Study abroad is an opportunity for students to deepen their experience and knowledge both in their chosen majors and the countries and/or cultures they are exposed to through these study opportunities. I had the pleasure of attending the Agri-Food study abroad trip to Greece over Spring Break. It was an adventure from start to finish and the experience has given me fond memories and experiences that I believe will benefit me for years to come.
During our trip we visited various agricultural companies throughout Greece, travelled over beautiful vast mountains, traversed an island, visited two monasteries, tried various foods we had never tasted before, and had many other unique experiences. We also had the chance to meet and converse with various people from the various place we visited in Greece. Many of the people we spoke with spoke anywhere between some to fluent English which made conversation easier.
Our trip was led by our guide Marina Antoniadou and the advisors over the trip: Dr. Lucia Ona, Dr. Pamela Kemerait, and Dr. Olumide Aborisade. There were twelve students in total who attended the trip including: Josie Batchelor, Madison Adams, Sophia Beecham, Zenella Brehm, Emily Bruce, Anna Dasher, Kristen Dyksterhouse, William Elrod, Luke Jones, Nina Lewis, Thomas “Chip” Walker, Karli Yarbrough.
The beginning of our trip was an adventure while travelling to our final destination of Thessaloniki, Greece. Our first flight from Atlanta Airport to JFK/NYC Airport in New York City, New York went perfectly. However, after arriving at JFK, we were unable to board our next flight which would have taken us to Istanbul, Turkey. We were unable to board because we had an hour to get to our next gate which was made impossible due to the airport’s train lines between gates being down due to the rain, as well as the bus system between gates having issues and taking extremely long time because of how large JFK airport is.
Our group ended up staying at JFK airport for one night and then heading to a hotel paid for by ABAC the next morning. We then spent an unplanned day walking around and seeing New York. The next day after our day’s visit to New York city we boarded a Lufthansa (German airline) to Munich, Germany. We had a thirteen-hour layover in Munich and decided to go through customs in order to visit the city of Munich during our time there. Both of our trips to New York city and Munich, while unexpected, added a variety of new and fun experiences that we would not have had otherwise.
I had many miniature culture shocks throughout our trip, such as the multitude of stray dogs and cats that roamed the streets and mountains of Greece, most of which we saw were pretty well fed and extremely sweet, welcoming animals. I was also surprised by the organization of glass window displays for shoe stores and clothing stores because of their unique presentation. The shoe stores filled every possible space with their product so much, so it was hard to see the floors they were displayed on.
For clothing stores most I saw had as many mannequins as they could fill space with showing off their products. The greatest culture shock I experienced was the almost daily change in bathroom situations that our group had to use, especially the squat bathroom in one of the monasteries we visited. Very few of us had ever seen or used one before, so there was audible confusion from most of the girls in our group.
While visiting the monasteries, we were only allowed to enter if dressed properly. Women were required to either wear dress that reached below their knees or a scarf around their waist if wearing another outfit. Men were required to wear pants that reached their. Men and women who wore pants had to have no rips in the pants they wore.
After entering the monasteries we were given a guided tour of the various sections of the monasteries, and while photos were allowed in most parts of each, neither allowed photos to be taken in the main chapels as they are sacred. The views of the mountains around the two were absolutely breathtaking with towering mountain peaks, fresh-smelling wildflowers, and lush green flowers surrounding them.
One of the most interesting agricultural companies we visited was Marianna’s Vine Leaves, a unique vineyard that focuses on the production of delicious tasting vine leaves and produces various other products using their grape plants such as pickled grape vinetops, raisins, stuffed vine leaves, and their newer, but award-winning spirit. We were given a tour of part of the vineyard and given a chance to sample some of their more famous products, all of which I found delicious. I had never tried pickled vinetops and they were one of my favorite foods I tried throughout our trip.
The most unexpected events and experiences I encountered ended up being my favorite part of the trip. Having never gone out of the country, it was wonderful learning and experiencing the people, land, agriculture, and culture of Greece and I would highly recommend going on a study abroad trip if you have the chance, because you never know what you will learn, the foods you will get to taste, the friends you will meet, and the memories you could make.
If you would like to learn more about the Agri-Food Study Abroad trip to Greece, you can visit our group Instagram @abac_greece2023