‘Mamma Mia!’

‘Mamma Mia!’

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As a gigantic “Mamma Mia!” fan, Taylor Dye didn’t hesitate for one nanosecond when she saw Greece on the list of cross-cultural educational experiences being offered at Bluffton University.

Dye, a West Holmes High School graduate who is heading into her final year at BU this fall, said experiencing a new culture, the cuisine of Greece and all that history was tantalizing and too good to pass up in becoming part of the very first cross-cultural group at BU to experience Greece.

However, all of that aside, she knew why she was instantly drawn to Greece.

“Mostly because of Santorini,” Dye said. “I’ve seen ‘Mamma Mia’ so many times, and it’s been on my bucket list, so it was a no-brainer when Bluffton offered it as a cross-cultural option. Pretty much everything I knew about Greece came from ‘Mamma Mia,’ and it lived up to every expectation when I visited Santorini. It was stunning, and I hope that someday I can go back and enjoy the culture again. It was so worth the trip.”

As a former West Holmes graduate and soccer star, Dye is gearing up for what she expects to be an exciting and enjoyable final year of playing and attending classes at Bluffton University this fall. She will look back at her junior year with a great fondness.

Yes, Dye posted a fantastic season on the pitch, where she led the Beavers in several offensive categories, but her journey to Greece during the tail end of her junior year will leave an indelible mark on her life.

The final semester of her junior year saw Dye expand her horizons well beyond the borders of the university campus and even her conference. Dye spent the early January to April semester overseas in Greece, where she learned a great deal more than just soccer.

The experience proved to be an eye-opening chance to expand her views on the world and to capture life from a new perspective.

Dye said initially she was nervous because she hadn’t ever flown without her parents and never overseas and was going to be living on her own in a new country. Upon arrival, all those trepidations disappeared when she had to spend several days in quarantine with her new set of nine other roommates, most from the United States, one from Belgium and one from Japan.

“That was a great bonding experience, and because we were quarantined, we got a really great chance to get to know one another, and I got comfortable really quickly,” Dye said.

She said when her classes began, she felt very much at home in Greece.

“We settled into the routine quickly and were able to focus on studies even though there was all this incredible new culture all around us,” Dye said.

A sports management and business administration major, Dye said she took two money and banking classes, statistics, and sales management classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday and two Thursday. However, there was so much more than just studying. She also participated in a futsol league, a type of indoor soccer, and there was ample time to sightsee.

“It’s a beautiful country,” Dye said of Greece.

She said riding the Metro to downtown Athens became a fun trend, and shopping and visiting many of the historical landmarks was enjoyable. She said the food was incredible, saying trying octopus and eating enormous authentic gyros added to the experience.

During her time there, her boyfriend Maxwell Kennedy, who was with another group and who plays soccer for the men’s BU team, visited Santorini, Crete and Barcelona, Spain. Her mother even visited for a week. She said she visited the Acropolis four times during her stay, and the historical culture was inspiring.

Reflecting on her travels overseas, Dye said the experience has helped shape her view of the world in new ways.

“I really learned to appreciate the culture there,” Dye said. “It opened my eyes as to the new culture — the language, the food, the history and the whole experience was fascinating. It just gave me a better appreciation for people and different cultures. It was fun to be part of the first Bluffton group to experience Greece through the cross-cultural program.”

Dye said the Greece program was supposed to begin in 2020, but it was canceled due to COVID-19, and this past year was the inaugural trip overseas to the land where the Olympics was created.

Dye said women’s soccer is bigger in the U.S. while the men’s game is much more popular in Greece. Dye said she expected women in Greece to be superior to her, but they weren’t. She did say watching the men’s games there opened her eyes as to a new speed and gracefulness to the game.

During her junior campaign on the pitch, Dye led the Beavers in shots on goal and goals scored and even connected on a game-winner late. She said the transition to the college game was a challenge she readily accepted, and her hard work has paid off.

“We had a fun season overall, and it was a good year in many ways, but we had some really big expectations and didn’t win as many games as we hoped,” Dye said.

With the bulk of the team returning for her senior campaign on the pitch, Dye said they have a chance to make their mark at BU this coming season.