Developing the cultural capacity of Cardiff Metropolitan University students through internationalising the curriculum is a key theme in our learning and teaching strategy. As such, our Psychology Study Abroad Week went a long way toward achieving this. Dr Clare Glennan and Dr Tina Alwyn accompanied 11 Psychology students from Levels 4,5 and 6 to Athens during the Easter break. City University College (CUC) and our Cardiff Metropolitan students integrated very well and discussed the importance of culture and diversity within the discipline. CUC and Cardiff Metropolitan students developed relevant presentations and delivered these through joint symposiums. There was debate about internationalisation and what this meant for the students and how their future careers in Psychology would be influenced by these factors. The staff from both universities met and discussed how internationalisation could be facilitated through shared experiences, teaching and joint teaching. All in all this was an enriching and enjoyable experience for all involved.
I am a second year Cardiff Metropolitan Student, who was accepted to go on the Psychology Study Abroad week. This took place in City Unity College (CUC) Athens in April this year. It was an amazing experience, amongst the many highlights were the cultural historical sights and exploring the amazing city that it Athens; it helped that it was 24 degrees and bright sunshine!
At first when I was told we were going I was very excited but the thought of sitting in on lectures and contribute to a symposium was daunting and I even thought It might have been a bit boring. However I could not have been more wrong, the lecturers were fascinating, and we were particularly impressed by one who presented a lecture on forensic psychology. The symposium was also really great. It was interactive and offered such an eye opening experience in how both cultures view each other and themselves.
It was also an excellent opportunity to meet the Athenian students who are studying the same Psychology degree. They were all so welcoming and friendly and we had a real laugh with them and bonded really well. The trip gave me a real insight into how other cultures live, it was fascinating to see first-hand the everyday lives of people from another culture. I feel I have been able to apply this into my work; thinking critically about psychological research and its applicability to other cultures.
I was also really taken a back at how close all of the students that went on the trip became. It was an opportunity for Cardiff Metropolitan students from across all levels to come together and bond as a group. It was also lovely to meet the Athens student, some of whom I have stayed in contact with and will probably remain my friends for life.
If I could recommend you do one thing this year it would be to apply for the Athens trip!
This year I was able to attend the Psychology study abroad week, it was amazing experience and I thought I would share with you!
Firstly, I really enjoyed the lectures, considering psychology from a different perspective was so interesting. During our visit we were able to present at an Internationalisation Symposium. In preparation our lecturer split us into groups and each group were assigned a task. The focus for my group was looking at the impact of child poverty in Wales and illustrating from a psychological perspective, how poverty can impacts upon the individual. The symposium and the visit in general highlighted the importance of culture to me especially after the internationalisation discussion and this has helped me so much with my academic understanding of culture, especially when considering social psychology.
The Greek students and lecturers made us feel so welcome at the CUC and it was really nice talking to them about their psychological interests and ideas. This really helped spark some ideas from my dissertation for next year!
Finally, the group of Cardiff Met students we went with were amazing, we all got on so well and we have all stayed in contact, speaking almost every day! The trip was a great way to meet people in higher and lower years as I was able to give advice to the L4 students but also seek advice for module and dissertation ideas from the L6 students.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to attend, I really enjoyed it and found it such a valuable experience!
Dr Dan Heggs, Programme Director for Psychology, says “It’s great to see that out staff and students have once again visited CUC in Athens. As we build the links between the two programmes it is clear that we can all learn from one another, and that the opportunities given to the students from both colleges to come together enables them to think about how psychology can be applied in broader cultural contexts.” Dr Amie-Louise Prior, Moderator for the BSc Psychology Programme at CUC, says “This trip provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain experience of teaching and learning within a different cultural setting. Symposium and discussion sessions encourage students to discuss and share their ideas relating to the topic of Psychology and develop presentation and networking skills.”
We look forward to further trips to build the relationship with Athens and to allow more students to experience psychology in Athens!
Last December Dr Jenny Mercer applied to the International Office for Short Term Mobility Funding, and was successful in receiving money to take 12 students (four from each year of the programme) to visit our partner, City Unity College (CUC), in Athens. CUC have been delivering our degree for two years now and so we saw the exchange as an opportunity to build stronger links with our European partner.
We devised a set of activities for our students, and saw a range of benefits for staff and students in starting a student exchange, and in order that the cultural swap was not simply an opportunity to meet students in another country, we asked our students to complete some tasks during the week. Our final year students presented their final year research projects, and discussed the process ofcompleting a large dissertation with an audience of staff and students from CUC. Our first and second year students were required to give talks about their experience of being in Athens, and then to use these as the basis for blog posts when they got home. First years focussed on aspects of internationalisation, and the second years looked at culture.
Summaries of their blogs are below!
Studying Abroad in Athens, Greece.
Greece! Well what can I say… It was definitely an interesting experience. I learnt about their culture, however, I learnt a lot more about me as a person. This trip has allowed me to experience how life would be like travelling without my family and also how to adapt to a setting that is very unfamiliar, and out of my comfort zone. My aim in this blog is to tell you one of the main reasons why this trip was so captivating… THE PEOPLE.
During my time in Athens, I met some amazing people – both within the group and in Athens. Even though, the group was made up of students from all year groups, we all seemed to blend well as a team -we pretty much did most things together, and as for the students in Athens, well they were very welcoming, were full of personalities and were not afraid to ask a lot of questions, AND THERE WERE A LOT!
When I arrived, I learnt that the psychology course was new to City Unity College. However, I was very surprised how much knowledge the students in class had. They answered questions in full detail and were not shy to teach other students what the focal topic was about.
Finally, THE TEACHERS! As I am not good with names – it was their characters that I remembered the most. They were oh so lovely, funny and were amazing at telling stories (even when it has nothing to do with the subject). Yet, it was their passion for psychology that was refreshing.
Thanks for having us City Unity College and hopefully this is not the end, but the beginning of something great!
To quote one of the CUC students: “There’s always a good lesson in meeting new people, it’s enlarging your circle of friends. And though there are times you don’t match with their likes, there are some whom you just blend well.”
It is safe to say that there are major differences in the nightlife between Athens and Cardiff. Athens is a very busy city and there always seems to be traffic (even at 3 in the morning). Whether night or day, there always seems to be people in the streets, shops always open, buses always running and the hustle and bustle never seems to die down.
The bars and pubs in Athens are a lot different compared to home, too. Even though the streets are always full, every bar or pub we visited seemed a lot more laid back and relaxed.
Internationalisation is very important and going out and experiencing the nightlife in a different country and experiencing their culture is beneficial, not just for socialising but for understanding how different people do things.
After meeting new friends at the City College, we decided to socialise with them outside of the learning environment, at a local bar. This is when it really hit home that there are so many differences in the bar environments in our two countries. Even queuing for drinks is different. This can be linked to internationalisation as being introduced to Greece’s customs when it comes to socialising is beneficial to us as it would be less daunting if we ever return to Greece. These customs can be generalised to a lot of other countries in Europe, so will be very beneficial to us.
During our visit we didn’t just have a holiday, we had some tasks to complete whilst in Athens. We attended lectures just like any other student from the college. We attended lessons from the Greek lecturers which involved both level 4 and level 5 lessons on ‘Brain & Cognition’ and Forensic psychology respectively. Our Brain & Cognition lecture revolved around a lesson on brain damage and memory just how we would be taught here in Cardiff Met. This lecture lent a surprise to us with how knowledgeable the Greek students were, as there was an emphasis on questioning the students about previous lectures. The Forensic Psychology lecture had us all interacting heavily, with us trying to understand the science behind forensic psychology and how we could use it practically to assist police forces in their criminal profiling.
The final year students who came to Athens were just finishing their dissertations and had the job of presenting their research and findings to the level 5 students from Greece and ourselves. From these presentations we learnt about the effect of driving whilst trying to talk on a phone or listening to half a conversation (don’t try this at home!) , the opinions on eating disorders from those who take health science courses and those who don’t and finally we were shown how our happiness changes depending on our consumerist tendencies.
We were also treated to guest sessions from some of our own lecturers; Dan Heggs and Jenny Mercer. These sessions introduced us to things we need to prepare for when thinking about our final year dissertation research, and taught us about the effect of ‘Green care’ on our well-being.
Places and food
During our stay in Athens we experienced some fantastic cuisine one of the main dishes we experienced was the Greek Gyro which in fact is a type of kebab with a round pitta and usually meat and salad inside, this was mostly our typical dish of the day which was quick and simple. We experienced many restaurants which offered an array of food which ranged from great Greek salads to home cooked lamb in the oven to grilled BBQ chicken and lamb cooked over coal to Halal, our food choice was endless.
Being a tourist too!
During our stay in Athens, we had the opportunity to visit many places. Our hotel was located in a great central spot and so we were able to walk to a lot of places. First, we wanted to see the Acropolis, which is known to be the very symbol of the capital. Next to the acropolis, there is a Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, which is absolutely enormous. It’s amazing to think that these structures were constructed by men without modern day machines. One thing I had wanted to do was to sit on the steps and look down on the stage, and then walk on earth that was also part of the theatre, which we couldn’t do for security reasons.
Visiting the Acropolis was the highlight of our journey to Athens. The views were absolutely amazing and it was a masterpiece of white marble. The journey to the Acropolis didn’t take long, and it is located next to the flea market and Monastiraki, which is full of character and life. Walking for a whole day through the beautiful square with old alley ways and streets that stretch all the way to Plaka, was worth the effort. We all bought souvenirs and, even though we spent a whole day browsing in the flea market, it still seem to be not enough as it was so much to explore and to see. The atmosphere was really exciting and people were really friendly. Especially at night, it comes to live even more. There are shops and eateries all around. We got good souvlaki at really good price!
We also visited the metropolis cathedral, which has some beautiful paintings and the interior was richly decorated and was very detailed. We briefly visited the Orthodox Church, however, it was very spacious from inside and also quite impressive with its details. Another church which we visited was the Church of Panagia Gorgoepikoos which was next to the cathedral. It’s very tiny and there isn’t a lot to see inside, however its very unique as it is not made of out of bricks and stones (as most of the churches are) but out of slabs of marble.
All in all, it was a great week in Athens meeting students at the college and sampling the culture of the city.
Down the Cultural Rabbit Hole … or, Our Experience of Being Students in Athens for a Week
At the February UG conference, we all received an invitation regarding a trip to Athens to experience being a student there as well as share our experience as students in the UK. We were eager to apply. When we finally found out that we are going to be in Athens for a week we couldn’t believe it but started to get ready for our trip.
When we first met, as second years we only knew each other vaguely, and did not know anyone else on the trip. That all changed when we got there.
On our first day we all had a meal together and then went on to visit the Parthenon:
We were impressed by the fact that as students we had a free entry, except two of us that forgot our student cards (Oops!).
We have learnt that there are a few strict laws regarding claiming student tickets, for example on the tube we had to show our student badges when we arrived at our destination.
Athens is an amazing place, and besides visiting the Parthenon, we also walked (A LOT) around the city, trying the great food (everyone loved the gyros) as well as refreshing drinks (non-alcoholic of course! – cappuccino freddo was the first choice!).
We were excited to visit and experience the culture, and to meet student colleagues in Athens. By participating in a few of their lectures we learnt that they have smaller teaching rooms and interacting with the lecturers as well as other students is much easier. Here you can see Evan interacting with the others after our lecture:
During our cultural exchange, our third year students presented their projects. It was very inspiring both for our first and second year students as they also got some advice with regards to project deadlines and how to manage the entire project.
We also learnt that the student experience is different. In the UK we have the “fresher’s week” which is always a must for first years, while in Athens students confirmed that is not the case for them. The size of the lectures was also smaller compared to our huge lecture halls that can fit hundreds of students. In the UK we can opt for a gap year or move to a different town to study. In Athens, the students said that education is continuous and after they finish pre-university education, they just go on to higher education. They also mentioned that those with higher grades get accepted where they want and that the first form of higher education, such as studying at University is free for those that get accepted with higher grades.
Another thing that was different, was the fact that smoking in Athens was seen quite normal. People would even smoke inside restaurants or pubs, regardless of the laws. Staff said that they do so in order to keep their clients. Athens itself looks quite busy and a lot of people travel with motorbikes. It is quite difficult to cross the streets because you’re unsure when to go or stop as not many people follow the red and green pedestrian signs. We also noticed a lot of graffiti everywhere we walked.
Because two of us had birthdays exactly in that week, students from our Psychology course in Athens decided to take us out for the night and show us a great place in Athens. At midnight, they even sang to our UK students and wished them “Happy Birthday”.
We also had a great time writing the blogs and thinking about our cultural experience!
Nevertheless, if such little things are so different between the Western – UK culture and Eastern – Greek culture from what we observed on our little trip, we can see the relevance and importance of the cross-cultural research, as some findings could apply to a certain culture, however it can be quite different and difficult to apply it to a different culture, regardless of the placement on the map.
Finally, we have met so many people and received so much as well. It was a great week!
Every day when we see news about the financial situation in Greece we think about our partners and the students at CUC. While things can be presented in such dire terms, we are aware of how welcomed we felt and how enthusiastically they embraced opportunities to develop with Cardiff Metropolitan University.
We’d like to thank Evan Hadyikoumi and Alex Dumitru for getting the blogs together for us, and also to thank all of our students for making us proud in Athens, and especially we’d like to thank staff and students at CUC for making us feel so welcome.
We look forward to more exchanges and to working with CUC in the future.