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.