The 2019 Heritage Greece Program took place this summer from June 6th to June 23rd at the American College of Greece in Athens. The students that participated in the international program wrote about their experiences, and each week we will publish their adventures in Greece.
The last weekend of Heritage Greece 2019 has finally come, and we are not ready to say goodbye to our new friends or to Greece. The time sure does fly when having fun…and it flies even faster when the fun is in Greece!
Saturday was a free day for the 2019 Heritage Greece participants, and the HG family was excited to return to their favorite parts of Athens, or to explore parts of the city they had not yet seen. Whether students wanted to hit the beach and experience the Athenian beaches, or head down to the center to explore new neighborhoods of Athens, the day was open for anything! Having a free day at the end of the trip was a perfect way for the participants to head out with each other on their own time and have a relaxed, spontaneous afternoon.
“I really liked having the opportunity to have a free day on the last full day of the trip because, although the program was packed with so many incredible experiences and memories, we were always on the go,” HG participant Dina Ciulla said. “Getting to go back to our favorite places and spent some more time there with some of the closest friends we made on the trip, was just a perfect cherry on top to the program.”
Everyone came back to the residencies with stories from the day of the varies experiences and locations found. The day was far from over as an evening at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center was planned. The SNFCC is a massive architectural beauty, coined by Dr. Matilda Chatzipanagiotou, HG Program Director, as the “Parthenon of Modern Greece.” The SNFCC houses the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, as well as countless cultural programs and beautiful views of the city.
The night was spent learning about the SNFCC and taking “golden hour” photos on the rooftop, closing out the final night of the program. However, the fun was far from over as “HG superlatives” an a karaoke party broke out back home at the residencies. The participants and peers sang and danced all night celebrating the end to an amazing trip!
On Sunday morning, the day of departure, a sadness filled the air as the participants packed their bags and prepared for their flights. Some had plans to continue their adventures in Greece and Europe, while others were heading back together to the states. Nonetheless, nobody was looking forwards to saying goodbyes…
The day was brightened by an awesome brunch by Athens’ favorite, Phi Bakery. Complete with decorations in the garden and delicious breakfast foods, a final meal was shared by the participants and peers before loading up the buses and saying goodbye. Participant Sophia Placencio said: “Its really sad that we are all leaving because we have made such incredible bonds with one another, I wish we had more time together, but I can’t wait for the reunion in October to see everyone again. I know that I will be bonded with the friends I made at Heritage for many years to come.”
When it was really time to leave, tearful goodbyes began, alongside long hugs and words of love. Every year, the goodbyes get harder and harder. It was a beautiful expression of love and gratitude on behalf of both the participants and the peers, for a once in a lifetime experience that is unlike any other.
“Having this be my first experience ever coming to Greece was better than I ever could have imagined. I am very in touch with my Greek heritage back home in the States, and I honestly wasn’t sure how I would actually feel in Greece,” said Sophia Andricopulos, HG 2019 Participant. “Everything is so new when you go to a different country – it can really feel like you are being put in a foreign environment, but I did not feel that way here in Greece. Though my connection to my Greek heritage in the US, finally coming here made me feel like I truly was finally coming home. I feel like I found where I belong and it really made my Greek-American identity make sense to me.”
Sophia beautifully summed up the heart of the Heritage Greece Program – together we celebrate our heritage and find where we belong, in a country that we all share and love. Heritage Greece 2019 was full of incredible moments that will be remembered by those who shared them together for years to come… All we can say now is: see you in October!