American student for studies at Perrotis College through the Study Abroad program in the time of COVID-19
With most study abroad programs grounded across the US, one student decided to go against the tide and spend her year in Greece.
By Helen Yarenis, Study Abroad Coordinator
Smith College was going fully online. That was the deciding factor. Lily Shannon was eager to embrace the college experience as a second-year student but was less willing to do it by computer. Weighing her options carefully, she decided to spend her academic year in Greece, at Perrotis College in Thessaloniki. Perhaps unsurprisingly, her decision was met with disbelief. After all, wasn’t Europe in the middle of a second wave of coronavirus? Lily, however, had done her homework and felt she was safer in Greece than in the US.
Lily is used to seeking meaning ways to enhance her education. After completing her second semester at Smith online, Lily did a 4-month internship in marine conservation in Florida, where she was a “Coral Nanny,” tending to young coral vital to the marine ecosystem. She is interested in ecology and biology and wants to learn as much as she can. Knowing that online education was not what she wanted, she took her search for further education abroad.
She had been to Greece two summers prior, as part of the American Farm School Greek Summer program. The month-long immersive program had solidified her love for Greece, its culture, food and lifestyle, as well as her commitment to return.
As a young adult, Lily has developed a strong interest in the environment and sustainable agriculture. “Food production in the US is just not sustainable,” she said. “The amount of fertilizers and pesticides used is a huge problem – pests are actually developing a tolerance to pesticides and getting more resilient. In Europe, precision agriculture is much more widely used which is better for the environment and the crop itself.” Through her continued contact with the American Farm School, Lily knew she could study precision agriculture at the School’s tertiary division, Perrotis College. She applied, got her visa and was on her way.
Reactions to her decision were mixed. Lily, however, was unswayed. “I had been following the situation in Greece and knew there had been a lockdown, I knew there were measures. That made me feel a lot more confident than I was in the US. In Florida, COVID-19 is out of control.” Her home state, Georgia, was not spared either. “Even in Georgia, 20% of the population has been infected. There are a lot of asymptomatic people in the US and not enough tests. Meanwhile, here in Greece, I’ve already been tested twice since I got here less than two weeks ago! “
While at Perrotis College, Lily is pursuing her passions by taking classes in precision agriculture, plant pathology, and food chemistry. “I have a strong connection to nature and want to do something that will allow me to aid in creating systematic change.” With the new semester under way, Lily is happy with her decision to study in Greece. “Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. My classmates include in all their activities and are even teaching me Greek! You can really tell Greek hospitality is embedded in every part of life here – even the classes. My professors are really approachable and make every effort to make sure students are engaged.” When asked about the schools measures against COVID-19, Lily said, “I think the measures are totally appropriate. Things like wearing masks indoors make me feel safe, not stifled. Here, I can have the college experience that I can’t have right now in the US and learn something I love in a country that I love.”