To the Editor:
News from Greece Minister of Education, Niki Kerameus, may not make front page news stateside, but the potential impact will be felt imminently. Minister Kerameus announced the government’s plan to lure thousands of foreign students to study in Greece. By definition this involves collaboration with leading universities nationwide.
According to the Institute of International Education, presently, 5,200+ American college students study abroad in Greece. This number does not likely factor in the number of American students in high school, faith-based programs such as the Greek Orthodox Church’s Ionian Village Camp program, and college immersion programs such as the National Hellenic Society’s Heritage Greece Program which has sponsored 500+ students.
The fact is that 90% of the students involved in study abroad programs in Greece are not of Hellenic descent. This is further substantiated through my own observations in my capacity as a Trustee of Boston College and our own program that involves over 1,200 students abroad including those partaking in study abroad experiences in Greece.
I often hear that the annual trip to Greece with the family is the panacea that ensures Hellenic heritage’s survival. Imprinting the stamp of culture, identity and heritage is more than days spent on a beautiful Greek beach and dinners at the taverna. Our own studies of our Heritage Greece Program demonstrate that study abroad shared experiences, especially with students from Greece is a game and life changer.
We are at a critical juncture and crossroads and need to mirror Minister Kerameus’ bold program with a rallying cry to encourage Greek American youth to take advantage of the opportunity to get involved with educational and cultural immersive programs in Greece.
The Greek government should be applauded for realizing the importance of the Greeks in the diaspora and should provide additional funding to promote such efforts. The return on the investment is exponential. Augmenting these efforts with online resources is yet another means to a common end: sustaining Hellenic heritage in the Diaspora for the long term. This needs to be a national priority for us as a community.
Next topic: The Greek language!
Drake G Behrakis
National Hellenic Society