However, the government are trying to limit it to 5 years so that students aren’t spending their whole lives in education. (even if the students aren’t happy about this)
3. Maybe you think that going to university for 7 years would rack up a lot of debt as in England we have to pay back the money spent on our education. Well, in Athens you can guarantee you will have no debts to pay back no matter how long you stay in education, because University is free here. Although this sounds like a dream to many students who are already thinking of the debt they will have to pay off for the rest of their lives, it does result in less money being put into the universities, so this can result in the buildings and the facilities taking a large hit.
4. Fourth on the list is the political aspects of the student body. In our current semester (1st) we have been turned away from Uni due to student sit ins or strikes. Obviously, this doesn’t affect the students here as much as it would in Brighton as the students aren’t paying for their education.
5. Now on the weekend at the end of a long week of lectures and seminars in Brighton you wouldn’t dream of heading back into the Checkland building to spend your Saturday night (unless it was exam season) but in Athens students often go and attend parties in the university building. They set up a bar with cheap drinks for around 3 euros, with music playing and with you being allowed to smoke inside the building anyways, there’s no need to go outside to a smoking area.
6. However, these parties could be coming to an end soon. (yet another thing to strike about) In England you are safe knowing that police may enter the university building if something goes wrong or you need to report something. But in Athens there was a law that said that police could not enter a university campus or building, and this has only just been abolished. Meaning that before the beginning of the November anyone could seek asylum in a university building without fear of the police making an entrance. I suppose this has its advantages and disadvantages.
7. In Brighton most subjects now only have coursework which you have time to work on and then hand in. However, in Athens there are a mixture of exams and smaller assignments, but with the exam being worth a higher percentage. This is proving a bit tricky as we (due to us studying English literature) haven’t taken an exam since A level (and we were happy not taking exams). But hopefully these exams go ok …. If we can even remember how to write by hand.
8. A very annoying aspect of university in Greece (and most aspects of life here) is how long it takes to get the simplest things such as timetables, Uni cards and library books. Whereas in England you can go and get any of these things the first or maybe the second time (if you’re unlucky), here it will take 3-5 business days from when you ask for it or sometimes just to get some information about how to complete the application or who to visit next in order to get the item. As Alex likes to say … “it’s like a quest from an online game”.
9. The lack of aircon or heating. Greece is obviously known as mostly a hot country however; our university building doesn’t have any aircon installed in most of the class rooms… this can lead to a very sweaty three-hour lecture during the summer months making you wish you didn’t wear such a thick material.
10. Finally, as mentioned above … the lectures here are all 3 hours long with a 10-15min break in the middle. This was a massive change from the hour and a half lectures we had in Brighton and can result in losing concentration. (This also makes our Thursday a living hell as we have continuous lectures from 9am till 6pm with only the 15-minute breaks to keep us a little saner through the consumption of mass amounts of coffee.)
Overall, Greek university has already been a massive change to our regular uni routine in Brighton but an experience none the less and we’re excited for the coming months. And let’s be honest… it being warmer than England is a plus.
But, Brighton we miss you!
Written and edited by Elly Babe (@elly_babexxx)
Last week there were clashes against the police, involving tear gas and with over twenty thousand people took to the streets. All this due to the Athens Polytechnic uprising of 1973. These events also resulted in the university being shut for the week.
As Erasmus students, we had no idea about this national academic holiday until it prevented us from going into school, and as we asked around, we received a mixture of advice from friends and fellow Greek students.
In general, the city seemed like it was preparing for war. Our friend’s landlord even told them to get out of Athens for the weekend; “Your building is really located in the middle of the war so: 2 options: you go somewhere far or you lock yourself in with possibilities of suffocation [due to tear gas]!”
The day of the protest:
Waking on the morning of the 17th, I was excited and nervous or the day's events, having already decided to go to the protest and try and see the predicted riots in person. Walking to Exachia, where the violence was predicted to peak, it was like walking into a ghost town, all the roads were cleared of cars and empty of people other than a few people darting from place to place. The square which is in the centre of Exachia was clear of police. Although, every road leading to there was blocked by police.
Making our way towards the Polytechnic we went through lines of police, who searched every other person. One man was apprehended and made to delete the photo’s on his camera by two fully armed and armoured policemen. This was a town under siege. Gangs of police on motorcycles drove up and down the empty roads. These policemen putting on a show of force. None of them looking worried but more eager and excited for the day's events, almost as if they were looking forward to the conflict with the angry anarchist later in the day.
We joined the protest at the very start where there was only around five hundred people with motorbike helmets and clubs with red flags hanging off them. At this point, it seemed there were more journalists and cameramen than actual protesters, but it was pretty early in the day. Deciding we were hungry we went home for some lunch. When we joined the march three hours later at Syntagma (their parliament) there were thousands of people surrounded by riot police in gas masks. By this time the protest had swelled to over twenty thousand people including the previous leftist prime minister and the students of 1973.
I followed the protest all the way to the American embassy, and there wasn’t any sign of the riots I had been warned about. Although the sheer number of people on the streets was overwhelming. Once at the embassy, I could see the police helicopter patrolling over the rooftops of an area I knew to be Exachia. So, of course, I headed in that direction, following the beam of the searchlight provided by the helicopter. It was almost like a satire of the Christmas story, however, instead of following the star to find the baby Jesus, I was following the spotlight to see the conflict. When I arrived at Exachia, it was full of riot police and press. The police surrounding the square and the media were surrounding an old woman, who was clearly giving an interview about the goings-on in the square. There was a few skirmished with the police that night, but in general, there was nowhere near the same amount of widespread rioting and violence that Athens was expecting.
The police took credit for the containment of the violence as they deployed over five thousand into the area and arrested twenty-eight people. By using tactics such as drones and helicopter they were also able to prevent attacks from the rooftops that did a lot of damage last year as the rioters rained down Molotov's and rocks from above. The government also took some of the credit for the overall success of the events as the raid on the university took away some rioting supplies. Plus the punishment for the use of Molotov was raised from four years to ten. Overall it seems that with the new laws in place and the current conservative government, the era of largescale rioting and lawless attacks by young ‘anarchists’ are coming to an end in Athens.
As the day of the protest approached, I did a little more research into the history behind this academic holiday: the Polytechnic uprising started on the 14th of November 1973 as the students of Athens and other Greek cities protested the military dictatorship (The Junta) that was in control of Greece at the time. This military government was being supported by the Americans at the time, I will come back to this importance later. These protests soon developed into riots and then into a full-blown revolt. Resulting in a tank crashing through the gates of the Polytechnic. Even though no one was killed in the tank incident a total of twenty-four civilians were killed in the uprising. Though, these events did lead to the downfall of The Juta. The reason the protest starts at the Polytechnic and ends at the American Embassy is to show that the students haven’t forgotten America's involvement in the seven years of dictatorship supported by the Americans, who were petrified of the rise of communism in Greece during the Cold War.
Last week was has not been the first time the universities have been closed due to student protests. As a government with more conservative ideals was voted in this year it has caused a lot of resistance from the left-wing students. This government has also fulfilled its promises by bringing in many laws that the students feel is a direct attack on their freedom and rights. The first order introduced revoked the law that prevented police being allowed to enter university campuses. For the first time since the law was repealed, last week, police entered and seized a range of gear that they said would have been used to riot. Such as motorbike helmets and fire extinguishers. Many people are happy with this change as they felt university campuses had become safe havens for criminals and drug users.
Another law introduced by the new government was to put a limit on the amount of time one can spend at university, unlike in England university, here it is free and classes are not compulsory this means that students can retake as much as they like and can do as many degrees as they want free of charge. The new government has put an end to this by putting in tighter regulations and a limit on the amount of time you can be at university. Along with these laws, the new government has also been cracking down on areas such as Exachia in Athens which until a few months ago were no-go police areas. And a stronghold for extreme anarchists and illegal immigrant squats. Again, the police have now started clearing these squats and making arrests in Exachia. However, this isn’t without retaliation with Molotov’s and rocks.
Article written and edited by Alex Hood (@alexjohnhood)
Tonight the Parthenon temple (Acropolis) which stands in the Centre of Athens is illuminated a vibrant blue colour. The reason? To bring attention to UNICEF's World Children’s Day 2019. Today also coinciding with the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the child. Why the colour blue? Well that’s just the colour of UNICEF. Other famous landmarks around the world are also being lit up for this occasion including Petra in Jordan, European Parliament in Brussels, Shanghai Tower in China and the Pantheon in Paris. If you see anywhere else lit up in blue tonight we would love to hear.
Written and edited by Alex Hood (@alexjohnhood)
I still can’t come to terms that I’m studying in Athens for a year. I’m mesmerized to say the least … I’m immobile like the statue at end of my dusty street. I’m broken to bits, chipped away but I’m still monumental.
I’m proud to be a resident of the ruins.
I live in the fucking acropolis; this means I’m in the centre of everything. I’m part of the unique culture, the rich history and the advanced civilization.
This was the right choice and I have no regrets whatsoever. Yet, I’m the tearless traveller who is always adjusting and adapting, I’m never happy with normality. I’m on the hunt for newness, I want my experiences to elevate me to greatness. I’m still finding myself (whatever that means), the search may last for eternity, but I have time. I got it inked on my skin just to remind me.
I did this by myself, I put in the work and now I’m living lavish. No one believed in the lunatic that’s been babbling on about an impossible trip, back home everyone thought I was delusional. I made my own destiny even when everyone doubted me. Who would have thought a boy like me would achieve his aspiration?
It was difficult for me to leave my past behind; the forgotten farewells stay stuck in my mind. People that I thought cared never even said goodbye.
I have been blessed with such a caring family; my guardians always look after me, they guide me even in my time of need. I’m the ultimate third wheel but they are glad to have me at every meal. I learned a lot from them because their relationship is very special. The Airbnb is meant to be a ‘me and you’ experience but I sleep alone. Honestly, I’m content with the fact that I don’t rely on a significant another. Loneliness is my richness. I lay in bed with a smile because I don’t need to argue, I don’t need to debate and eventually hate.
My suitcase is bigger than my accomplishments. I wanted to bring all my precious reminders with me, but I simply didn’t have any space. The excess weight cost me a fortune. My memories are made up by materialistic objects, people come and go but this stuff never loses its sentiment. I proudly hanged my paintings on the wall, along with my posters and photos. I have a stack of books that I will never read. This one has no cover, just the title ‘Astonishing Athens’ on the front. I tried tearing out the old pages in hope that I can focus on the new chapters. The meaning is lost in the various translations. My story is like the minotaur’s maze, there is no escape from the monster nor the myth.
The place where I rest is the owl’s thorn nest. I’m mighty but featherless, this flight is for the fearless.
The truth is … Eros is corrupt for he is unaware that cold hearted love to fuck up, they can’t comprehend the intensity of their lover’s devotion. They are doomed figurines that lack pure emotion. So, shoot your shot if you must, but please stop overhyping the actuality of love.
The nectar of my soul drips on Athena’s shield. Her silver spear is my rib cage, my organs are pierced but I stand straight with pride. The inner fighter in me will never die.
This city will always be alive, the archaic architecture will never fade away.
Dionysus dances on my grave tonight. I feel the ecstasy in the white wine. I’m a helpless actor in his play.
The battle between the ancient and modern is a recurring theme in the capital, the division in this new age is slowly tearing up the tranquillity. The way I see it, the Greeks are staying strong to their roots but are attempting to mimic the progress of the first world nations. Stick to what you know, cherish the traditional values that your ancestors thrived in.
Even the university campus surprised me, it was this big hollow building with graffiti on every corner. There were anarchist signs everywhere and anti-capitalism slogans on the stairs. It wasn’t as advanced as Brighton, things were old fashioned, and you accepted the slow-paced system. It all consisted on paperwork rather than doing things online.
The food is out of this world, everything is fresh and rich in taste. I don’t mind eating gyros every day, the westerns expectations have been exceeded, so just feed me anything. Drinking is obviously part of our daily routine, I enjoy saying Yamas every hour, bring the spirits to our table until I get my drunken superpowers. My confidence sprouts like a pretty flower, the way that her eyes are fixated is making me lose my will power.
I feel unworthy of the Greek glory, I’m taken back by the orange sunrise that slowly falls into the bright blue sea.
I’m like a fragile God glancing down at the scenery, the little white houses that are stacked on one another start to disappear as everything gets dimmer. I’m standing on a delightfully disintegrating landscape, resting on the late homes that are thousand years old.
The sangria is poured down into the rocks like blood.
It’s unreal at times. But this is the most that I’ve felt at home.
The Greek girl blissfully walks into the water at midnight, she slowly swims into the Aegean sea, the moonlights mouth consumes her whole, she is freed from all her sins as her body floats …
Poem By Dejan Inic (@durtday)
Published by Alex Hood (@alexjohnhood)
The night before last myself, Elly and our friend from Brighton Rick (name changed as requested), decided to go to the Full Moon party at Bolivar Beach Bar. The night started out great, with us travelling first to Piraeus to pre-drink at Ricks flat to then getting a taxi to the night club around 12pm.
On arrival we got a free drink with the 10 euros entry, which frankly I knew I didn’t need, having finished off a litre of Vodka between myself and Elly I was suitably pissed by the time I arrived at the club. This had its benefits as I didn’t have to buy a single drink for the rest of the night. So, I am not able to tell you if the drinks were expensive or not. The club itself was amazing, as it states in the name it is on the beach which means there is plenty of room to relax but also areas to dance and get properly involved with the DJ. I had a great night until we left to leave the club.
Our friend Rick (the only person who knows how to speak Greek) had run into the sea and seemed perfectly fine, bar a little wet. As we went to meet our taxi, myself and Elly got up and helped Rick to his feet, who at this point fell facedown and was out like a switch. I sobered up instantly. Looking back, I am very glad that he had got dressed before passing out.
How the Greek staff and services dealt with this situation was incredible. They had clearly seen all this before and had done the procedure countless times. Pretty much straight away four of the staff grabbed a beach chair lifted Rick onto it and almost like a king being paraded through a crowd, he was carried through the party. Elly and I following behind like a royal procession. Once a bit further down the beach, by the exit to the bar the staff put him down and checked his pulse.
At this point, I thought the next step, as we would in England, would be chucking Rick in the back of a taxi and getting him back to our apartment to sleep the night off. However, when we asked the bar staff if we could take nick from there, they responded that the ambulance was on its way already and to wait for them to arrive. This was very surprising to us as he was just drunk, and as students we have been in this state ourselves or have seen many people in the state without getting the emergency services involved. In the back of my head I thought the ambulance would arrive, tell us off for wasting their time and send us packing. This, however, was not the case. The ambulance arrived and tried to ask us what happened, through gestures and the word “Drunk” being repeated. Then to our disbelief loaded the only Greek speaker in the group into the back of the ambulance. The very jolly, non-uniformed driver in his fifties with a greying moustache then laughed and said, “Jump in... to the after-party”. His colleague strapped us into the back, and we were off.
This after-party turned out to be the A&E and wasn’t a party I ever want to have the bad luck of returning to. The room was full of injured and ill citizens. Quite frankly to a recently sobered up Brit it was pretty horrendous. There was a man with his nose bandaged up, but with scarlet stains covering his black and white stripy T-shirt. There was screaming from a room, the door still slightly ajar but I remember wishing that it had been completely closed. And people in hospital beds filling the room completely apart from a small walkway through the centre. Luckily, we were put next to a bed with a teen who we later found out was also unconscious due to alcohol. Yes, we were in the intoxicated corner of the emergency services. We later learnt that the two women waiting with the seventeen-year-old was his mum and aunt, and it was the kids first time drinking.
The hospital staff proceeded to take blood from Rick and then to put him on the drip. At first, they asked me to hold his arm while they stuck a massive needle into him. As they started to withdraw the needle from the said arm, I began to feel sick and subsequently faint. Deciding that I didn’t want to add another patient to the already overcrowded hospital, Elly took over holding his arm while he underwent heart monitor tests and blood tests. I decided to take a seat (on a medical stall somewhere in the cramped room) and drifted to sleep. Waking up around thirty minutes after when Elly needed to leave for the toilet, I then took position of watching over Rick. Hours passed like minutes as our alcoholic dazes had long passed and we stood there worn out having been up for around 20 hours. It was now around 6:30am, and we had been there for a good few hours... and I began to hear the patient snore. I wasn’t having this, and got hold of the doctor, asking him if I was allowed to wake Rick and go home. He replied frankly “of course, of course”. So, starting off gently I began to shake my now sleeping friend, he stirred a little but not fully so I thought a few light slaps to his face while saying his name might work... until his eyes eventually opened, dazed and confused. I was so glad, not just to see him alive but of the prospect I would finally be able to go to sleep. As Elly kept him awake, I ran and got the doctor to take the drip from his arm. In a few minutes, after Rick had conversed with the doctor in Greek, he was out of bed hailing a taxi to take us home. As we left the emergency room, I saw the mother and auntie employing my rough but effective technique of raising the drunk, and I hope that it worked sooner than later, hospitals are never good venues to pass the time.
Looking back how the staff and the emergency services handled the situation was fantastic and professional, even though the hospital was daunting I never felt unsafe and it was the best place for our friend at that point in time. Even better, it was free, and no payment was asked for. I know now that I am in good hands in Athens.
By Alex Hood (@alexjohnhood)
Edited by Elly Babe (@elly_babexxx)
The flight from Rhodes to Athens was a quick but bumpy one. On landing in Athens I was thankful that the pilot had actually slowed down to stop and had not gone straight into the airport building, but I guess this was the Greek driving we were going to have to get used to.
From the airport our apartment was closest to the Acropolis tube station, which is central to the rest of the city. We took the blue line to Syntagma metro station and then switched to the red line and carried on for one stop to the Acropolis. This journey (for a 90 min ticket from the airport into Athens) cost 10 euros; however, a normal day to day (5 day) ticket costs 9 euros and around 5/6 euros for a student ticket of the same.
Food shopping proved to be difficult and expensive as the first shop we went to was a ‘My Market’ which was where we bought certain essentials for the house (bread, eggs etc), these small bits came to a large total of 26 euros. Although we soon found a Lidl by the stop on the train called ‘Kallithea’, prices were more reasonable here but still seemed to be more expensive than at home. With our hopes surrounding food shopping seeming to be cut short we found a bargain store in the shopping district (there are also others around in different parts of Athens) called ‘Bargain bazaar’ this seemed to offer more reasonable prices and there is an option here to buy pasta, rice etc. In bulk.
We also found a cheaper store for bits for the house to make it seem more homely such as rugs, bins, laundry baskets etc. This shop is situated in Piraeus down one of the streets close to the station. With this being a bit out the way we looked to find a closer shop offering the same accessories. So, it was just our luck when we came across a ‘Tiger’ in the shopping district where we were also able to get storing baskets and other little decorative bits.
The available attractions within the city are amazing and fairly priced for students as most places will have discounted tickets or will be free. The open-air theatre (said to be one of the best in the world) opposite the view of the acropolis promises to be an amazing and magical night as you watch a film while also looking at the lit-up Acropolis. This was 8 euros for us on a Friday evening; however, they have their student days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday where the tickets are only 6 euros.
Alongside this, you can get into most attractions for free with your student card, so it works in your favour to bring it along.
Another thing we found to do was sitting outside the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This is an open-air music venue, and by sitting outside you can clearly hear the concert happening inside. Many people stand outside here dancing to the music with either their own beer from home or a drink from the bar outside that still served passers-by as the concert continued. It was only cost 5.60 euros for 2 beers.
Banking has caused us much grief in the first few days of living here. At an ATM that isn’t Attica bank (which offers free withdrawals), we learnt that it is better to reject the conversion rate as this provides you with a better rate when the money is withdrawn from your bank, meaning the 300 euros you get out may only come out of your bank as £270 (depending on the days exchange rate). Also, if you are planning on using your English bank card such as HSBC or Natwest remember to tell them you are going abroad and planning on using this card so that you have no moments of being unable to use your card when you need it the most. We have also signed up for an N26 card as this allows for bigger withdrawals from ATMs as well as allowing free withdrawals from a bank.
Finally, the vibe of this city is amazing and being able to chill and drink on the streets creates a warm atmosphere. However, there is still a need to be vigilant and remember that you aren’t in your own home town and things may be taken incorrectly and could cause you to be in trouble. There are threats of muggings and Knife crime within the city, however, as long as you stay out of the darker alleyways and try not to walk off anywhere alone where you are unsure of the neighbourhood then the city will stay amazing.
By Elly Babe (@elly_babexxx)
Edited and published by Alex Hood (@alexjohnhood)
Everyone’s dreamed of moving to an exotic hot country and living out their best lives … for many people that is just a dream, but your university could be your ticket to making this a reality. For us the reality started to unfold about a year ago when we realised our course had the opportunity to do the Erasmus scheme. Being the travel enthusiasts that we are we knew we had to explore the idea even if it didn’t come of anything. The Erasmus scheme is something set up by the EU to allow students to transfer to other countries for education.
Rewind back 9 months and we’re sitting there in a crowded meeting talking about our options. Athens seemed like the most culturally rich city that could give us the best experience out of them all. After deciding where to go we had to go through writing about why we feel this would be a good fit for us, having to turn down living with our friends in Brighton before even finding out if we got a spot on the Erasmus scheme and lots and lots of waiting. Everyone around us started to question if there was any point waiting or if it was even going to go forward due to Brexit but for us it was no question that we would be waiting to find out if we got a place. However, for a lot of people this just wasn’t an option with the need to put down deposits and secure housing in Brighton, people started slowly dropping out leaving just three of us. This was sad on their part as it meant they wouldn’t be able to experience all the things that a year studying somewhere else would supply.
Thank God we waited! In April we finally started filling out the forms with our module information on them and the process was in action. By the end of May we had been guaranteed our spot at National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and we couldn’t be happier. Our waiting and pestering our mentor paid off.
However, our planning didn’t stop there we still had to find a house, set up a bank account and book flights to Athens. The house hunting was one of the harder things as we kept finding places that would have been perfect had we believed they were truthful.
After weeks of hunting for the ideal place that ticked all our boxes we ended up finding an Airbnb that Alex managed to talk into letting us let it out for 9 months for the price of 300 Euros each. With this being right in the centre only 2 blocks away from the acropolis no one could believe our luck. With this all set, flights booked and a bank account set up all that is left to do is wait, enjoy our time with the friends we won’t see for a year and start deciding what bits from our 20 odd years of life we are going to fit into the suitcase we will take with us. Yikes.
We will officially be moving to Athens on the 11th September 2019 and will be staying there until June 15th 2020 so any tips on places to visit in or outside of Athens would be an amazing help. (or any advice about living in Greece)
Written by Elly Babe, edited and published by Alex Hood.
We are three Brighton University students who have been given the opportunity to study at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. This blog will be our way of sharing our experiences of living and studying in Greece, plus will include tips and advice for those also looking to study abroad or even just visit Athens.
Who we are:
Where we went...