Written by Abbe Ehlers
“Spending a week in Crete and getting a glimpse of their culture was unlike anything I had experienced before! All the fresh foods they eat are magnificent, and the people there have such great pride for their country. I’d go back in a heartbeat.” This quote by HRA student, Mandy Spurlock, sums up what fourteen students, five family members and I experienced on a Study Away trip to Crete, a Greek island in the Mediterranean Sea.
In May, I led my second international Study Away class for the HRA department. (The first was to Ecuador.) This course “The Culture and Cuisine of Crete” was designed to expose students to a different style of hospitality. The ancient customs of Crete can still be found in much of the way of life there. Students were immersed in the Greek style of lodging and dining. Our housing, in the two small villages we visited, was in small owner occupied inns. We walked everywhere (up and down as Crete is quite mountainous). Most of Crete’s food is raised on the island and the people there have never left the “farm to table” way of life. We enjoyed typical family style meals each day, often comprised of roasted goat or local fish or even snails a few times — not your typical Missouri fare. And LOTS of olive oil.
At Missouri State University, cultural competency is one of the three pillars of the Public Affairs mission. Each day was planned with activities to support this. Activities included a hike/herb harvest up Mt. Ioustas with a botanical professor from the local university, a tour of an olive oil manufacturing plant, a boutique winery tasting, ancient archaeological guided tours with an agricultural focus, museum tours, cooking classes and demos. Each activity was selected to provide a view of a culture different from our own.
One of my personal goals is supporting student appreciation for and comfort within unfamiliar cultures. I look forward to creating many more study away opportunities!
Kali Spera (Good Day in Greek),