Intense experiences like studying abroad change everyone, so it sounds cliché to say that “studying abroad changed my life.” Of course it did. You went to a new place, met new people, and experienced new things. None of this would have happened if you'd stayed at home, and those memories will continue to color your perspective.
Paros became more than that for me. Working with Barry and Dion at HISA encouraged me to look at my poetry and creativity in new ways. The experience was intense and concentrated. I was not only more productive than back home, but I was able to take the time to refine my work. If I'd decided to continue on to an MFA, I would have been well prepared. The Women's Studies Goddess class was also stimulating and provided a new angle with which to appreciate the historical sites we visited during our visits to Turkey and other islands.
Classes were relaxed, yet focused. The professors were not afraid to take learning out of the classroom to places such as a photography boat tour around the island or a poetry class spent picking olives. Creativity and spontaneity were encouraged, and the professors are caring people who take the time to work individually with students. They were readily available to talk, whether at the school or more informally, in a taverna on the seaside in the evening. Besides learning from some amazing teachers, I also learned from my fellow students and developed friendships that are still strong today. The student art exhibition and reading at the end of the semester was a celebration of everything we had accomplished.
For me, studying abroad in Greece not only left me with important memories, but it changed the trajectory of my life and my art. Everything had been planned out very neatly before then: Study abroad in Paros for 6 months, return to Evergreen, go to grad school and get my MFA, etc. But I never went back. Instead, my time at HISA and on the island of Paros instilled a lust for travel that I still haven't completely satisfied.
Since my time at HISA, Paros has become a sort of second home to me. I've returned every summer and for some visits in between and am always welcomed back into the arms of HISA and this island. This island is a special, inspiring place to which artists of all types love to return. It's the perfect place for an art student to study abroad.