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  • Writer's pictureJanson Sanders

Exploring Greece: Janson's Journey of Cultural Immersion and Personal Growth

By Janson Sanders, 2023 LEAD Greece

Hello, my name is Janson Sanders and I am currently a Junior at the University of Arkansas. My study abroad journey began when my good friend Ethan and I were sitting around the breakfast table overlooking a lake on the 4th of July, discussing summer plans and potential ideas of spending the summer overseas. That morning, neither one of our simple minds could possibly imagine the life-transforming experience that LeadAbroad had awaiting us.  

After about 10 hours of sitting next to a sweet, non-English speaking woman on the plane ride over, and what seemed like a blur of quick introductions and a half-hour bus ride, we arrived at the Congo Palace in Glyfada. There I came to the intimidating realization that of all 85 new faces standing in front of me, I was one of 4 guys. The term "out of my element" would be an understatement. Prior to departing from my local airport, I had sat down and decided that what I aspired to get out of my time overseas was to develop a true sense of identity while curating a plethora of new and meaningful friendships. However, as I was standing in the room at that moment, the dream to grow close to each individual seemed daunting.

The thing I didn’t realize was that when you’re surrounded by your true people, building fulfilling relationships isn’t a chore at all. With every new conversation, laugh, meal and adventure shared with those around me, I was astonished at how quickly strangers can feel like family. Although I could write a book about the incredible depth of those with whom I got the privilege of exploring Greece, and the numerous memories made, one night in particular stands out.

It had only been the first week in Athens. We had already seen the Acropolis, explored ancient Corinth, gone bungee-jumping and began our deep dive into what leading a fulfilling life looks like. I was starting to get a good chunk of names down and had fully bought into the idea of conversing with everyone.

That night about 15 of us, both students and staff, spontaneously went and picked up gyros to go and had a full picnic on the roof of our hotel. By the light of a magnificent sunset and then a wonderful starlit night, we ate, sang and laughed until our stomachs hurt. We played a random question game where each of us let our normal guards down and vulnerably answered the questions that were asked. We stayed up much later than expected because everyone was enjoying it so much. In less than a week those people had already touched my life for the better. When going to bed that night I distinctly remember thanking God for the incredible people with which He had blessed me. 

My time abroad will forever hold the most treasured place in my heart. Throughout the entire month, I never once missed where I came from because the people around me grew to feel like home. I could not be more thankful to truly have found the kind of people that resonate with me... my people.


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