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Humbling Experiences from Greece, by Meagan McCunn, Agribusiness Management major, Animal Sciences minor

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Posted: January 27, 2016

To a potential employer I would describe this experience as ten days where I experienced a completely different culture, learned about a very unique agriculture system, and enhanced my teamwork and communication skills.
At the top of the White Tower, an iconic landmark in Thessaloniki

At the top of the White Tower, an iconic landmark in Thessaloniki

My name is Megan McCunn and I am majoring in Agribusiness Management and minoring in Animal Science at The Pennsylvania State University.  I recently spent ten days exploring Greek food systems and marketing.  I visited the city of Thessaloniki, Mt. Olympus, two vineyards, a winery, a site of mountain tea cultivation, a brewery, and the American farm on the campus where we stayed. 

The first couple days of the trip we explored Perrotis College where we stayed, which is also known as the American Farm School.  We found that at the school they had a dairy farm much like the ones in the United States.  It was pretty small, but they used similar practices as are used on American dairy farms.  Also during the first few days of our trip, we ventured into the city center of Thessaloniki, which was actually pretty dirty, and was quite different from what I was expecting in Greece.  As soon as we ventured into the countryside though, my expectations were met.  We visited two beautiful vineyards.  One was used for the grape leaves, which are a staple in the Greek diet.  The other was used for the grapes to be processed into wine.  To stand on the balcony of the winery and look out and see fields upon fields of grape vines was a humbling experience.  These experiences started at the winery and continued throughout the hike down Mt. Olympus.  The views of the mountain, the streams, and the waterfalls were breathtaking.

I learned some helpful skills while studying in Greece.  I think the biggest thing that I became aware of in Greece was that body language is so important in any culture.  I also really learned how to use hand gestures to explain what I needed or to ask a question when there was no one nearby to translate.  When we all speak the same language, we rarely pay attention to this side of communication, but I am glad that I was able to improve this for myself.  Also in Greece, I learned how to use a taxi service.  I know that there are taxis in the United States but I had never ridden in one before.  I take this as an important skill because even though the drivers didn’t speak English, I could still get to where I wanted to go and then back to the college.  While in Greece I also brushed up on my teamwork skills during the Mt. Olympus hike.  I played team sports throughout high school, but I had forgotten how frustrating it can actually be until we hiked for six hours. 

To a potential employer I would describe this experience as ten days where I experienced a completely different culture, learned about a very unique agriculture system, and enhanced my teamwork and communication skills.  I experienced a way of living that was very slow and laid back which is something I am not used to.  I learned how the agriculture system in Greece mainly consists of small farms producing for themselves.  I would also tell a potential employer that I was able to build on my communication skills in a way that can only be done by visiting another country where they speak a different language.  I would also tell them that I was reminded how important team work is, how frustrating it can be, and how to deal with it professionally. 

Overall, I am glad I took the trip to Greece.  I learned many helpful skills that will benefit me in my near future.  I am excited that I got to learn about an agriculture and business system completely different from America’s systems.  From this trip I have gained knowledge, helpful skills, and some once in a lifetime experiences.  I am so grateful for this opportunity and for the experiences that I brought back with me.