I’m in Greece! (Or, I was in Greece last week – I am now editing this blog post 3 days post-trip). My Core Course, Cultural Diversity & Integration, is currently on our flight back from Thessaloniki, the 2nd largest city in Greece (former 2nd largest city of Turkey). We spent the last 5 days eating feta, running through Nina Dobrev’s latest movie, suntanning on the Old Port, discussing migration in Europe, and riding pirate ships towards Mt. Olympus. TLDR: this trip was fantastic, thought-provoking, and full of friendship.
Highlights from the Trip:
I took a million pictures of feta. Did I mention I love feta?–and all Mediterranean cuisine for that matter. Our first dinner in Greece–a group dinner with my class, professor, and advisors–was incredibly delicious; it was all of my Greek Salad, bread, and feta dreams come true (also Greek wine!). I saw a cat outside during dinner–incredible. Really, the only thing that was missing from dinner was Baklava…but my professor/advisors bought us some on Thursday, so I cannot complain! The food is very inexpensive here–in the best way. I had a phenomenal chicken gyro from a street vendor for 3 euros (my cheapest dinner of 2022). On this trip, my professor and DIS worked together to plan a mix of group meals (lunch and dinner) and meals on our own, which we were provided with money for. Because of this, my classmates and I had the opportunity to explore all of the food Thessaloniki had to offer. On my last day, I even tried sweet potato fries with feta cheese sauce–a life-changing combination.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was the guest speakers that we had the chance to meet and hear from while in Greece. We had a walking tour with a phenomenal guide, who showed us around Thessaloniki’s hidden past. He told us stories from Thessaloniki’s Islam, Thessaloniki’s Christianity, Thessaloniki’s Greek, and Thessaloniki’s Judaism while pointing at sites that had been reclaimed by each successive generation; history cycled in multiculturalism, not always with an eye towards inclusivity. From Ancient Greece to Ancient Rome to the Byzantine Empire and to the Ottomans, Thessaloniki’s past is full of silenced narratives and spaces transformed into something that is perhaps oxymoronic to their original purpose. To present an academic understanding of Greece today, my professor arranged two panels: Migration in Europe 2022 and Islam in the Peripheries of Europe. While I enjoyed both, I was particularly interested in the migration panel which discussed the present Ukrainian refugee crisis and its implications for the future of international refugee policy. It was truly an incredible experience to hear from such established women in my field of study like Lydia Emmanouilidou, journalist and former correspondent to BBC world, and Neda Noaie-Kia, Head of Migration Policy Europe at Heinrich Böll Stiftung.
My professor planned a great balance of free time and academic visits. With the academic visits, we all connected and learned together, and once we had free time, it was easy to connect and mobilize to sightseeing in Greece. One of my favorite activities was exploring Ana Poli on the top of the hill. We frolicked around monasteries, saw some reindeer, pet many cats, and took a ton of photos. One of my favorite academic visits we did together was a cooking class–combined with the anthropology of Greek food. My classmates and professors went to a little restaurant near the markets in Thessaloniki. Once there, the owner brought us traditional Greek coffee, bread, and pastries. After a bit of an introduction into the multicultural influences in Greek food, namely during the Ottoman period, we split into two groups to search for fresh ingredients in the Greek markets. We returned to make Greek salad, eggplant salad, stuffed peppers, meatballs, and some other tasty dishes. It was loads of fun and informative at the same time.
While sitting in the Copenhagen airport Sunday morning, my class discussed how great it would be to go on a boat in Greece. A couple of Google searches later, we found ourselves on Thessaloniki’s pirate ship cruise for free Wednesday evening! The sunset, the views, the company–it was all beautiful. Vibes were immaculate. Seriously, Greek boat dreams come true (see cover photo!).
It was around 68 degrees and sunny in Thessaloniki this week. AKA… summer. Each day further into the week, my class wore more and more summery clothes. I wore a skirt on Wednesday and Thursday. I saw shorts, tank tops, overalls, hats, and sunglasses adorning all of my classmates and professors. Some Thessaloniki residents even came up to a couple of us and asked where we were from–apparently the summer clothes were a dead giveaway that we were not Greek. For them, it is the dead of winter! They were wearing long peacoats and puffer jackets, despite the hot sun (at least to us from Copenhagen–I think it made us appreciate the sun that much more ;).
Refugee Relief Work Through Expressive Art Therapy
On our last full day in Greece, my class went to an expressive art therapy session. It is so hard to describe what exactly occured in this session (you have to experience it!), but it was a lot of dancing, laughter, freeness, and happiness. I felt extremely close with my classmates, advisors, and professor by the end of it.
I think I took a million pictures of cats on this trip. There were so many and I had to pet them all (they didn’t all want me to, though :(( ). My favorite cats of this trip were Nina and Ernest (named after the movie, Bricklayer, which we accidentally found ourselves in while exploring the old town, Ana Poli). Nina sat on my lap during lunch–a perfect moment in life.
Overall, the trip in Greece with my class was an amazing, hands-on experience that had a perfect balance of fun and learning.