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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Activities & Organizations

Deadline nears to apply for Honors College trip to Greece


One of the Honors College’s annual educational opportunities for students to travel around the world with Honors professors as their guides will be closing its sign-up list May 28.

The sign-up consists of a number of coveted tickets to destinations like Israel, Spain, Italy, Great Britain and Peru.

One of this year’s trips includes a 14-day trek through Greece led by associate professor of classical studies Richard Armstrong, who has organized the fundraising events to benefit the economic crisis in Greece and to educate student travelers.

With the tour of Greece approaching, Armstrong agreed to speak with The Cougar to promote awareness of these upcoming opportunities like the Greece trip, where students will explore the major cultural and archaeological sites in Athens, Delphi, Olympia, Mycenae and Epidaurus.

The Cougar: How did you conceive the idea to fundraise for the crisis in Greece?

Richard Armstrong: Two years ago we decided to do a study abroad trip to Greece. The migration crisis that you see in the news every day loomed larger and larger in our minds as something we truly needed to address head on, in addition to the more traditional things one does in Greece. We wanted our students to be able to hear firsthand what life has been like in Greece under the strain of all this and to see how dedicated they are to helping.

TC: For those who have never heard of it, what is Metradasi?

RA: Greek colleagues of mine all suggested we work with the same Metadrasi. Their name means trans-action, i.e. both “translation is action,” since they facilitate actions that typically fall between governments and other agencies to the migrants’ peril. The part of their work we are supporting is specifically their guardianship of unaccompanied minors, a serious problem. These children are very vulnerable to human trafficking — among other things — and keeping them safe and separate from the greater mass of migrants is an essential early intervention. But they do a lot of follow up care to meet their emotional, physical and even legal needs as well. We thought we’d get behind them on this in solidarity, since we have a similar unaccompanied minor migration crisis of our own, in addition to a huge problem with human trafficking in Houston.

TC: How does this benefit the Honors College and its study abroad program?

RA: The number one thing students love about a study abroad trip is the contact they make with real people living in the countries they visit. It can be hard to engineer anything significant if you’re moving about on the tour; but this time we have forged a relationship with a group of awesome people. We’ll meet with them in Athens and they’ll do a full presentation on their work and have a full Q&A session.  This way, when students return home and people say, “Wow, I hear Greece is a real mess right now,” they’ll be able to say in return, “Well, I met some great people involved with this, and let me tell you what they told me.” This is all about engagement. And it is very possible that we could form a service learning trip to follow up on this, as they do still need volunteers very badly. That depends a bit on how this crisis shakes out over the next year.

TC: How may students go about joining the study abroad trips?

RA: The study abroad trip itself is big. Between main campus and UHCL, we’ll have a combined group of 75 people going. That’s a lot bigger than your average study abroad tour, which tends to be more like 20 to 25 people. This is just one of the Honors College’s study tours this year. We try to be as supportive of other trips as we can, since so many Honors Students have study abroad money and are looking for opportunities.

More information about the Honors College Study Abroad program, as well as the sign-up for this year’s tours, can be found here.

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