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Living and Learning the Greek Life, by Casey Branstetter, Agribusiness Management major

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Posted: January 27, 2016

Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself traveling the world. Not only have I learned about agriculture and the food system in Greece, but also many life lessons that will benefit me for years to come.
Me standing along the Nestos River Delta, which flows through Bulgaria and Greece, then meets the Aegean Sea

Me standing along the Nestos River Delta, which flows through Bulgaria and Greece, then meets the Aegean Sea

My name is Casey Branstetter and I am an Agribusiness Management major. I just returned home from my 10 day embedded program travel component, where I visited Thessaloniki, Greece. The title of the program I participated in was called “Exploring Greek Food Systems & Marketing”.

To summarize my time in Greece I would say this, “Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself traveling the world. As a small town girl from Central Pennsylvania, I used to look up in the sky and wonder what the land looks like from an airplane going somewhere extravagant. Not only have I learned about agriculture and the food system in Greece, but also many life lessons that will benefit me for years to come.”

From this trip, I have obtained many skills that will benefit both my personal life and professional development. For example, I never used to be comfortable in a city setting, but throughout this trip I’ve learned how to navigate through a city and how to use the taxi system. Some of the most important skills I have acquired include communication skills, how to adapt quickly to new things, and teamwork.

Because the Greek language is so different from English, it was very difficult to communicate at times. I quickly learned that pointing and hand gestures can be part of a universal language. Also, I was able to pick out some useful words such as ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’. Another communication skill I practiced on my trip was speaking up and not being afraid to talk to others. Our entire group was forced to make some major lifestyle adaptations, which was a very beneficial experience for me. Experiencing a different way of life for 10 days has taught me how to adapt in a foreign setting, and that all cultures function differently for various reasons. 

Teamwork has probably been the most useful and most practiced skill on my trip to Greece. As a group of 14 students, we learned how to make important decisions, lived cohesively together even though we didn’t know each other well to start, and stuck together through trying times. For example, we had a one day excursion to Mount Olympus. My group knew we were going on a hike, but we were unaware of how challenging the hiking path actually was. Half way through the hike we all wanted to give up and go home, but that was not an option. We decided to stick together, motivate one another, and push through the challenges we faced until the end. After completing an 8k, vigorous hike in a foreign land and finishing strong as a team, we were able to walk away with new friends, the most beautiful views one could imagine, many memories, problem-solving skills, and confidence in both ourselves and in our teammates.

If I were to describe my experience in Thessaloniki, Greece to a potential employer, I would sum it up as this, “Prior to my education abroad experience I had no idea what the rest of the world had to offer. My trip to Greece has been unforgettable. I was able to network internationally, adapt quickly in new situations, and better myself by acquiring teamwork, problem-solving, leadership, and communication skills. In addition, I learned a lot about the Greek food system, sustainable urban agriculture, and Greek-specific crops. This exclusive, hands-on education pertaining to my professional career has been the opportunity of a lifetime, which not all potential employees are bold enough to take.”

I would like to thank everyone who helped me achieve my dream of going on an education abroad experience. Especially to Mr. and Mrs. Young, thank you for your generous donations so that students studying agriculture at Penn State can participate in opportunities like this. I look forward to traveling the world again in the future if given the chance.