SMUS Goes Greek

Earlier this summer, a group of Grade 8 (soon-to-be Grade 9) students headed around the world to visit Greece. The students were all members of the “It’s All Greek to Me” exploratory option earlier in the school year, where they learned about the Mediterranean country, its history and its culture. The culmination of that program was a 10-day trip to Greece, where they got to experience the country’s history and culture firsthand.

“The Greece trip is a way for students to learn without borders, find creative ways to connect, explore and build international relations with youth living on the other side of the world,” says Ms. Riley McQueen, who organized the exploratory and trip.

The SMUSpaper chatted with two students who went on the trip – Ines Wang and Paris Iverson – to hear about their experiences.

Why did you want to go to Greece?

Paris- I’ve wanted to go to Greece for a long time. I have studied Greek mythology, history, and a bit about Greece today. When the opportunity came up, there was no way I could say no.

Ines- I wanted to go to Greece mainly to experience their culture, look at the beautiful views and to visit and learn about the ancient sites.

160714-SMUS-MS-Greece-31What did you do in Greece?

Paris- The first few days were service work involving the loggerhead sea turtles, and then that was followed by visiting significant sites all around The Peloponnese like Olympia, River Neda and Pylos Bay. All these sites are significant to Greek mythology or history. On the final day of our trip we went to Athens to visit the Acropolis.

Ines- We did so many incredible things, including Greek dancing, hiking mountains, swimming in the sea and meeting Greek locals. We also explored the town of Kyparissia and visited a lot of important sites.

What were your favourite sites?

Paris- One of my favourites was the Acropolis, because it is a site that really sums up Greece. It is old and new (it’s being restored), and it was an amazing feeling just to be at that spot. Another favourite was going to Olympia. With the Olympics coming up, it was easy to get a full-on idea of how long the legacy of Greece has lasted.

Ines- My favourite site would be the River Neda. Wading through the waters of River Neda was truly phenomenal. Even though we had a few slips and tumbles, it was fun exploring the area and jumping off the cliffs into the water.

What was it like getting to meet the Greek kids your own age?

Ines- All of the Greek students were very welcoming. First when we met them, we barely talked because of the language barrier, but after all the icebreaker games, we got to know them better. Most of the students knew how to speak a little English, but communicating was definitely a little challenging. I really enjoyed playing games with them; tackling the kids in capture the flag and playing chicken fight in the sea. I also really enjoyed showing little Iliana Mr. Doland’s pencil tricks. It was touching to see her so happy.

Paris- The best part of meeting them was probably being able to feel like we were part of the Greek community, not just seeing it from the outside.

160714-SMUS-MS-Greece-16What was the service aspect of the trip with the Archelon sea turtle group?

Paris- We went to see the loggerhead sea turtles. On the first day we learned about the sea turtles and why they were a threatened species. Later that evening, we went to see some of the females making their nests. The next day we got to see the workers laying out nets to protect the nests from dogs or other creatures. I was impressed how seriously these people take their jobs, and how they know how to locate sea turtle nests. I hope SMUS continues to learn with Archelon in the future, because it was a great experience.

Ines- The Archelon sea turtle group showed us the sea turtle nests and told us how they find the eggs and how they prevent them from being eaten. At night before we slept on the beach, we took a stroll under the stars. We spotted three sea turtles in various stages of digging their nest, laying their eggs and heading back to the Ionian Sea. The next morning, we helped the Archelon sea turtle group dig and find eggs and place metal grids on top of the nests to protect them. It was a great learning experience.

160714-SMUS-MS-Greece-18What was the most interesting thing you learned about Greece from the trip?

Paris- I heard about the lifestyles of the other kids, and that was very interesting. Greece is also a very small country – and I can’t wrap my head around the fact that they can just drive for less than a day and be at the other end of the country.

Ines- The most interesting thing that I learned was that the Greek students graduate from high school when they are only 15 or 16.

Would you recommend other students participate in the It’s All Greek to Me exploratory next year?

Paris- Absolutely! I would recommend it to anyone who wants to travel and learn about new cultures.

Ines- Yes, I would definitely recommend this to other students. It’s a great opportunity to explore and learn about Greece and its culture.

160714-SMUS-MS-Greece-06What does it mean to you to have to an opportunity to travel to Greece with your school and make connections with others in a country halfway around the world?

Paris- It means a lot to me. For having wanted to go to Greece for so long, it was almost unbelievable when I heard about it. It is very impressive of the school to have connections.

Ines- I’m very grateful that I was able to go on this trip and meet new people. I’m very fortunate to travel to Greece with amazing people and experience their culture.

Read more about the Middle School trip to Greece and check out hundreds of photos on the It’s All Greek to Me blog.

This isn’t the first time a group of Middle School students set out to Greece. The exploratory and summer trip were first offered last year, and it was so successful and so well-received, we decided to offer it again to a different group of students.


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