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

 

 

 

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

To fall in love with Cities

We fall in love with people, we fall in love with books and films and flavors of ice-cream that we want to have all the time but sometimes we fall in love with places and that is one strong feeling, my friend. This week we are talking about the bond a between a person and a place.

Who doesn’t love to travel? I mean, come on! It’s 2018 and flying from one side of the planet to another is easier than ever. How can anyone be satisfied with what their little spot on the map can offer them? We want to see everything, every little street in the tiniest village somewhere far. Since I was little I dreamt of seeing the whole world. I didn’t manage to achieve it so – since it is a plan that needs time! – but I have seen a few places around Europe and I am very happy with that.

prague.jpg

Actually, our first love tends to be the place we grew up in. Even if it’s nothing special or we get bored of it, it’s still home and it is usually filled with memories and a sense of familiarity, which is nice. There’s something special about knowing every corner of a neighborhood, the shortcuts, the people, the shops…

But I am not a person who believes in spending your life in one place. I like to travel, I like to explore and make memories in different places, speaking different languages. So, let’s talk about love at first sight, which I do not believe in when it comes to people but, I totally do when it comes to places. London was my very first love. It was instant. The busy streets, the fast rhythm of living, the beautiful buildings… that amazing combination of modern and classic…. I can’t even begin to describe how I felt the first time I walked in Covent Garden.  It was a cold – but surprisingly not rainy – November evening and I was only sixteen.  We had dinner and we listened to those fantastic street musicians. Then and there I knew: there would come a day I would live only a few subway rides away from that spot and I made that promise to my self and to the first city I ever loved.

I could go on for days talking about the places I love

-if you would like to see that I have two more articles related to the subject! One about Prague and one about Paris. Take a look!-

…but that is not the point of today’s post. The point is that every place you visit gives you the chance to discover a new version of yourself and it makes who you are clearer. Each place offers a different culture and a different way to look at life. Take advantage of that, see everything and find out which suits you the most.  Don’t settle for what you know, go further!

Do it because to fall in love with places is to know more versions of you.

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

Accepting Diversity

Th truth is, we are not that different. We are mostly the same. We share basic needs, curiosity for the world, the desire to belong, fear of the unknown and so much more. Why do we focus so much on diversity, though?

According to Freud, we like to look at our differences because it helps us define ourselves individually. We cannot have a fully objective picture of ourselves, it is much easier if we look at us in comparison to others. The problems begin when societies start labeling things “right” or “wrong”.

Every human characteristic or each choice has some reason behind it. Unfortunately, even in our time, a lot of people refuse to see that.  We rush to conclusions and prefer to label something as “intolerable” instead of trying to understand it, accept it and make it part of the world as we know it – as long as it is not harmful to anyone, of course.- We grow up in a world, where hate is normal and marginalization is accepted. We have come such a long way. We are now able to walk on the moon, why can’t we accept the people around us? Why can’t we focus on the similarities and make the differences a way to connect even more? It took humanity such a long time to accept homosexuality or to understand that we are equal regardless of our colour or our ethnicity. Is that so hard to see?

the worlds.

When we take a look in history, we will see that demonizing certain behaviors, actions or lifestyles was what kept people docile. The ones with authority made sure to keep everything happening their own way by filling the minds of people with hate. So, when someone took a step away from the norm, most people would either get him to return to the “acceptable” behavior or reject them completely.

Looking at the world today, we will inevitably notice that this state of mind has not gone away completely  as someone would expect. We tend to find it easier to hate than try to understand. It is up to each one of us to end this.

The world is beautiful because of those small differences that make each of us special. It is finally time to stop being afraid of what doesn’t look like everything we are used to seeing and embrace individuality. Color, gender, ethnicity, physical appearance or sexuality say nothing about the true self of a person. They are only small details that make up only a part of who they are. If we let ourselves see the good in people, no matter what, maybe we’ll be one step closer to that ideal society – which we’ll probably never reach… but that’s a topic for another Sunday afternoon.

Have a magical day,

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

Scientific or Social?

For more than 2.500 years we’ve been evolving. We’ve been progressing in way’s no one could have thought of. We can access any information from any point of the world, we can get from Africa to America within hours, we can see our friend who lives miles away and talk to them every day, we can go to the moon! We are even preparing to explore other planets and eventually, some day.. the universe! It’s all so fascinating! Incredible, really… is it enough though? Have we forgotten about something even more important?

We’ve been progressing for more than 2.500 years… and it took more than twenty centuries to give women the right to vote, it took as much to start treating people of color as equals, it took even more to legalize homosexuality. Humanity had the technology to build airplanes, telephones and cars but the same people couldn’t realize what they were doing during the second world war.

Have we focused too much on scientific and technological progress? Have we forgotten to invest in more basic human needs? I meet people every day. They’re young people, students wanting to be scientists, teachers passing on their ideas, parents forming the future generations and… they are racist, misogynist and homophobic while they can use an i phone and handle the trickiest programs of a computer just fine. The problem is not in their minds. They have focused too much in one thing and forgotten about the other. They’ve left their humanity at home while working at the computer all day as they were an extend of it. As they were a machine. We execute commands one after the other just like a computer program. We don’t think. We act.

The education systems all around the world do not focus equally on science and the development of critical thinking. A kid who is doing great in math-class will be awarded. On the other hand, a kid with an extraordinary sense of justice or with a talent in abstract thinking won’t even be noticed. Science is what makes our lives better in so many ways but how could focusing only in one aspect be right? Human rights are just as important – or, I dare say, even more important – and by giving them priority, we will finally figure out how to use all those extremely precious scientific discoveries the right way.

We have to look at science critically and responsibly decide how to use every good that it gives us. Anything scientific, from medicine to technology is meant to serve humans. Humans are not made to serve it and it is only supposed to be used for good causes. Each person, whether you’re a lab scientist or just an i-phone user, has a responsibility. We are all part of this world and responsible for its future.

Maybe it’s time to start wondering why we do what we do and leave the how to do it aside just for a while. We’ve spent too much time focusing on technological progress -which is undoubtedly important and has made our lives a lot easier in many ways – but we’ve completely forgotten about working on our minds and our children’s minds in order to use the tools they have in the best way possible.

have a magical day,

 

 

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou