GoAbroad Interview

Jan Sanders - Athens Resident Director & Mediterranean Regional Director

Jan Sanders - Athens Resident Director & Mediterranean Regional Director

Originally from Massachusetts, Jan has lived in Greece for more than 25 years. She studied classics at university, followed by archaeology, which gave her the chance to participate in excavations throughout the Mediterranean (Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Portugal), before she decided to move to Greece. Having been a student in Greece herself, Jan brings a keen appreciation and love for all things Greek to her work with U.S. students.

How did you find out about the job opportunity with Arcadia University in Greece?

Actually, Arcadia found me! I was asked to teach a class in art history and archaeology way back in the 1990's and things just carried on from there.

Tourists at the Temple of Poseidon in Greece
Jan at Temple of Poseidon, Sounio with colleagues Dr. Jaume Gelabert (Arcadia Barcelona) and Dr. Joanna Simos (Arcadia Athens)

What attracted you to work for Arcadia?

What attracted me to Arcadia is what keeps me here: the students. Even though I am now mainly an administrator, I also teach, and it's teaching that is the most rewarding part of my job.

How have your own international experiences helped you in your role as a regional director?

Well, my own international experiences began as a student of classics and archaeology in Greece. Even though Greece has been my home for more than 25 years and, in spite of my current status as a dual U.S./Greek national, I can clearly recall excitement, and occasional discomfort, of those first days in Athens, and the real feeling of accomplishment when I managed something as simple as successfully ordering a coffee in Greek!

View of Athens from Philopappou Hill
Jan on Philopappou Hill, Athens

What do you think makes Arcadia’s Greece Center a unique place to study abroad?

The Athens team is unique in our flexible and personally tailored approach to the enhancement of student learning, curricular as well as co- and non-curricular. And, because each student is an individual, this is something we engage in student-by-student. Academics aside, the Arcadia Athens Center just happens to be located, and has been for 20 years, in one of the most popular little squares in what has recently become one of the most popular neighborhoods in Athens.

How does Arcadia help students experience modern and ancient Greece, both in and out of the classroom?

The classes are the obvious answer but, in those classes, the actual classroom is very often Athens itself, the sites and museums of the city and the corners and small spots known only to locals. The co-curricular program offered at the Arcadia Athens Center also takes full advantage of all the city and surrounding area has to offer.

On top of these though, we all work to help the students identify and articulate goals or, more simply, what they each hope to accomplish while in Athens. In addition to the formal curricular and co-curricular program, the staff and faculty all engage in an informal, but oh so important, mentoring relationship with the students.

Woman on AcroCorinth in Greece
Jan on AcroCorinth

Why do you think it is important for students to authentically integrate with the local community during their program?

The community is the real laboratory and, once the filter of a faculty or staff member is removed, then the real interaction takes place. Because Greek is not a language spoken much outside of the Greek and diaspora Greek community, students will find it relatively easy to negotiate in English. Greeks remain very welcoming of others, even in the on-going times of difficulty, and enjoy the opportunity to exchange views with others.

What advice would you give to students who are thinking about studying abroad with Arcadia University in Greece?

Come and join us! Greece is so much more than temples and beaches, though both of those are stellar! Academically, too, Greece is much more than classics and Plato, though both of those are important. Are you interested in economics or social justice, entrepreneurship or public health? Athens and Greece are perfectly placed right now to offer you insights into these disciplines. Academics aside, Greece will challenge you in ways that other European countries will not, and who knows where that will lead you?

Are there any new opportunities for students in the works in Greece for 2017?

We are always identifying new and different placement sites for the Athens Internship Program, and these sites often work well as volunteer options too for non-interns. Right now we are working to enhance and build a STEM Research Internship in the general area of archaeological science. We'd be happy to hear from students interested in this!

Participants of the Race for the Cure in Athens, Greece
Jan with students and staff at the Race for the Cure, Athens

Why do you enjoy working for Arcadia University?

The best part about working for Arcadia in Athens is witnessing the impact Greece has upon the students and sometimes being a small player in facilitating those impacts. As an administrator, I am obliged to follow the rules and, indeed, some rules and policies, particularly around health and safety, are to be strictly followed. Some rules though are bendable and it is remarkable to be a part of the students’ lives as they learn, sometimes from bending rules, from life in Athens.