The Greek Market

One of the final Greek language courses started off Wednesday morning to prepare for an afternoon at Monastiraki, Athens’ traditional market neighborhood. Monastiraki is in the main square of Athens, and means “little monastery,” in reference to the Church of the Pantanassa which sits in the center of the square under the Acropolis.

Monastiraki is one of Athens’ best-known attractions, it is bustling with flea market vendors and produce stands, right next door to Plaka which is home to traditional Greek Tavernas and the buzzing sounds of the city. Of course, with a view of the ancient temple on the hill, the rich history of Greece comes to life in the streets below!

The afternoon was spent strolling through the flea market of Monastiraki and putting our Greek skills to the test while bartering prices on unique items to take home for ourselves, family and friends. The little stores along the streets sell items unique to Greece, making for a perfect token to remember this trip of a lifetime.

Nicole Godellas reflected on the afternoon, saying that “It was very neat walking through the streets of Monastiraki because each shop was unique and family owned. It was clear how passionate the store owners were about the products that they produced and sold and how proud they were to show visitors what they have to offer.”

Heritage Greece participants strolled the streets of Monastiraki for an authentic downtown Athens experience, practicing their Greek and finding new treasures to bring home!

After Monastiraki and a family lunch downtown in the center of Athens, it was back to Agia Paraskevi to get ready for the big event of the night: The Hellenic Initiative’s (THI) ReGeneration Program Event. The Hellenic Initiative is a non-profit organization that supports those hardest hit by the Greek economic crisis. As stated by the official THI website, “ReGeneration is a project of the Global Shapers Athens Hub, an initiative of the World Economic Forum designed to help combat both youth unemployment and the brain drain phenomenon – when talented graduates flee Greece to find employment abroad.”

This afternoon, representatives from THI presented the ReGeneration Program and explained it’s mission: to help young people in Greece stand out, find a passion for working in Greece, and to be given paid placement, personal and professional development opportunities while taking their “…first professional steps and distinguishing themselves in Greece.”

The representatives of THI explained how the economic crisis in Greece left young people discouraged about their futures as young professionals, as well as the economic future of Greece. The HG participants were then split into groups and given a prompt by the THI speakers, allowing the participants to work together to find solutions and discuss ways to bring new ventures to Greece, and uplift Greece’s economic situation from the perspective of young, Greek-North American adults.

Alongside HG Program Director Dr. Matilda Chatzipanagiotou, representatives from the THI ReGeneration Program explained their mission of helping young people in Greece on their search for professional success.

The Heritage Greece participants teamed up, together with the ACG peers, to brainstorm and later present their ideas to the other groups, the THI team, and ACG faculty and administrators. The experience allowed for the HG participants to gain a grasp of the realities of creating a professional future for someone their age in Greece, and actively work to find tangible solutions to the challenges they face.

HG participants and peers presented their ideas to the panel of THI representatives and their HG/ACG peers in the audience.

Upon reflecting on her experience at the THI ReGeneration event, HG participant Athena Gerasoulis explained that “Before Heritage Greece, I was pretty unfamiliar with how passionate people are with preserving tradition and propelling the development of society. In the culture that I was brought up in, prioritizing financial success means that people are more willing to sacrifice other things – sacrificing tradition is not a big dilemma,” Athena said. “However, yesterday I really saw how much Greek tradition means to the Greek people and how much they’re willing to prioritize the preservation of their culture on the same level that other places may prioritize financial and societal development.”

With the incredible connection built to our shared heritage throughout the past two weeks, the participants were passionate about learning as much as they could from the THI team and understanding how the experiences of the Greek-North American participants differs from the experiences of students in Greece when entering the work force.

HG participants realized that when looking beyond the ocean and continent that separates them, they are more alike rather than different to the young-adults in Greece than perceived beforehand. The goals of aspirations of the young Greeks inspires the Greek-North Americans to use their knowledge of the professional world to build bridges, and help move each other forward.


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