🧳✈️ Stories | Lea, Saving Sea Turtles in Greece

Lea, Luxembourg, 20

So maybe you don’t have to go the typical path that everyone tells you – school, college, work, die. Why not travel, work a little bit, travel again, discover more things?


1) What motivated you to go and have an experience abroad?
Especially the fact that I didn’t know where to apply for university gave me the idea to do a gap year with a lot of different things. Traveling is and will always be one of the top things on my bucket list. 
Also, I live in Luxembourg, it’s a beautiful but very small country. To learn something new and get confronted with other things, I feel like you must leave this country for a bit. Another reason was that I wanted to improve my English, that’s why I wanted to go somewhere far.

2) What skills did you acquire during your experience abroad?
I think one of the skills I acquired is also one I still have to improve: organizing my grocery shopping and cooking. With the work going along, it was harder than I thought. 
Also, I already was an open person, but entering a place where none knew me, I could open some parts of myself even more without fear of judgement. And if so, I would not care as much. Of course, I now know a lot about sea turtles and their injuries!

3) Did you encounter any difficulties during your stay?
Yes! I think that’s part of the experience. Meeting a new environment, new people and a new lifestyle brings a lot of changes and difficulties. In the beginning I had to stay in quarantine for 3 days, which was hard for me because I don’t like to spend too much time alone, so started to think too much and regretted choosing this project before I could even start. Even at work or in the apartment we shared, we did things differently than the others, then we had to discuss it and find solutions. But we always managed:)

4) Why do you think going abroad is beneficial?
Being confronted with new places, new people, new languages, and new cultures forces you to get out of your comfort zone. I don’t think there’s anything negative about getting on board. It helps with self-development, and you can discover so many new things (even about yourself), meet a bunch of new people and exchange opinions and thoughts.

5) If you had to do it again, would you do it again, and if so, in what country?
A 100%, I would definitely do it again. Either in the same place (Greece, Glyfada) or somewhere else in the world. For me there are no limits anymore, wherever I want to go I would try to make it happen.

6) What was the most memorable experience you had abroad?
The most memorable experience I had was probably my first encounter with the sea turtles, that was exciting. I also have many good memories of the friends I made! Too many to count!

7) How did it change your view of the world?
I don’t know if this experience really changed my view of the world. I think my opinion has only become stronger. The world is huge, but if you think about it, it’s actually not that huge and everyone has their own little lives, their own problems, their own challenges, and yet everyone can be there for each other. I also saw this project as a kind of a hobby, but now I know that people can really work in such a place and get enough money to live. So maybe you don’t have to go the typical path that everyone tells you – school, college, work, die. Why not travel, work a little bit, travel again, discover more things.

8) Did you learn anything about yourself or your own culture by being in a different environment?
I realized that I can manage better on my own than I thought, and my skills are not as bad as I thought. People were impressed that I could speak 4 languages, and now I feel more comfortable with that. Also, I could see again that people can be friends with me in a short time, which is nice. Although I don’t really know if I learned anything “new” about myself.
As for the culture, of course the Luxembourgish culture is different from the Greek one. The food, the opinions, the religion, everything is different in its own way.

9) How do you think this experience will affect your future?
It opened my eyes a little bit to what else you can do besides just going to college and working. I can now also imagine working with animals or working in another country and in different circumstances.

10) What were the main cultural differences you noticed between your home country and the country you were in?
I think the most obvious difference was the traditional food, but also the religion. The Greeks are Orthodox and go to church very often. Also, for them Easter is a bigger event than Christmas or New Year’s Eve.

11) Would you recommend going abroad to other young people?
Yes, definitely!

12) Did you know how to speak the language of the host country before coming? If not, how did you overcome the language barriers?
I didn’t have to speak Greek, I could speak English everywhere. That way it was easy.

13) Do you intend to return to this country or travel to another country in the near future?
Yes. My travel plans are still very big! Travel is one of the most beautiful and important things you can do for yourself!

14) Why did you choose this particular destination?
Last year, a friend of mine was working with sea turtles, and I thought that was interesting and totally new. But she did it in Costa Rica, where you need to speak Spanish. Since I don’t speak Spanish and wasn’t planning on doing it in a short amount of time, I googled and saw this volunteer project in Greece. As I wanted to improve my English skills as well, I decided to go to ARCHELON, which was a very good choice!

15) Did you try any new activities or foods during your trip?
Yes! I have tried almost every traditional dish. It ranges from souvlaki, baklava, spinach feta pie, Greek salad, Greek pizza to donut balls, pistachios, honey feta pie, moussaka etc. I loved it! I also tried an alcoholic drink or two. I can’t remember the names, though.

16) How did you adapt your lifestyle to the local culture?
As there weren’t too many differences in terms of manners, behaviour, or dress, it was pretty easy. I did it without changing much in my lifestyle. The only thing I can remember is that every time I went into a church, I covered my arms, legs, or stomach.

17) Have you made any new friends?
Yes, I’ve made a lot of new friends, even some very good ones. I’m going to meet a girl at the end of July and go to Portugal with her for a few days. We’re also planning to get together as a group, to see each other again and talk about what happened in our lives. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming!