Hometown student life

I live in a small town. I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve always dreamt of running away. When I got into university I had to choose between staying in my home-town or going away to study. Guess what I wanted! I desired to run away as far as possible but if I wanted to have enough money to make my dream come true and do my MA course abroad… I had to stay here for another four years. So, the 18-year-old Elena made an important decision: to stay and study in the same town she’d grown up in, dreaming about the day she’d had the chance to fly away.

Four years later, the news is good! I worked hard to make sure my dream would come true and I am happy to announce I am leaving this place – hopefully for good! – in September. (Many posts will follow about life abroad, so let’s leave that for now). I wanted to go through the pros and the cons of studying in one’s hometown and hopefully help people who are struggling with making a decision, as I was four years ago.

To begin with, I encourage everyone who is financially able to support studying away from home to do so, because it is a huge chance to grow and gain your independence as an individual and find out a great deal about yourself. Don’t let your fear hold you back. But for those who cannot do that for financial or other reasons, here are the Upsides of studying in your home-town…

books better

Upsides: 

  1. money Saving: Probably this is the biggest one. We all know it costs a huge amount of money to study away from home whether that’s in your country or abroad. You would have to rent a house and pay for all the utilities as well as the expenses for coming and going. For some people, it is inevitable in that situation to get a job, which means they might wait precious time they would spend studying or enjoying their student life. If that is something you want to avoid, maybe you should consider staying.
  2.  friends and family: If you chose to stay in your hometown, you wouldn’t have to go through separating with your friends and family. You would also always have someone to support you and someone to open the door for you those nights you return only to find out you forgot your keys – if you’re like me, this is the most serious reason to consider staying! It happens A LOT!
  3.  familiarity: Knowing a place well can have a lot of advantages. You know where you like to go an have fun, you know the lame places and that makes you the leader of the group once you make friends at university, who are coming from different places. You’re the one who gets to introduce them to the secret beautiful spots of your place, which only a local could be familiar with.

Downsides:

  1. no chance for self-exploration: Wait here! I am not claiming you will not explore yourself and grow in your hometown. All I’m saying is, you’ll have a much bigger chance to do it away. Different places usually tend to bring out different sides of ourselves, so do different people. As a matter of fact, if you distance yourself from your family and everything you know, it’s so much easier to explore parts of yourself you had no idea existed. That’s one of the best experiences!
  2. old same… everything!: Who doesn’t want to see new places? Who doesn’t want to explore new lanes in a city? Who doesn’t like to be where they’ve never been before? Every corner of the city will be a surprise and so will be every store you walk into, every cafe and every bar! Endless chances for new memories to be made in a new scenery! I know I’ve used the word “new” so many times in this paragraph but that’s the whole point!
  3. Independence: They say, after you’ve lived on your own for a while, you never want to go back to living with your parents, why do you think that is? I’ve lived alone for almost five years now and I can tell you there is nothing better than independence! It might scare you! Cooking for yourself, laundry, cleaning and what will happen if you need help but if you chose to stay with your parents you will miss out on that amazing feeling of I-Can-Make-It-On-My-Own! I think, the sooner someone gains their independence, the better it is for their lives in the future and university is meant to be that time.

Of, course, as you know, I believe that there shouldn’t be a certain moment for everyone to do something and all of us should be able to choose when we are ready to make the next step in our lives, whether society approves or not. So, read this article but keep in mind that’s only my opinion. You get to decide when you’re ready to move away because everyone is different.

I will only repeat one thing that I already said previously and I think it’s the one you should keep: If fear is what’s holding you back, don’t let it. Student life is not only about gaining a degree, it’s also about finding out a great deal more about yourself, human relationships and the world in general!

have a lovely day,

glance-at-the-sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

 

 

 

May the 1st: Flower Festival

Bonjour, lovely ones! I don’t want to see any moody faces today! It’s the first day of May, which means, we can all start counting down for summer vacation – if you haven’t already. I just wanted to give you a post that will make you smile and just stop for a second, look around and appreciate the small things. 

5 euro solar.jpg

Each year in my hometown on the last day of April, a flower festival is being held. Everyone goes downtown for the music and a glimpse of the beautiful colours. Oh, the colours are endless… It’s like a wonderland of pastels!

So, what better to do when it’s so warm outside and you know everyone will be there than a date night, walking around the flowers. Under the starry sky, as it’s already 25 degrees in the evening here in Greece, just a spaghetti strap dress and a denim jacket is enough. What did I forget? Oh, that’s right! The more-than-necessary-for-the-night flower crown.

carusel

There’s certainly no better way to welcome May and all the amazing things she’ll bring… (well, May was always a female month in my head!)

Take in all the colours and smells and enjoy the last month of spring!

flowers tent

P.S. I know this one didn’t have any super interesting discussions but those flower pictures are a wonderful way to welcome May and I hope I got you in the mood to fill your house with colour end floral smells. More content coming up soon! 

 

have a magical day,

glance-at-the-sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

You are your passions

  • Tea time on a Wednesday, today! Who knew?

Every one of us is different, that’s what’s so brilliant about relationships, that’s what keeps them interesting. A lot of factors play a part in who we become: genetics, the place we grow up in, our friends, teachers and families, crucial life events, society and so much more. In my point of view, there is a way to understand a lot about a person from one particular preference: their interests.

Our interests define us in some way. They also shape us. Interests are what makes the basis of a friendship very often or what brings people together to take something to the next step. Usually, our interests play a big role in the outcomes of our lives, the people we chose to be in it, the career we want to pursue and also qualities of our personalities. When we make the right choices, interests balance the practical part of life and the fun one.

People who are passionate about their interests are usually considered more charming, especially if they have a way to communicate what fascinates them and make other people feel how they feel about a particular subject.

In our age more than any other one before, someone can enjoy what they are passionate about easily. The internet provides us with information, courses and chances to engage in conversations around pretty much anything. So, whether you are an Astronomy enthusiast who goes crazy over the study of the universe and its galaxies or you are a 50’s music fanatic and you like to research the story behind every album released at the time… you can do so from the comfort of your own sofa.

The downside of it all is that at the same time, since there is so much free information waiting for us to explore, sometimes, even our  own interests can seem a little bit chaotic, so instead of actually taking the time to get more into what we love, we chose to numb our minds from the pressures of everyday life while doing something that requires the least possible amount of energy – such as watching a show that even us ourselves consider stupid. That’s great… if it doesn’t take over someone’s life and make them forget what they were truly passionate about from the beginning.

People who have the opportunity to turn their interests into a job are lucky but they are also the people who usually succeed. That is because they are passionate about what they do and they also care enough to engage and try to take what they love a step further. For example, if you are very passionate about physics, you will probably try to contribute to what already exists. You want to experiment with new theories and test your instincts.

Even if you cannot turn your passion into an everyday job, you can always have it as a hobby, which sometimes can be even better because a job sometimes becomes an obligation but a hobby rarely does. It doesn’t mean that you cannot be as great at anything if you are not a pro.

Either way, make sure to have interests. They define you, they give your personality elements, they bring you closer to other people and they make your life more productive and fun. Try not to seat in front of a screen watching passively 100% of your free time. Do it – we all do! – but also… don’t forget your interests. Get up and devote some time to them, it will pay off, I promise.

 

have a magical day,

glance-at-the-sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

(always late) Arrival to Ithaka

 

Glimpse into my life: A few days ago I finished university. I am now waiting for my graduation ceremony and there is a lot I am planning for the future: an MFA degree, as much travelling as possible, lots of writing and some work experience, of course. It is the very first step, a small victory allowing me to try for the next one. How much does it feel like one, though? – enough about me!

There is always a bittersweet taste when something ends, especially a part of your life you enjoyed as much as I enjoyed university. Of course, there is always someone with that typical saying  at the tip of their tongue: “one thing ends and another one begins”. Well, as much as this sounds helpful in the movies, in life things tend to get a little bit more complicated than that. There are people, places and habits you leave behind and the separation can be hard.

So this Sunday afternoon we are talking about the irony of dream-chase. I read a quote by Neil Gaiman recently and it instantly brought tears to my eyes because I now know how truthful it is: “the price of getting what you want is getting what you once wanted”. I usually forget quotes even the ones that really impress me but this one felt like a punch in the stomach and I don’t think I will ever be able to let it go. So let’s talk about it Let’s examine the tones of wisdom hidden in every word. 

Being people, we are made to evolve. We are made to change day by day, minute by minute and that change depends on our experiences. We’re not goldfish, we learn even from the slightest experience. As we change, our dreams alter so do our priorities and our values. That is very healthy and we should be open to it. It is  after all the only way in order to become better. But we also become more and more afraid because aside of the brilliance of independence, the always-growing strength, the depths of human affection and the beyond-the-sky levels of actually being when falling in love, we discover the edges of our pain tolerance – and there’s no such thing! -, the fear of being less than enough, the certainty that we never were enough in the first place and the realisation that life has a way of trapping us like mice inside our own choices, our own rights and wrongs, inside our minds. 

All the above make our dreams change. You wish you would dare to be that childhood fantasy of yourself and it now seams completely… impractical? Even crazy! Who are the brave ones who will dare to be it? The “brave ones” or the idiots, who will end up regretting their lack of reason in their decisions?

And so, when you reach the mountain top. It now looks like a different place than the one you once had in mind. It’s not. It is usually exactly that. It’s you! It’s your eyes that look at it differently now. With a little more fear, a little more practicality and maybe – if you’ve been smart enough to understand the paths this journey led you through to get you right here – with a little more wisdom.

So, since you’ll always end up in the wrong place because your desires will always be one step ahead of you, just try for the best and appreciate what the steps you took to get there gave you. That’s why the beautiful quote we discuss today is not pessimistic at all, when you read it a second time. It would be a curse to be completely satisfied with what you have, because the only true gift humanity was ever given is no other than curiosity!

p.s. Sorry I’ve been away! Exams were a lot to handle. I’m back to stay!

Relevant recommendationC.P. Cavafy discussed what we are talking about today lots and lots of years ago in a beautiful poem, if you haven’t read Ithaka, you can enjoy it easily. Google it!

 

Have a magical day,

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

Between the lines: Piano Man

It was around midday last Sunday, I was putting my make-up on when a song started playing on the radio: Piano Man by Billy Joel. I usually really like songs that tell a story, so it caught my attention. While it was going on I realized it talked about something that has been on my mind a lot lately: the feeling that you don’t belong where you are and that you could be in a better place if circumstances were different or if you had handled situations better. I have come to realize that most if not all people feel like this in one way or another.

I played the song over and over to discover its secrets and since I wanted to make a blog post referring to this, I thought I could start from those wonderful lyrics.

The song builds a very atmospheric image of a piano bar on a Saturday evening. We see everything through the pianist’s eyes although we never learn much about him compared to what we hear about the rest of the people who are spending the night in the bar. The figures are almost stereotypical and we can probably recall them in our memory. We have probably come across them at some point.

As the pianist begins to explain what he sees, he starts describing an old man who seats near him drinking his gin and tonic – he actually uses the words “making love to his tonic and gin” which emphasizes his dependency on alcohol. The old man asks him to play a melody he knew as a young man. This person is the first one who is being described and is probably somehow the future self of everyone in that place. He listens to the piano full of nostalgia, missing a life he had but he was never able to appreciate at the time just like the younger people in the bar. He looks back at what everyone else turns away from and what he probably had turned away from when he was young: his life. Now, he only lives in memories hanging on a bottle and the tunes of the pianist that will somehow let him return to what he once was.

The next person we meet is John, the barman. He comes across as a very cheerful man He always has a joke to tell but deep inside he just feels trapped. He is a friend of the pianist so he can confess to him that he’d be a movie star if he wasn’t stuck at the bar. In this case, we, as the listeners, feel like he could change that. He dreams of being an actor but remains there doing nothing about it. Of course, we know nothing much about John’s life but we assume that if he wants it that bad, he could take a risk. He says that this life “is killing him”, so does he have something to lose if he takes a risk? Is his phantasy of being a famous actor really a desire? Or is it just something he uses to make himself feel somehow like a failure?

Two men are sitting somewhere near, Paul and Davy. Paul is a novelist who doesn’t have a family. We can assume he is a cynical and practical man, since the pianist describes him as a “real estate novelist” and he is taking to another man named Davy who still works in the Navy “and probably will be for life”. Of course that “still” is the magic word that changes the meaning of the lyric. It instantly gives us the sense that Davy wasn’t intending to stay at this job but for practical reasons, he stayed. He probably had bigger dreams. Maybe he would be a movie star just like John would but he’s there now and he’ll never know.

Lastly, Bill, our Pianist, refers to the waitress who speaks with a stoned businessman. They are both lost in their loneliness trying to fight it in meaningless conversations. In the end of the song, as we are almost seeing that bar in front of us, feeling the loneliness of every single person in there and knowing that they can only get away from it for as long as a song lasts – a song by the piano man  – something devastating happens. Someone approaches Bill and gives him a tip. Then he asks him “man, what are you doing here?”.

After we’ve seen everyone else through Bill’s eyes realizing how they’ve wasted their lives and they’ll probably never be happy, someone else comes to ask the question we’ve been too busy – thinking about everyone else – to ask. What is he doing there, in this sad, little bar filled with unhappy people looking to drown their problems in alcohol instead of admitting their wrong choices? Was that his dream all along? Is anyone where they were supposed to be? Is life an endless chain of mistakes we just keep trying to cover up? Is loneliness inevitable?

I thought of the song lyrics for days. I started noticing people around me wondering how they were experiencing loneliness or what were they settling for out of fear. Let’s not lie. At some point we all do. Or… can we chose not to?

have a magical day,

 

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

Stop It – violence against women

I am a person who talks about this kind of subjects a lot – ask my friends, they’ll tell you about it. There is nothing I find more important than human rights, so since I haven’t yet talked about it in this blog I thought this was the right chance to start with the first of many related articles to come.

This is the 26th of November, which means that yesterday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. To be honest, I don’t believe in “international days”. I believe that the day for the elimination of violence against anyone should be every day. We mustn’t forget about what’s happening when this day passes. Although, it is a very good chance to inform people that might not be aware of the problem and to make women all around the world see that they are not alone.

Violence is not only a problem that concerns women. It is a problem that has been unsolved for as long as humankind exists and the sad fact is that, although we have made so much progress as a species, we haven’t yet given the appropriate attention to resolve matters such as this one. I strongly believe that it is completely in our power to stop it. Violence against anyone is an equally serious and important matter.

Women have always been victims of violence. For centuries, they didn’t even have the right to express opinions or make any important choice concerning their life. They were entirely dependant on their fathers and later on their husbands, who were allowed to treat them however they desired to, taking for a fact that they were somehow superior.

To this day, this kind of behavior has not gone away. Still, little girls are forced to marry or become victims of trafficking. But the problem, of course, does not stop there. Women all around the world are victims of violence in every form behind closed doors in their “safe” home environment or work.

Why is this still happening? Although we are all aware of the problem and we all agree that sexual, physical or verbal violence is wrong, we tend to forget to specify exactly what this involves. One in Four women admits to being a victim of violence by their intimate partner. What about the ones who remain silent, either because they are afraid or just because they are unable to identify as a victim? A lot the victims do not know if their situation is a violent one because they are constantly told they are overreacting until they start to believe they are crazy. They live in fear and disappointment.

We think casually joking about matters like this is harmless but in fact, it is exactly the opposite. It makes the situation seem casual and it allows people to subconsciously consider it a given, a fact that will not change. Consequently, this makes the abuser feel his action is acceptable and the victim feel like they should tolerate the violence.

Every person should have a right to live freely without fear. This comes down to me and you. We are all equally responsible to stop this from happening. If you witness a violent situation, do not turn away, encourage the victim to speak out and stand by their side. If you are the victim, please do not feel like you are alone. I know you deserve better. Do not be afraid to ask for advice from a professional. Anyone could be in your shoes. There is nothing to be ashamed about.

For those of you, like myself, who feel that you need to do something, don’t hold back. Inform everyone you know on the matter and its importance, start conversations. If we are all aware of the problem, we will be able to spot it and eventually… stop it

 

have a magical day,

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

  • Violence against other groups is an equally important subject. We will be discussing it soon.

 

A little something you forgot to consider

When you look at the world you see a combination of brilliance and dirt altogether. It makes you want to get out and explore every single part of it, every possible human emotion and at the same time, it makes you want to run to bed and stay there forever. It’s like being in a huge library with a billion books. You wish you’ll choose the most fascinating ones, those that will teach you a lot and make you a wiser person but still… you cannot know the ending in advance. There’s always a risk.  It’s scary – terrifying actually – but I suppose life can give you a few things that are worth the “pain and the aches of the outcoming fortune” in the words of the Danish Prince.

It is incredible that you have all these choices concerning who you want to become and how you want to use your life in order to contribute to society. But what most people forget to mention when they talk about the endless possibilities is risk and fear. The smallest choice you make has outcomes. There’s never a win-win situation. You always have to face consequences, responsibilities and stand up for the path you took and for the person you are today.

We chose friends, behaviors, careers, lovers, places to live in and even ways to approach situations. Every little thing is crucial but there are some choices bigger than others. These are the choices that will change your life. When you stand in front of a choice this big, I tell you, it’s scary. Nobody mentions that. Everyone goes on and on about doing the right thing but… when you’re actually standing a step away from opening one door or another, you can’t see “right” or “wrong”. You can only see the regret at the end of each way and you’re afraid of it. There are paths that guarantee security and others that involve greater risk.

street artist.jpg

Making the step is hard. But no matter what you have been thinking so far, no matter what all the voices around you have been going on and on about, you have to take a step back and put yourself in the microscope. I don’t mean endless hours of worrying and re-thinking – which is something I am guilty of, to be honest – but to really stand across your deepest desire and ask yourself “Where do you want to go?”.

This process is usually so hard because we forget to keep in mind the fear that goes with it. It’s what we forget to consider when we make plans. Fear is usually a huge part of our choices but it shouldn’t be. Go with your gut. There is an instinct inside every one of us, we’ve just learned to ignore it over the years while trying to rationalize everything.

Remember back when you were a kid? You took one look at a person and you knew if you liked them or not. You went to ballet lessons for a week to find out you want to quit and then you tried piano and Italian and none of those were right for you. You knew and you were not afraid to admit you changed your mind. Nobody would call you a loser. Then, you finally tried tennis or playing the tuba and it was fun. You couldn’t see the time to go to practice. That’s what we suppress over the years, our pure instincts. We learn to like what we should like but, how will we ever be happy if we don’t risk walking the road our heart tells us it leads to happiness?

Charles Bukowski said “Go all the way” and he was right. If you don’t go all the way, you’ll never know. It takes a huge amount of courage to stop thinking of every little thing that can go wrong and focus on your pure desire. Don’t be afraid of it. Take a step on the path your heart points at. There must be some reason. Show it some trust and you’ll eventually find out why it took you there.

Have a magical day,

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou