How might we change the global perception of refugee migration?
Greece has been a crossroads for thousands of years. Today, as the southeastern gateway to the EU, a handful of Greek islands have emerged as the key transit point for refugees coming to Europe from the Middle East, Africa, and beyond. Exploring the current migration situation in Greece, and subsequently, across Europe and other border regions, is key to understanding issues of immigration, humanitarianism, and security shaping the world today.
In Greece we will develop our own cultural and ethical understanding of the refugee crisis while we experience life in modern Europe. By exploring ancient ruins around Athens, symbols of both the country’s virtues and decline, we will immerse ourselves in the historical and political context. Then, we’ll get out of Athens to see what life is like on nearby islands and towns--and to gain an understanding of how migration effects everyone. Along the way, we will work with and support local communities of Greeks and refugees.
We’ll balance our exploration of the rugged coastline of Lesvos with fresh authentic food, meetings with local experts and migrant organizations, and thoughtful engagement with diverse communities in order to better understand this complex phenomenon 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 understand the context of modern Greece. We’ll also sample traditional Greek flavors, from our first Souvlaki dinner in famous Monastiraki square to delicious sweets like Loukoumades.
Hydra is in many ways the Greek island people imagine, and before we set out to Lesvos we want to get a baseline: What’s a typical Greek island like? We’ll take the ferry out for a day trip to experience the picturesque narrow streets, fishermen’s piers, and sunlit white homes.
With Turkey and the Middle East visible from its shores, Lesvos is a Greek island that has become the transit point for many migrants. The strong local community has helped the transition run as smoothly as possible, and the island’s villagers even received a Nobel peace prize nomination for their work responding to the refugee crisis. However, some island dwellers have begun to worry about how migration has affected local businesses, and fear their resources are running thin.
During our time on Lesvos, we’ll get a sense of island life, while simultaneously connecting with a local community whose roots run millennia deep. We’ll take part in hands-on service to support local organizations, hear stories from around the island, and develop our own understanding of the complexity of the crisis. At the end, we’ll work together to decide how we want to tell the story of refugees in Greece to the rest of the world.
We have worked with many age groups in Lesvos and can adapt the trip for different approaches or different types of students. For example, we had one group that focused on documentary film-making, while another wanted an alternative-to-community-service trip. While we are very cautious about how we engage refugees and Greeks in Lesvos, we have found our time exploring the refugee crisis to be one of the most eye-opening, challenging, impactful and open places we have ever traveled with students.
As the migration situation continues to evolve, we will be tracking the situation to understand the impact and safety of our groups, and consider where in Greece (or Europe) we should be going to explore these issues best. Based on the season and current events, the itinerary to best engage this issue may vary greatly and may also focus on Northern Greece more than the island of Lesvos. It is also possible to explore the theme of refugees and migration in other destinations, such as Mexico, France, Spain, or the UK.