Visiting Greek students glean insights from a week spent at Princeton

May 7, 2019

Julie Clack

This spring, the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies cosponsored EduTrip, a week-long program that brings top students from Greek institutions to prestigious American universities, including Harvard, Berkeley and Stanford. Run by the Corallia Initiative, a Greek non-governmental organization that seeks to cultivate and support ecosystems of innovation in Greece, EduTrip aims to expose Greek students to higher education in the U.S., inspiring them with new ideas to implement at their respective universities. 

"EduTrip's mission is aligned closely with that of the Seeger Center, which is to cultivate cross-cultural exchanges between Princeton students and their Greek counterparts," said Center director Dimitri Gondicas. "For this reason, the Center was proud to help sponsor the program."

This year’s EduTrip was co-organized by two Princeton students: sophomore anthropology concentrator Dimitris Ntaras and Themistoklis Melissaris, a graduate student in computer science. “With the EduTrip program, we try to think about ways Greek students can give back to their home institutions and fellow students in an ongoing, meaningful way,” said Ntaras. 

Greek students apply to the program and their applications are reviewed by their peers in Princeton. The students selected for this year’s cohort came from different backgrounds and interests, ranging from engineering to economics. "While we work frequently with students in the humanities and social sciences, we were enthusiastic about expanding our reach to students in the sciences and engineering," said Gondicas.

Throughout the week, the group met with student and staff representatives from several centers and clubs on campus, including: the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club, the Keller Center, the Program for Community-Engaged Scholarship and the Pace Center for Civic Engagement. Students met with professors and students in the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Anthropology and the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, and had the opportunity to sit in on several classes, including “Introductory Logic,” “Fundamentals of Machine Learning,” “Rethinking Social Profit Organizations,” “Creativity, Innovation and Design,” and a number of Woodrow Wilson School seminars in foreign policy.  

They also ventured off-campus to meet with New Jersey-based pharmaceutical companies, such as Janssen, and New York City-based tech companies, such as Google and Bloomberg, where they discussed the process of innovation and development, particularly how the liberal arts-focus of American higher education fosters skills-training and collaboration across disciplines.

“My biggest takeaway from my experience was my exposure to the different mindsets that exist among Princeton students, which include not only taking advantage of available opportunities but also creating new ones, for example, student clubs,” said Anna Kotsa, who is studying management science and technology at the Athens University of Economics and Business. “I was also impressed by the way of teaching, which strongly encourages student participation and links the topics discussed with direct examples from the modern world.” 

Some of the students are already seeking to implement their takeaways from the week they spent at Princeton. “I want to improve my university,” said Argyro Kokkinou, an international relations and European studies student at the University of Macedonia. “That is why I have suggested creating an alumni club at the University of Macedonia, which would be similar to Princeton’s alumni club and work in cooperation with my university’s career services office.”

Lefteris Theodoropoulos is studying rural and survey engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, where he recently founded a branch of the Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society. Theodoropoulos said, “Meeting with student clubs, attending courses and visiting companies was really enlightening and helpful for both [my] new organization and me. Princeton University offers an extremely inspiring environment and made me realize how important it is to build a strong sense of community.”

This is the first year that the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies has cosponsored EduTrip.