Written By Adam & Mara
Wow! We cannot believe the end of the semester has already arrived. It feels like we were all just meeting in the Newark airport and trying to awkwardly learn names behind masks. Seemingly overnight in Crete, the group formed deep friendships and became a family. Their connection and care for each other created an incredible foundation throughout the semester. Despite long travel days, rainy hikes, and repetitive farm tasks, their collective energy brought endless fun and joy. As two professionals in this field for over three years, neither of us have seen groups like this.
Our time in Italy and Greece has been filled with beautiful views, thought-provoking conversations, delicious food, and constant laughter. We have witnessed growth in such a vast variety of ways — from learning how to garden utilizing Permaculture techniques to picking up Italian and Greek phrases to learning how to cohabitate with 10 people for two and a half months to understanding the causes of climate change and the impact of our personal choices. Every day seemed to be filled with its own discovery and adventure.
Some of our collective favorite memories include stomping on grapes while dancing in our bare feet to make wine traditionally, meals prepared and shared together, and jumping into the Mediterranean. We had wonderful conversations along scenic drives, spent nights under the stars, and even met royalty. Dance parties erupted absolutely anywhere, from the streets of Bologna to the Colosseum and ancient Greek archeological sites. Our comfort zones were all pushed, whether by making compost, trekking conditions, or having to repack every week.
The group undoubtably lived up to their name — meraki. The Greek word is used to describe doing something with your full self; a dedicated offering of soul, creativity, and passion. It is a high standard, and yet, one that they met day-in and day-out throughout the program. Every contact we worked with commented on the enthusiasm, maturity, and wonderful spirit of the group. They made a lasting impression on and connection with all who crossed our path, breaking down many assumptions and stereotypes about Americans in the process. We hosted a drumming performance, countless dance parties, and even a real American Thanksgiving celebration — a memorable first for all of our guests! They were blown away by both the amount of food on the table and heart that went into the meal.
As OEs, our experience is entirely shaped by the students in the group: their dynamic, their enthusiasm and commitment, their personal goals, their respect for each other, leadership, locals, and the communities that are hosting us. We have absolutely loved and cherished our time with your inspiring family members and friends, who are all equally thoughtful, fun-loving, compassionate, and enthusiastic. They created such an incredibly positive and inclusive dynamic and energy, which they applied to every activity presented to them. We see such bright futures for Aidan, Alex, Chloe, Clemmie, David, Kai, Liam, Mackenzie, and Vivi. We are excited for them all to continue to travel, connect, and learn in whatever way they see fit. We truly miss them already!
It was a privilege to spend the last two and a half months traveling with them, singing with them, and learning from their insights. Due to their humor, passion, and attitudes, it rarely felt like work. It feels fair to attribute that those reading this influenced them growing into the wonderful individuals they are today. For that we want to deeply thank you. Thank you for sharing them with us this fall and supporting them throughout this journey. We are sure they have endless stories and realizations to share with you. We hope you cherish every moment you have with them; we know we have.
All our love and admiration,
Adam & Mara