Montana Alpha Brother Andy Mikkola has been studying abroad and traveling since the Spring of 2014 and will be back for the 2014 fall Semester. Here is an amazing story from his travels (plus a few extras).
I arrived in Athens on a hot late night towards the end of June. Unlike my experience traveling to other cities where I was often very “tired” from going out with new friends the night before, I was rested and ready to go in Athens. I made it to my hostel, and claimed my bed. My usual option for choosing a hostel is to pick the cheapest one I can, that seems relatively easy to get to. This strategy has worked quite well in my experiences and I have met amazing people who want to explore and have a good time in most places. This place was different though. First of all it was in the “ghetto” part of Athens. The shops were closed, covered in graffiti, (I learned the next day that people were warned against walking at night in that area). The second issue was that the hostel was strangely empty. The inhabitants were not the usual robust travelers or students keen to meet new people and go out, but rather an older set of people. They were brushing their teeth at 10 when I arrived in the hostel, preparing for an exciting night of sleeping... Also they had no air conditioning. This lead me from the slums the next day to somewhere else that had air conditioning (and a bar inside the hostel).
When I arrived at the new place, I expected a bustling atmosphere. Any hostel with a bar is usually a great place to be, for example, Kabul in Barcelona was by far the most amazing. This hostel was also strangely empty; my room only had one other occupant and the wifi was sketchy at best. The bar never opened the whole time I stayed there to my extreme disappointment. I explored the city some by myself and returned hoping to meet the other occupant. When I entered the room he was asleep, so I walked throughout the hostel which was just as dead as the first one. This started to get me to lose heart as everywhere in Italy was a full of exciting and interesting people to talk to. I went back and chilled thinking maybe I could talk to my roommate when he woke. I waited, and waited, browsing facebook, reading, and eventually sleeping. When I woke up he was gone and I was upset for letting myself fall asleep.
I prepared to head out and get some food as the door opened and a new traveler entered. We started talking and he restored some hope for my experience in Athens. He was a recent graduate traveling the world and we shared some jokes and decided to get some food with some friends he met in Turkey. Before we left he asked me if I was Greek. Being in Greece and not being in the states for so long I assumed he was talking about my heritage. I explained to him that I’m Finish and German mostly (I am in no way Greek looking) and he interrupted me asking about fraternity affiliation. When I told him "I was a phi delt", he yelled at me to shut up. It was a few seconds of confusion before I realized what it meant. We went through the rituals to confirm and started excitedly shouting. I was now immediately more bonded with this traveler than anyone I had met earlier because of our involvement. I didn’t have to worry about him taking my things, or being a dick, because we shared a bond.
The odds of staying in the same room as another phi delt, in Athens no less, has to be astronomically small (well larger than some because phi delts do awesome things), and we couldn’t believe it. We got some beer and drank as we walked down the street, because Greece is awesome like that, swapping stories of people in our chapters, our phikeia experience, and fraternity life in General. We met his buddies and after a “healthy” amount of beer watched Greece go into a shootout in the World. Cup. His friends left and we somehow made it to McDonalds for a snack before the long walk back, returning at 4 am.
The next morning we set out for the acropolis, to get a picture with the flag in front of the Parthenon, the temple of goddess Athena, our patron goddess. We were rather “tired” and Athens can get warm in the summer. After a long hike up the mountain we made it to the top where we proudly displayed the flag and got our photo. The rest of the day we hung out, swapping stories of fraternity events and our experiences traveling. He helped me figure out how to get my ferry tickets and he promised to come to Montana for some snowboarding this winter.
Unfortunately, the next day I had to head out to Santorini, a beautiful island formed by a volcano where the sun sets are viewed from blue roofed, white buildings on top of majestic cliffs (Yeah my life is rough). He was staying in Athens meeting a friend and our paths wouldn’t be crossing again on this trip. The coolest thing about it though is we went from strangers learning about each other to brothers in a matter of seconds because of the bond we shared through
the fraternity. There have been a lot of moments where my decision to join the fraternity was confirmed, but this was one of the best ones. My experience in Athens would have been totally different if he were just as cool because we would’ve taken longer to become friends. The second I said I was in Phi Delta Theta the mood in the room shifted from us trying to make a good first impression to instant friends. It made that night and the next day awesome, especially when we made it on the official facebook page of the fraternity.
I was friends with many people I met traveling, but after one day I know I could call Josh up and tell him I was going to be in Tennessee in a few hours and have a place to stay, food to eat, and a great time. For him coming to Montana it would be the same. Most other people I’ve met I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this, but it wouldn’t be weird at all. This is one of the many reasons why Greek life is awesome, and anyone thinking about joining should give it a try. You never know what doors it could open up, and what the full benefits of joining are until you go through with it. That’s pretty cool.