It's All Greek To Me: Morgan Hetherington, Food Science

Posted: November 16, 2014

This experience has not only taught me about another corner of the world, but also prepared me for life after graduation.


The Basics

            Let’s begin with the intent of this class. Our goals from January to May were to compare and contrast the American and Greek agricultural systems. What we explored far exceeded the hum drum comparisons of dairy herd sizes and acreage equivalents. As a small class, we were each asked to choose a commodity or sector of agriculture to focus on and essentially become the “expert” in for the semester. Most of us chose topics that we already had a good handle of in terms of the American systems and management. I myself focused on the wine industry (more specifically, the rise in fruit wine production) as I someday hope to open a winery of my own. During the spring semester, we had guest lecturers expounding on topics ranging from ancient Greek culture to European agricultural policies to designing our own Greek wine labels. Every Wednesday night was a new adventure into the great unknown of Greece.

            We were taught phrases in Greek and how to act in public. We were a very well-behaved bunch, but center city Athens is nothing like downtown State College. Our professors explained what was insulting and how to show gratitude properly. Never would we look like bona fide Europeans, but I can now order gelato and souvlaki like a pro. We still felt a little lost from time to time, but some Americans we met along the way were much farther behind the times than we were. It was exciting to realize we had retained so much and we made their heads spinning when we launched into all the nuances we’d learned since we had stepped off the plane.


Warm Sun, Cool Waters

            The landscape alone was breathtaking. The people we met were even more so. We toured a multitude of farms of all styles, traveled back to ancient times in museums, dipped our toes in shining waters, and literally climbed mountains. I’ll admit, I did not make it to the top of Mount Lycabettus by myself, but we all got there eventually. We roamed the countryside of northern Greece and the bay city of Thessaloniki for most of the trip. We ate everything – I’m serious, everything – and tried new experiences knowing we had nothing but joy to gain. Some of my favorite adventures were swimming in the Aegean Sea and watching the sun rise on Mount Olympus. As I explained it in my field journal…

      “Although I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, I still appreciate the peace and serenity of a new day dawning. So I sat out on the patio outside my room and waited.

      Even with the hum of the city in the background, the birds sung louder and called the world to order. It’s a rare beauty to watch the scenery come to life no matter where you are. There’s something peaceful and rejuvenating to see a new day dawn and I’m pleased to learn that the first rays of sun are just as beautiful here as they are at home. That’s one experience I can bring home without worrying about packing it in my suitcase. And although I’m relaxed and refreshed, I still acknowledge the benefits of sleep and I believe a solid nap is in order before we see our last day in Thessaloniki. So I bid you good morning, and myself good night…”


In Conclusion…

            Aside from facts and figures about Greece and America, I learned a lot about myself. When I traveled to France three years ago, I learned that I was brave enough to see the world. When I traveled to Greece this year, I learned that my bravery is still intact and I make a fantastic impromptu nurse. Every adventure has its bumps and bruises, and this trip was no exception. Along the way I bandaged and taped up several of my classmates so nothing could slow us down. It felt good knowing I could take care of my own, even though I’d only met some of ‘my own’ a few months prior. It was also a relief to realize that this group was able to work around paper cuts and sore knees and twisted ankles to continue to learn as much as they could. We didn’t let a few scrapes get in our way.

            This experience has not only taught me about another corner of the world, but also prepared me for life after graduation. As a senior, my next major test in life is landing a full-time job and I’m sure every interviewer is going to want to know why I went to Greece. Every company must acknowledge the fact that we live in a global market and the separation of continents does not divide our businesses. In agriculture especially, we tend to be at the mercy of not just our own weather but the climes in other far away countries as well. Getting out and seeing how these other nations work and learning to appreciate the working class in other cultures helped me to better understand my place in the industry. I may be a small town girl from Nowhere, Pennsylvania, but what I do has the potential to affect the world as a whole. Seeing more of that world has helped me see just what that means and how big an impact I can truly make.

            This whole experience has been invaluable to me and I know I’ll be telling other people about it for the rest of my life. I didn’t just go to Greece, I lived it. That, my friends, is how it should always be done.