Daisy Limón went to the ancient city to finesse her architecture skills and came away with more than she imagined.
Give Gus Portokalos, the patriarch of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," any word, and he'll be able to tell you how the root of the word is Greek. While the word "architecture" has Latin and Middle French roots, the word "architect," much to Mr. Portokalos's delight, does indeed derive from the ancient Greek "arkhitéktōn."
Daisy Limón, a Texas Tech University graduate student from Garland who will graduate in December with master's degrees in architecture and business administration, immersed herself as an arkhitéktōn by spending this past summer working for an architecture firm in Athens, Greece.
In January, Limón was working on her portfolio to prepare to apply for upcoming summer internships. Having previously taken two classes from Sofia Krimizi and Kyriakos Kyriakou, former visiting architecture professors from Athens, she asked them to review her portfolio.
"I presented my portfolio to them and said, 'I need help,'" Limón said. "I asked them, 'Can you review my portfolio and give me tips on how to improve it? What should I edit?'
"Kyriakos said, 'Where are you going to apply?' and I told him Dallas, maybe Austin, maybe Mexico City. And he said, 'Well, why don't you just come to Greece with us?' I think the room was silent for like, 10 seconds, because I couldn't believe that he was being serious. But I was very happy. I said, 'Yeah, of course!'"
Working (and playing) in Athens
Limón arrived in Athens toward the end of May and immediately went to work – with Kyriakou, Krimizi and two other employees – at Kyriakou and Krimizi's office, ksestudio.
"The first two weeks I was in Athens, we were working nonstop on a project for a competition," Limón said. "I was in Athens, but I didn't experience it until later. We were working from 9 a.m. until 1 a.m. every day. We'd have lunch and dinner in the office. To us, this is a bit more normal than to others. The architecture work culture can get intense at times because of deadlines, but we're proud of the work we did."
Limón also worked on a handful of other projects, including working on a marina south of Athens, a hotel on the island Aegina and a "private cram school," known as a "frontistirio" in Greek, owned by the father of one of ksestudio's partners.
"The Greek school system is different," Limón said. "Their high school is super intense, and they go to school after school. This is a frontistirio, somewhat like an after-school tutoring center. The project was mainly interior architecture, because it was a renovation. We would design furniture pieces out of wood and metal and produced the drawings for the metal and wood workers. I had never done that before, technical architecture at such a small scale, and it was nice to be a part of that and learn from that."
Limón also worked on a renovation project at her place of residence while in Athens.
"I did a survey – modeling, drawing – for the place I was living in that was going to be renovated," she said. "It was nice to live in this place and really get to know the room and the apartment, then draw it, measure it, and see how it all fit together.
"The place is kind of quirky. It's old, so some of the walls are crooked, and the hole in the ceiling is crooked for the stairs. The stairs were kind of a nightmare, actually, but it was part of the quirks of an old building. We had to work around what structure and what interior walls would be kept and what was going to be knocked down. It was a great hands-on learning experience."
While Limón did work hard, she also got to relax and enjoy the slower pace of the Grecian city.
"The work portion of my experience was great, but I think the lifestyle I started getting used to – coming out of work and just walking back home, you feel the energy of the city – was amazing," Limón said. "Over there, you can feel a collective energy. Everybody's outside drinking, eating, socializing. Everything's so casual. Then, you go to the beach on the weekends and that becomes a part of your normal life. Being able to escape so nearby for the weekends made me feel like I was just living in a dream the whole time.
"It felt nice to live like that: meeting strangers and getting to know that different perspective of life where the workaholic thing is not normal. To have the sea be a part of my routine was incredible. It is something that I hold very dear, and nobody can really take that away from me. No matter how much I say it, just the feeling of being there was indescribable."
After Limón walks the graduation stage at the United Supermarkets Arena in December, she has practical plans for her next steps.
"I will be returning to my hometown," Limón said. "My focus is to get my feet on the ground, financially and in my career. I don't want to be tied down because of my student debt or because I'm not a licensed architect. As much as I would love to keep adventuring, I know that I have to cover all of my bases first, so I can keep adventuring in the future.
"Once I have that foundation, I want to live in Mexico for two years. After that, I don't know where else. I always think it's a balance, half are my efforts, my responsibilities and my hard work, then the other half is just destiny. Like with this Greece internship, I wasn't even looking for it. I was just open to anything, open to seeking help and it led me to this, and it was beyond my dreams. So sometimes, that's all you can do. That's what I'm continuing to do, putting in my half of being responsible, getting licensed and then I'm opening up the doors to destiny, letting it lead me wherever. My mom says, 'Daisy, you can't have fun all the time.' Well, you know, if you can be responsible, proactive and not afraid of seeking opportunities, you can have a whole lot of fun."
Advice to others
Though studying abroad wasn't initially on Limón's radar, she hasn't stopped singing its praises since returning from Greece. She wants every student to be able to have experiences similar to hers and offers a few words of wisdom for those considering it.
"For anyone who's even considering studying or living abroad, you just have to let yourself go there," Limón said. "I understand that money and financial strains might be an issue, but you never know how many opportunities you will have to travel. And once you're there, you have to be present. You have to be a 'yes' person in order to experience studying abroad to the max. Don't question yourself when you're there. If you just open yourself up a little bit, be that 'yes' person, you will see things, experience things and meet people you never even thought existed.
"It's such an eye opener, because, sometimes, we're so closed off and close-minded. It's so liberating to see other perspectives of life and know that it's OK to think differently and to be curious about things. Sometimes, I did feel like I didn't know anything. All of these Europeans would mention historical and cultural things I wasn't really aware of, and I did feel lost at some point. But you have to get lost in order to come back with more knowledge of the world and of yourself. Take advantage of your youth and your freedom now, because it will pass you by."