Inquiry 2018/19 - Winter Research Trip


Greece Over The Winter Break

Travel Dates: Dec 26, 2018 - Jan 4, 2019 (8 Nights in Greece)
Gateway City: Group Meets/Departs from Athens

Join a collaborative group of Inquiry students + teachers on a field exploration and research trip to Greece. We will explore the pushes, pulls, and in between of Global Migration. This exploration of past and current issues of migration will look across ideas of movement, politics, international relations, humanitarian aid, ethics, and identity in the region. The traveler team will work to parse out their own understanding of the complexity of global migration through a focus on current events and different histories in Greece. At the end of the trip, we will collaborate on a presentation to bring the lessons learned to Inquiry and project ideas to take it even further.

Inclusive Greece Program Cost: $2950*/traveler (excluding airfare to Greece)
Teacher/Single Room Supplement: ~$250

Program Includes 3 meals a day, domestic flights to Thessaloniki, Lesvos, and back to Athens, an Atlas Team Lead (Adam White), well located accommodation, gratuities, + all activities and content.

What’s not included: Travel Insurance and Airfare from the USA to Greece, but we can help with both. Personal expenses, snacks, souvenirs, and medical expenses are also not included.

Deposit Amount: $800 Check or Payment Link
Contact: for details.

*Travel grants of between $100-300 available on a limited basis from Atlas Workshops upon request.


The Program and Purpose

Greece has been a crossroads for thousands of years. In the context of this year’s Inquiry theme – Migration in a Turbulent World – its position as the southeastern gateway to mainland Europe and the European Union has seen it inundated with asylum seekers and refugees looking for an escape from the harsh realities of conflict and economic duress. But Greece’s experience with migration and diversity stretch back centuries.

On this year’s Inquiry trip to Greece our travel team will meet in Athens. Here we will dive into the current issues plaguing Greece as we frame the refugee crisis in the context of a larger financial crisis in the country. In Athens, we will also climb to the top of the Acropolis as we connect the ancient history of Greece to modern values of Europe and current Greek identity. We will continue North to Thessaloniki as we think about the Greek migrants who fled from Turkey nearly a century ago and dig into the current relationships Greece has with its neighbors and the wider EU.

Finally we will fly across the Aegean to Lesvos, the island of 85 thousand Greeks that became a stopping point for about half a million migrants in 2015. Today the island is grappling with it’s past and future as it has remained a key transit point and staging area for migrants. While Lesvos is still home to incredible villages, castles, beaches and mountains it has a new and ongoing role in Global migration. Along the way we will meet experts, historians, NGO workers, refugees, villagers as we work to build our own understanding of Migration and brainstorm ideas and actions to carry us forward.

Program Expected Itinerary

Athens Orientation (2 Nights)

Dec 26th: Depart from US if flying overnight

Dec 27th: Group lands in Athens

  • Groups arrive on their own time to Athens

  • Souvlaki welcome dinner in the city center

Dec 28th: Ancient and Modern

  • Explore how modern Athens has been managing a financial crisis

  • Coffee Q+A - Have coffee with an Athenian to build out our understanding

  • Afternoon at the Acropolis - Why ancient Greece matters.

Thessaloniki (2 Nights)

Dec 29th: A History of Migration

  • Services and Politics: Refugees in Athens.

  • Short flight to Thessaloniki

  • The Macedonian Struggle: Tracing the history of Northern Greece

  • Special Greek treats on the streets of Thessaloniki

Dec 30th: Greek International Relations

  • An Ottoman Hub: Exploring Thessaloniki’s upper and lower towns

  • The Migrant Trail: Meetings in Thessaloniki

  • Demographic Shifts: Thessaloniki after the exchange

  • Borders Today: Making sense of Greece’s neighbors.

Lesvos (3 Nights)

Dec 31st: Understanding the Island

  • Morning flight to Lesvos (or the evening before)

  • Orientation to Lesvos: Current issues and recent events

  • Who is here? Meeting with local NGOs on Lesvos

Jan 1st: Northern Lesvos: From 2015 to Today

  • Half a Million Visitors: Unraveling the crisis from 2015

  • A Different Monument: Visit to the lifejacket “Graveyard”

  • Ongoing Arrivals: Dealing with the next stage of the crisis

Jan 2nd: The Challenges Ahead

  • Meeting with organizations and refugees on the island

  • Another Perspective: Greek communities of Lesvos now

  • Farewell Lesvos: Amazing food and friends as we say farewell to this amazing island

Athens (1 Night)

Jan 3rd: Group returns to Athens, Program Closing

  • Morning farewell to Lesvos, fly back to Athens

  • Team reflection and brainstorming in a Plaka cafe.

  • Trip closing and bringing it all home.

  • Final dinner at a local taverna run by some of our friends in the heart of Athens.

Jan 4th: Program Concludes / Groups Fly Home

  • In the morning we will head to the Athens Airport to make our way back home to the States.



Greece has been a crossroads for thousands of years.

In the context of this year’s Inquiry theme–Migration in a Turbulent World – its position as the southeastern gateway to mainland Europe and the European Union has seen it inundated with asylum seekers and refugees looking for an escape from the harsh realities of conflict and economic duress.  While the Syrian civil war was a precipitous event in the moving of hundreds of thousands, the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to send people searching for security and stability. In 2011, the European Court of Justice found that 90 percent of all irregular entry into Europe was through the Greek borders, and this was before the massive movement of people in 2015.

In 2015, the waves of asylum seekers and refugees became a de-stabilizing force throughout Europe as countries sought to balance their dedication to human rights with the economic and political realities of absorbing large populations of people, highlighted especially by the fact that many were Muslim and their arrival initiated a wave of xenophobia and populism across the continent.  The European Union was adrift, both in its ability to establish an immigration policy and its ability to assist countries bearing the brunt of the refugees. It precipitated crises in the United Kingdom – Brexit; the rise of populist parties from Austria to Germany to Italy; democratic elections of authoritarians, as in Hungary; and economic challenges throughout Europe. Greece, still in the throes of its economic meltdown, especially bore the weight.

Two years ago, the Balkan countries to the north of Greece closed their borders, blocking the migrant route to Western Europe. The United Nations estimates that some 50,000 asylum-seekers and refugees still remain in the country.  Greece has the highest unemployment rate in Europe — more than 20 percent — and is still grappling with the fallout of the 2008 debt crisis, which left an already-stressed welfare system struggling to cope.

Exploring the current refugee and migrations situation in Greece is key to understanding the issues most shaping the world today.

Just this spring, Greece rushed to reinforce its land border with Turkey as fears mounted over a sharp rise in the number of refugees and migrants crossing the frontier.  Police patrols were augmented as local authorities said the increase in arrivals had become reminiscent of the influx of migrants on the Aegean islands close to the Turkish coast. About 2,900 people crossed the land border in April, by far surpassing the number who arrived by sea, according to UNHCR. The figure represents half of the total number of crossings during the whole of 2017.

The Greek island of Lesvos, separated from Turkey’s coastline by a thin sliver of the Aegean Sea, is no stranger to refugee flows. In the aftermath of the 1919-22 Greco-Turkish War, thousands of Anatolian Greeks forcibly displaced from Turkey found safety and started new lives in Lesvos. Almost a century later, the island’s local population of approximately 85,000 played host to more than half a million migrants and asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond over the course of 2015. This figure represents about 59 percent of all asylum seekers and migrants who transited through Greece in 2015 en route to preferred asylum destinations in northern Europe.

A major focal point in the migration flows that brought more than one million asylum seekers to Europe in 2015 alone, Lesvos offers an invaluable case study in the promises, pitfalls, and progress in the West’s humanitarian response to the ongoing refugee crisis. From landing beaches staffed mainly by volunteers to the registration centers and transit camps run by professional aid organizations, the needs and pressures visited upon both asylum seekers and responders in Lesvos bear significant lessons for aid providers and policymakers along the onward migration routes in the Balkans and across Central Europe.

In Greece, students will develop their own cultural and ethical understanding of the crisis. By exploring modern Athens and ancient ruins around the city, symbols of both the country’s virtues and decline, we will immerse ourselves in the context. The Western World wouldn’t be what it is today without the ideas of ancient Greece. Greece is the birthplace of modern democracy and western society, from the Acropolis atop Athens to the ruined ancient cities of the Aegean, history is everywhere. As Europe redefines itself, understanding this history and tying it to modern Greek and American life is more important than ever.

But the history we remember and the stories we tell aren’t the only narrative. We will get out of Athens to see what life is like on nearby islands and in border towns--and to gain an understanding of how the crisis is affecting everyone.

We will balance our exploration of the border town of Orestiada and the rugged coastline of Lesvos with meetings with local experts, government officials and migrant organizations, as well as thoughtful engagement with diverse communities in order to better understand the complex crisis and its impact on people around the world.


Athens is both the logical gateway into Greece and a key historical foundation of the region. Our time in the capital will allow us to dive into one of the world’s ancient hubs. Our time at the Acropolis, the city’s dramatic center, and a visit to its stunning new museum with an archeologist will let us look into the past in order to build an understanding of the context of modern Greece. It will also be an opportunity to meet with government and NGO officials tasked with responding to the ongoing challenges, as well as asylum seekers.


Thessaloniki is the second city of Greece and the capital of Macedonia in the North of the country. This city has not only been an important transit point for recent migrants moving deeper into the Balkans, but is also a historical city along the crossroads of the Ottoman Empire. The city has played an important role from the Greek Macedonian period through the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empire. The city was also a large recipient of Greek refugees leaving Turkey during the population exchange, and the cultural linkages in the country are strong.


Lesvos is the Greek island that has become the transit point for many refugees. The strong local community has helped the transition run as smoothly as possible though the island has been overturned. The islands villagers received a Nobel peace prize nomination for their work in the crisis.  Lesvos continues to be the center of a global trend. During our time there, we were able to get a sense of island life, while simultaneously connecting with a local community whose roots run millennia deep, mixing hands on service to support local organizations, hear stories from around the island, and develop our own understanding of the complexity of the crisis.