The time has finally come, and it’s very bittersweet. It is time to pack our bags and leave Thessaloniki to press on for Meteora for a night, stop in ancient Delphi, and to reach our final destination, Athens.

While I am very excited to see Athens, to visit the pantheon and the acropolis, leaving Thessaloniki is going to be harder than I had thought. I had assumed that after three weeks, I would be itching to get to the next city. I think my friends who did NUin for four months here would best understand how I feel – many of whom tell me how much they want to return to Thessaloniki again someday.

One of my favorite places in Thessaloniki is the boardwalk along the Port. Every time I walk along it, I find something new and interesting, or am blessed with a more beautiful view than I was expecting. Thessaloniki has surprised me in a number of ways, from the kind people I’ve met, the food I’ve tried, and what I’ve learned about Greek culture.

People walking along the boardwalk in front of the White Tower before the sun sets

But I am also surprised by my ability to see the city better after reporting on it. While I am still a tourist and view the city from a foreign perspective, I have been able to see it through the eyes of my ACT teachers, protesters, and students. The city is a beautiful and vibrant one, but it is fading. Part of why it is so hard to leave now is because I worry if I do ever get the chance to return, the city will not be how I left it.

From reading articles published by members of my team, I know that Greek youth is leaving the city, and the country in general, in the search of better employment (or any employment at all) in another country. I know that Turkish and Russian people, who will bring their own culture and way of life to the city, are purchasing Greek real estate. I know that the Mayor must run the city on only 30% of the budget his predecessor had available. And I read in the news every day about future bailouts, and companies moving jobs out of Greece, while still other companies try to invest in the country’s floundering economy.

While some aspects of Thessaloniki will hopefully change before I come to the city again, I hope those changes will be for the benefit of the city and the people who live here. While as a tourist, I only see the good parts of the city, and from what I’ve been told the city is almost dying, or being drained of the life it possessed even five years ago. But I also hope that those changes don’t transform the city entirely, because from even my short time here, I feel this is a very special place.