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)
For my 22nd birthday we decided on visiting another island, as it would never be possible for me to visit the beach for my birthday in England. After looking into it and not wanting to be sitting on a ferry for another five hours as we had been for Mykonos and for Naxos, we found Aegina only an hour ferry away from Athens and just as beautiful as the other islands that were much further away.
Also, it proved cheaper with it being closer, but also having our ISIC (international student card) cards gave us 50% off on ferries. So, with a group of 7 we booked our ferry and apartment and soon the time came to visit this beautiful island.
When we arrived on the island we hired two cars (which I would highly recommend anyone doing as it is quite a large island with monuments and sights spread out). We were there from Friday till Sunday and it was only 20 euros each, and this meant we could see more of the island.
After dropping off our bags we decided to visit the Cathedral of Saint Nectarios (or Agios Nektarios) which was so beautiful. This monastery had also only been built in the 20th century so wasn't as old as many of the other religious buildings we had come across in Greece. The flowers that surrounded the walk down provided splashes of colour perfect for taking photos in-front. Due to it being a religious monastery we all had to borrow these long skirts to wrap around our own clothes, which were actually pretty comfy.
After this we drove around 20 minutes across the island to the Temple of Aphaia, which almost looked like a smaller Acropolis, but with a beautiful view of the see and the many pistachio trees down below on the island. Due to this attraction being up on a hill you could see to Athens from there, which truly shows how close it really is.
With it still being around 25 degrees in October, we all decided to make the most of it and head to the sea for a swim and to relax on the beach for a bit. We found a pretty much empty beach, apart from around 5 other people, that also had beautifully clear water. (However, this was around 10/15 mins drive away from our apartment, so we decided to head back to a beach/ harbour near our apartment for sunset in order to have a couple of beers without anyone having to be the designated drivers.
With it being towards the very end of the season it is quite strange walking along with not many people around, with the restaurant’s being pretty much empty – although, it is almost the perfect time to visit somewhere like this as you are still able to swim and relax but can also walk up hills and see sights without becoming too warm.
The next day us girls made breakfast/ brunch while the boys went to watch the rugby down by the harbour. This meant that we had the upper hand on what we would do today.
We decided on the Wildlife Hospital, this seemed like a relaxed activity that we would all enjoy, so we headed on our way… trying to rely on google maps to get us there, as it was positioned in the middle of the island which is incredibly hilly. But, the girl’s car managed to get there, however, on arriving we realised it was closed to the public. With the boys saying that they were just “5 minutes away” so to “wait there” we decided to pull up into the space in front of the gate to the wildlife hospital and wait. Little did we know we would in fact be waiting around 40 minutes. While trying to get in contact with the boy’s car to make sure they were still alive we continually got told to wait, they wouldn’t be long and then as time passed we soon got stressed out phone calls saying they were lost on a dirt track somewhere in the island, with the maps suggesting they were only 10 minutes away… When they finally got to us alive they seemed to all be thankful they were still alive after Alex’s directions had taken them god knows where.
So, having wasted the most half of the day due to the boys we moved on to this chapel that was just a short hike away from where we parked up our cars but again provided some beautiful views. With Alex and Mitch climbing up some dangerous rocks, we could again see who truly valued their lives.
Keeping in the theme of religion and hiking we went to this village that contained only old chapel’s, this village is called Paleahora, which actually translates as old village. This was really interesting as there were dozens of chapels on these rocks as you made your way up to the top and each of them was in a different state of abandonment, with some having pictures and alters still in position as though they were still ready to take Sunday Mass. This also includes twin chapels of Saint’s George and Demetrius, here was were a medieval fortress once stood. I would highly recommend visiting this as it makes you think about what it would have been like when people still visited these chapels or whether there would be houses surrounding them, or whether these little chapels may have once housed people of the island?
After hiking for the majority of the day, we decided we deserved a swim in the sea and headed to the little beach nearest to our house. After seeing the sunset here again, we walked back, stopping off at the shop to cook ourselves some dinner and grab some alcohol we arrived back home. That evening when we had headed out to the kiosk, we came across a litter of kittens which were so adorable and seemed to be treated well here.
I would recommend Aegina, as not only is it close to Athens but it also has a lot to see and do. So this allows for a weekend get away that won't leave you with the only option being to head to the beach. It also has some amazing Pistachio nuts and products made from pistachio’s (pesto's, spreads etc) as they are all grown on this island. (So of course - save some money to buy some of these)
Article by Elly Babe (@elly_babexxx)
Edited and published by Elly Babe
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...