Hello there! My name is Stefany and I completed my exchange at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in the period of time between October 2016 and January 2017. Here I am, one year later, writing about my memories and feelings about this experience. I chose to study at the University of Thessaloniki for various reasons: nice weather, less work pressure, proximity to many beautiful resorts with beaches and good food, etc. Furthermore, my sister had been there on exchange many years ago and had nothing but amazing things to say about it. I knew I had a tough second semester ahead of me, upon my return from exchange, with the bachelor thesis and other third year courses waiting for me, so I wanted to take this opportunity and go to some place where I could take a breather, travel more and enjoy myself. Once I received my acceptance letter and completed my second year, I packed my bags and along with my boyfriend and cat, went to Thessaloniki. In the meantime, I also managed to enjoy a longer summer, since courses at the Aristotle University start in October.
Finding accommodation in Thessaloniki was definitely a challenge. I grew up moving from one country to another a lot, and therefore my experience had taught me that if you want to have a nice place to live in, you should start looking for one as early as you can. I was looking for an apartment, since I had my cat and I was there with my boyfriend. Therefore, we wanted something that was private and not shared, preferably in the centre, and where the landlord allowed pets. I am aware of the fact that those requirements narrowed down our choices quite a bit, but even so, our requirements were not what made finding accommodation challenging. The problem was that landlords were extremely opposed to the idea of renting places for such a short amount of time (4 months). Basically, what agencies kept telling us, was that landlords would rather find people who would rent their apartments for longer, and that we should call back in September and see what is left. After being told the same thing over and over again, we decided to wait until September. In the meantime, I had also called the student houses which were provided by the university, but only one was available to exchange students, and it was full. Finally, in September, we managed to find an apartment in the centre that fulfilled our requirements. After meeting some people in Thessaloniki, I found out that everyone had encountered the same problem with landlords not wanting to rent out places to exchange students, due to the short amount of time, no matter what their requirements were.
Another problem regarding accommodation that we experienced was that the whole business with receiving and paying bills was extremely confusing and done in a strange way. We did not receive any bills the entire time we were living there, and, in the end, the agency e-mailed us some amounts which were extremely high. We were travelling a lot while on exchange and were away for the biggest chunk of exchange, so these amounts were completely unrealistic. We realised that they were trying to scam us, so make sure that you are extremely careful with that.
My overall impression of Thessaloniki is that it is a dirty and busy city. That being said, it is also true that Thessaloniki undeniably has some beautiful spots. Some places worth visiting are the following:
The “White Tower”, which you can climb and the roof of which provides you with a beautiful view of the port and of the city itself. Furthermore, near the “White Tower”, you can go on a boat which circles the port, and where, in the meantime, drinks are served and music is played.
“The Aristotelous Square”, where you can enjoy a nice cup of coffee and a nice view of the port and the “Leoforos Nikis” street, where you can enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee during the day, and a cocktail (or two, or three) at night, and where, once again, you have a full-on view of the port.
Personally, I found that the easiest way to get around in the city was either by walking or by taking buses. As for travelling abroad, I found that using buses and trains was the most convenient way to travel. However, I would definitely recommend taking the bus over taking the train, since it is much faster.
Language Proficiency of Locals:
In terms of being able to communicate with the locals, I knew in advance that they do not tend to speak English well or at all, so I was prepared for that, but I can now confirm that this is, indeed, true. I even noticed that members of the university could not speak English, which turned registration and other administrative tasks into a challenge.
Greek food is extremely popular worldwide and is one of the main attractions for tourists. I enjoyed it, but I found that the choice of food I had was rather limited, due to the fact that I am a lacto-vegetarian.
I found the living costs to be average, but definitely higher than I had expected them to be. I would compare supermarket prices to the ones we have here, in Groningen. As for going out, the prices really depend on the restaurant / café / bar, but they are also mostly average.
University Facilities and Administration
The Facilities at the Aristotle University were definitely of a lower standard than the ones we have at RuG. The library was not a popular place for students, and it was therefore quite rundown and old. The staff at the library did not speak English well, and therefore if you need help or have a question, you might have to ask around to find someone who does speak English and can help you. The cafeteria in the university itself is quite small and usually extremely busy. However, it was nice to have the option to grab a “Frappe” in between classes. One thing that I found quite unusual was that students and professors were smoking everywhere inside the university, including in the cafeteria, in front of lecture rooms and hallways. The bathrooms were also extremely rundown and dirty. The building itself is definitely big, and since there are not many directions and indications on where to go, at first I found it difficult to find the places where I needed to be, especially the international office. Furthermore, due to the lack of proficiency in the English language of most of the people there, obtaining directions from them was also hardly an option.
While on exchange at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, I took the following courses: European Law of Contracts, Introduction to Comparative Law, European Competition Law, History of Greek and Roman Law and Ecclesiastical Law.
European Law of Contracts: The professor was friendly, but was usually extremely late to class every week. He did not use slides, but slides for the course were uploaded online on their version of our “Nestor”. The exam was oral and was conducted in a group of students. We were sat down in a circle and had to answer questions one-by-one, but the professor was trying to create a relaxed atmosphere during the exam.
Introduction to Comparative Law: The professor was extremely friendly, and liked to make sure that all the students were involved in class discussions. She used slides, which were quite helpful.
European Competition Law: I had two professors who were both quite friendly. They made us all introduce ourselves in detail during the first lecture. This course was the most popular of all the ones I took and had the highest number of students. The exam for this course was also the most difficult one out of all the ones I had to take. They did not use slides in class, but slides were uploaded on their version of our “Nestor”.
History of Greek and Roman Law: The professor was friendly and the material was interesting, and focused on Greek legal culture and history. The professor used slides which can be helpful when studying for the exam.
Ecclesiastical Law: The professor’s accent was quite difficult to understand, since it was extremely strong. He was friendly and gave us options on whether we wanted to take an exam or write a paper on a topic of your choice. However, he liked to see that the students were invested in his class and tended to be way less friendly towards students who did not attend his lectures often. He did not use slides and there were no slides available. Therefore, if you choose to take this class and take the exam instead of writing the paper, then you absolutely have to attend this class.
Here we are, we made it to the end of this exchange report. I hope that you enjoyed it and that it was useful in helping you decide whether or not you would like to choose Thessaloniki for your exchange. Whatever you end up deciding, I wish you the best of luck and that you make countless amazing memories on your exchange! Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any other questions regarding life in Thessaloniki.