Final thoughts on Greece

I’m on the plane headed back to Boston now, still more than 1,800 miles away, as I write this. I figured now would be as good a time as any to reflect on the past five weeks in Greece.

It’s hard to put into words how challenging and rewarding this experience was. I doubt there is any other Dialogue of Civilization that is more time intensive or demanding. It’s just not possible to give anything less than your whole self over to this reporting program and, at times, that was far from being easy.

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Isabelle and Isaac working in Thessaloniki. / Photo by Olivia Arnold

There were points during which I struggled a lot — over questions of whether it’s morally responsible for students to report on refugees as an educational experience. There are things I wish I could re-do, specifically during my reporting at the refugee camp on the Greek island of Chios, but I have made my peace with it. I hope in the end that I did more good than harm.

The experience reaffirmed for me that my upcoming co-op working on a girls’ education project in Jodhpur, India, is exactly where I need to be next. The role of journalists reporting on conflicts and social issues is immensely important but, for now, I don’t want to just bear witness and record the suffering of others — I want to try to help, and be a part of the solution.

While I learned more about who I am, both as a journalist and a person, I also got to learn more about other people on the trip. I was already lucky enough to be going on this Dialogue with Isaac, who really is one of my closest friends, though my frequent snarky remarks toward him may suggest otherwise. I’ve always been in awe of his incredible writing skills, and I’m so glad that we were able to step outside of our comfort zones together and produce, film and edit our first-ever video story. I’m also thankful that we were able to stop laughing at each other long enough to record our voiceovers and stand-ups (sorry Mike).

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Look! We ARE friends.

Before the trip started, Carlene said she had a gift for choosing roommates and, wow, was she right. I’m not sure how my life was ever complete before I knew Suma Hussien. She is all the good things in the world: funny, talented, smart, adventurous and compassionate, to name a few. I am going to miss all the little things with her: whether it’s getting eaten alive by mosquitoes in our Thessaloniki dorm room because we refused to close our balcony door or talking for hours late at night from our beds in our Athens hotel room.

 

Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait. 

There are so many other people I could go on and on about, but really, our Dialogue must have hit the jackpot for the most talented and kind group of people. I feel like a better person for knowing and working with all of them.

It was great working closely with professors Carlene Hempel and Mike Beaudet, both of whom have been such incredible mentors to me throughout my journalistic career at Northeastern. We were also blessed with amazing people from the American College of Thessaloniki, who never took a day off from suggesting story ideas, teaching us Greek culture and helping out with translations — Theo, Maria, Kristina and Yvonne.

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Shout out to Mike for suffering through my 1,000 questions about video. / Photo by Isaac Feldberg
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Big thanks to Carlene for dedicating so much of her time to editing my Chios story. / Photo by Isaac Feldberg

Okay, you get it, the people were amazing. I know this isn’t an Oscars acceptance speech, but it’s hard not to gush about all of them. Beyond the people who made this trip great, I also had some experiences that I never thought I’d have, many of which left me thanking journalism for keeping my life both interesting and humble. Those include, in no particular order:

  • climbing Mount Olympus, home of the gods
  • seeing the Parthenon for a second time
  • sitting down for iftar dinner during Ramadan with prominent leaders in the Muslim Association of Greece
  • having coffee in the home of a professor as he showed Isaac and me videos of research he did on demonic possessions in Sudan
  • reporting from one of the most overcrowded refugee camps in Greece
  • having dinner and exchanging emails with two exiled Turkish reporters who were imprisoned for more than a decade for their journalism
  • attending the Athens Pride concert celebrating equality and LGBTQ+ identities
  • feeling a spiritual peacefulness at Meteora, a monastery seemingly suspended in the air

There are probably a lot of other life-changing things that I’m forgetting at this point, not to mention all the not-so-big moments that impacted me as well, but it’s time for me to start wrapping up (only about 800 miles away now). 

So I’ll end on this note: Another thing that Carlene said at the beginning of this Dialogue was that if you can do this (meaning this intense five-week reporting program), then you can do anything. I think I finally believe her.

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