Aug. 22, 2018
Shokhari Tate is a junior majoring in kinesiology in the College of Education.
My experience abroad was everything I wanted it to be and more. As a boy, I was very interested in Greek mythology, so of course my dream was to one day visit Greece.
The program Contemporary Culture, Politics and Society in Greece gave me the opportunity to do this, and also immersed me in the culture in a way that I could not have if I had gone alone.
The first thing I noticed when I got there was the smell of fresh seawater and how blue the Aegean Sea looked while the sun was shining on it.
I was in love from the first sight of Greece, and then I got a taste of the food and started to wonder if I would ever go back to the United States. The freshness of the pita bread, the savory taste of the grilled meat, the natural sweetness of the desserts — needless to say, I needed to hit the gym after my six weeks abroad.
While there, I also got to ask the locals questions about their communities and join some of them for lunch and dinner. What really amazed me was how aware the Greeks were of their culture. They knew when their houses were built, their whole family history and what roles their families may have played in history.
Whereas in America we usually only learn about our family history if we send in $49.99 to some company. The Greeks had been taught their history as if it was a class in school, and I’m not talking some boring history class where you just memorize names. I’m talking an intensive, inclusive class where you recognize what happened in the past, how that now affects the present and will later impact the future.
The most influential experience that I had abroad was being allowed to work in a refugee camp for two weeks. I was allowed to work in Moria camp with refugees from Turkey, Africa, Syria and other various places in Europe.
My job was to help the unaccompanied minors; my duties spanned from helping them learn English all the way to playing sports like soccer and football with them.
What amazed me most though was the kids’ ability to smile through everything. Most of them had been stripped away from their families and had been forced to come to a country that cannot financially support them. Regardless of all that, these kids always had a smile on their faces and never let their situation stop them from living life the best way that they could.
In America, I feel as though we have a very “woe is me” attitude. Anytime something goes wrong most of us want to throw a pity party for ourselves; these kids had everything go wrong for them.
Most of them had been forced to fight in some sort of militia; I saw multiple boys under the age of 13 that had bullet wounds and tattoos all over their bodies. Despite this, they still managed to find joy in the fact that they were alive.
Working at that camp for the short time that I did really put things into perspective for me. It confirmed that the world is filled with cruelty. I thought I had seen bad stuff in my life before, until some of these kids shared their stories with me.
If there is one thing I can take from Greece, it’s something one of the refugees told me, “Waking up in the morning is just you playing the game. Smiling through the day — that’s how you win.”