On Wednesday, May 14, nine UMass Lowell students, led by me (an Associate Professor of Psychology), flew from Boston to Athens (through Toronto) for a Summer Study Abroad experience at the American College of Greece (ACG). In addition to taking my seminar on “Culture and Psychology,” several students are taking one additional ACG course, including courses in anthropology and tourism studies. The students really seem to be embracing the whole experience: I have been impressed by their adventurousness and their general openness to new things! And they are also clearly working hard, because we have had some great in-class discussions so far, including about “culture shock” and about understanding other cultures’ “theories of mind.”
Everyone also seems to be enjoying the food, and I and several students have had very positive experiences at a particular restaurant in the neighborhood where we’re staying (Aghia Paraskevi). It’s a relatively new restaurant that specializes in modern Cretan, tapas-style cuisine, using the freshest ingredients (as we were told). The only employee that speaks English is the chef, who, it just so happens, studied in Boston! During our (separate) visits, the chef took us under his wing, picking a special tasting menu for us and chatting about politics and culture. Among the six small plates that he selected for me were the best stuffed grape leaves I have ever had, an incredibly tender and spicy pork dish, a fresh, vibrant beet-and-greens salad, and a pasta dish with goat meat (this is my third time to Greece, but this might have been the first time I ate goat!).
The students are fitting in quite well, and have made friends with other students from the U.S. and elsewhere, including some students from Northeastern who were on the same flight with us (one of our students actually sat next to a guy who ended up being his roommate!). Of the things they enjoy the most about the experience so far, students list the food and the weather at the top of the list. (The weather has been mostly sunny, in the 70s, with a sometimes refreshing, sometimes brisk breeze.) When I asked students about their favorite experiences so far, a few of them mentioned the same experience. As described by psychology major and honors student, Jessica Burgett: “My favorite experience so far was Sunday we went into Athens to tour the museums, which ended up being closed, and instead ending up walking through a neighborhood with shops and restaurants. The stores were very nice and not as ‘touristy’ as some of the other stores I have seen. We also ate lunch at a restaurant that was on a hill, the chairs and tables were placed right on the hill and on the stairs. This was a good experience because even though we are tourists, I did not feel it as much being in this particular neighborhood.” Family and Dunkin’ Donuts (!) were listed among the things they miss the most about home.
We have three different weekend outings planned as part of the trip, including a tour of the Acropolis and other historical sites, followed by a tour of modern Athens neighborhoods, this Saturday. You can follow our travels through this blog and also by “liking” the Facebook page, “UMass Lowell Greece Summer Session” (https://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/UMLGreece), where we will be posting pictures from these outings and other experiences.