In northern Greece, the ancient city of Thessaloniki is bordered by the breathtaking Thermaikos Gulf to the east and Mount Chortiatis to the south. It’s the place Konstantinos Chrysoulas ’22, a computer science major in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, calls home.
“Thessaloniki dates back thousands of years,” says Chrysoulas. “Walking across all the ruins within the city brings the history to life, providing a glimpse of what life was like for my ancestors.”
Despite growing up in a picturesque tourist destination, Chrysoulas aspired to attend college in the United States, citing the high academic standards and tremendous resources American universities have to offer. In Greece, he explains, opportunities for research and internships are scarce.
“Studying in the U.S. seemed like a farfetched dream,” he says. “In the U.S., there are endless options and opportunities for students to pursue whatever they desire. That’s something that even the greatest and brightest students in Greece have to fight really hard for, with a very small rate of success.”
Valuing education, his parents sent him to a private high school in Greece that offered an internationally enriched American college preparatory curriculum. Chrysoulas excelled academically and planned for his future. As he explored options for college, Syracuse University captured his attention because of its academic strength and advanced resources.
“The campus facilities had me in awe,” he says. “From the numerous fitness facilities to the academic buildings, as well as the exceptional reputation of the professors and the overall staff, Syracuse definitely won me over.”
Although he would be the first in his family to study in the U.S., Chrysoulas’ parents approved of his decision to pursue higher education outside of Greece, following in his two older sisters’ footsteps. “My parents believed in me and my potential as a student, and I can’t thank them enough for all the support and sacrifices they’ve made for me to be here today,” he says.
While his parents were candid about the fact that they couldn’t financially support his studies, they encouraged him to pursue his goals. “Even though I was told I probably wouldn’t receive any sort of scholarship or financial aid, I did not give up,” he says.
To his surprise, he was accepted to Syracuse University with a full-tuition 1870 Scholarship—the highest recognition offered by the Office of Admissions. Recipients of this award, which is named for the year the University was founded, are evaluated for academic and creative accomplishments, as well as personal achievement and commitment in community service and demonstrated caring for others. “As soon as I read the letter of acceptance, I was jumping and screaming at the top of my lungs out of happiness with my parents,” he says. “That is a moment I will never forget.”
Each year Syracuse University welcomes hundreds of international students from all over the world. These students—who represent nearly 20 percent of the University’s enrollment—find themselves in an unfamiliar environment, thousands of miles from their homes and families.
Like many international students, Chrysoulas struggled adjusting to life in Syracuse. “One challenge I faced when I first came to the U.S. was the food,” he says. “I was used to Greek cuisine, so transitioning to the type of food offered here was quite hard for me.” Coming from a small town, long distances were also new consideration. “In Greece, going to the grocery store is a five-minute walk,” he says. “Here in the U.S., cars or buses are essential to get where you need to be.”
Many experiences Chrysoulas encountered were things he had only seen in movies—stepping into a lab full of iMac computers and riding an American school bus were novelties. “They may seem like small things, but they remind me how lucky I am to be here,” he says.
Chrysoulas found support on campus at the Center for International Services. The staff and programs at the center offer resources for issues related to immigration status, employment, and cultural, social and academic concerns that impact student success. “Whenever I have questions regarding my status as an international student, I always contact the center,” he says. “They’re very supportive and understanding. Being an international student can be challenging, but the Center for International Services is a helpful resource that never fails to meet your needs.”
Experiences that were arranged by the Office of First-Year and Transfer Programs also made him feel more comfortable away from home. “There were numerous events that were organized for first-year students that helped me get involved and meet new people,” he says. “Even though they were awkward at first, at the end of the day we had all found a couple of friends that we clicked with.”
Chrysoulas met many students who were just like he was—new to the University, away from home for the first time, and seeking community on campus. “During my first year, I was fortunate enough to be in a dorm with a mix of American and international first-year students,” he says. “It was quite easy to make friends and get involved in various activities.”
Determined to make the most of his university experience, Chrysoulas has sought out opportunities for growth. He received his CPR/AED certification, got an on-campus job and became a resident advisor, all while maintaining a GPA of 4.0.
In his spare time, he has enjoyed recreational activities on campus. “I like to get involved in sports like climbing, skiing, playing basketball and working out,” he says. “I also like to hang out with friends and to get to know as many people as I can.”
Chrysoulas is making plans to pursue a five-year program that combines a master’s and doctoral degree after graduation. He wants to explore different fields where computer science can be applied, with a focus on robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. “The application of computer science in the field of health care is especially interesting to me,” he says.
Although Chrysoulas’ home is more than a 15-hour flight away, he is grateful for the community he has found here and wants to embody what it means to him to Be Orange—to be ambitious, hopeful, eager, strong, and above all, resilient.
“Syracuse University believed in me and gave me this amazing opportunity,” he says. “My goal is to reach my greatest potential and prove to myself and everyone else what I’m really worth.”
This story was published on .
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