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Personal Reflection 1


Personal Reflection Paper of Studying Abroad in Greece

Rebecca Dover

University of Tennessee

As Myers says in our textbook, “Our sense of self is at the center of our worlds.” I
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believe this is certainly true, and even explains why we would be ending a three-week

study abroad experience in Athens, Greece with a paper discussing our own personal

thoughts and growth. I know that from the time I wrote the essay applying to be accepted

to this program until now, I have truly grown a great amount. I came into this experience

expecting to learn a few things, take some good pictures, and perhaps make a few new

friends. With expert traveler parents, sibling and grandparents I have always expected to

love travel as much as my family and to be able to similarly see many wonderful places. I

have found that this type of experience is not something to take for granted, though, as it

does things no traditional classroom could ever do.

In terms of where I am in human lifespan development, I know now that I have

fully crossed over into adulthood. In American society the adolescent period is a time to

develop self-reliance, personal identity, and an independent self. This is not necessarily

something anyone is conscious of, but it is very apparent once that point has been

reached. This reminds me of the quote from the movie Life as a House saying, “You

know the great thing, though, is that change can be so constant you don't even feel the

difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don't even notice that your life is

better or worse, until it is.” I feel like this is strikingly apparent in my life over the past

year. I have found that in coming to Greece for three-weeks, or perhaps being “uprooted

and placed in a foreign land” as the book says, my personal identity has remained

perfectly intact. My core values, beliefs, abilities, and dreams have stayed strong and

consistent. This is not something I claim half-heartedly, because I know looking back on

my time in Australia last summer that this did not used to be the case. My first experience

being away and on my own certainly taught me some things, but I was easily swayed to

go along with the group and at times even forget myself. This has been far from the case
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during my time in Greece. I believe my decision to be completely single and independent

in that sense this past year has solidified much of who I really am, and maybe explains

some of my recent maturity. I look back at the past year of my life leading up to this trip

as an evident time of immense growth and perhaps a crossing over into the next stage of


I see now that I have become a product of my time and culture- a very confident,

independent person out of the very individualistic American society. My family and

friends are a very important part of my life, but I think I have come to find the ability to

consistently remain the same with them or away from them- a key aspect of being an

independent person according to social psychology. Thinking back to my journal entry

from the Temple of Poseidon, I realize that perhaps I would not be deeply shattered if my

symbol of “home” was destroyed, as I originally thought. I think my family, my

education, my supportive friends, and now my travel experience has pushed me to be

who I am, and this is now completely on my own. I do not have to rely on their presence

or support anymore. They will always be incredibly significant, but I think maybe the

intention all along was to truly bring me to this point and let me take it from here. I will

certainly continue to evolve, but in the rest of my life I think it will left be up to me what

that is going to look like.

More immediately, I think my experience in Greece has fully prepared me for the

rest of this summer. From here I will be flying to London and traveling in Europe for two

weeks with friends from home. I know I will have much greater confidence in my ability

to get around as well as my ability to be comfortably away from home. I get one night to

sleep in my bed in Franklin and then I will be off to New York City to do a summer

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I will be living in Manhattan and leading mission groups in putting on weekly day

camps for inner city children in Brooklyn. As social psychology points out, we as people

tend to try to predict future behavior based on past experience. I predict that the self-

awareness and confidence I have acquired in this past year and specifically on this study

abroad trip will be hugely important aspects of my success in my upcoming endeavors.

Also, in terms of the journal entry about urban versus rural, I think my experience in the

Greek culture looking at these things will help me in the transition to living in a huge

urban city like New York for two months. Having lived in a rural place in Tennessee

most of my life, city life is very different for me. The crowding, as discussed in social

psychology, increases anxiety and aggression and can even stimulate the demonstrations

and riots that are so prevalent in big cities, particularly Athens. Athens has become very

comfortable and attainable during my time here, though, and I expect the same for New

York. The pace of life is certainly faster and more crowded, but I have really learned to

appreciate the urban even if my preference is the relaxed rural environment.

Looking even further into the future, I know that my senior year of college is

going to go fast and I will soon be making decisions about what to do afterward. I think

this trip has helped open up a number of options because I more certainly trust my ability

to be away from home and manage on my own. I might be doing Teach for America

somewhere in the United States or something like World Teach in South America. I

could even be going on to graduate school. Whichever way I choose, I know I will be

able to succeed. My time of solitude in Athens showed me that I am perfectly happy and

content on my own- away from familiar people, away from a phone, and away from the

internet. I was not anxious, worried, or scared in any way. I have lost a lot of the fearful

skepticism that I came into this trip with- the people walking around primarily just mind
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their own business. There is a vast difference between being safely aware and being

assuming, irrational, and judgmental which can easily be a fundamental attribution error.

I think it is important to be aware of this concept in social psychology because this kind

of error can be quickly regretted, from my personal experience.

I think from this paper it is clear that I agree with researchers’ definition of social

psychology from a personal point of view. We are complex human beings that think

about, relate, and influence each other in very specific ways. My experiences in life

relating to my family, friends, teachers, coaches, meeting new people, and working with

others have all contributed to who I am and my perspective. I think this has huge

implications that traveling, meeting people from other places, and seeing other people’s

views can all broaden even the narrowest minded of people. We all affect one another

and like the audio clip we listened to in our last class- even the simple gender of a word

in language can determine a person’s whole mindset. I am very grateful for my

experience here in Greece and hope to take the many things I have learned home with

me. My favorite quote from Myers in the textbook is something I hope to always

remember and follow: “Success in school and beyond requires enough optimism to

sustain hope and enough pessimism to motivate concern.” With this one can never

become apathetic or complacent, and in those terms it is continually important to keep

Socrates in mind with his timelessly wise statement: “Know thyself.” I truly believe I

have gotten a good start, but know that will be a lifelong journey.