Counseling Students Learn to Work Cross-Culturally in Greece

PBA Orlando counseling students pose for a photo in Greece. They learned about ethnicity and multicultural issues in counseling while they were immersed in Greek culture.PBA Orlando students had an eye-opening experience in Greece as they were immersed in a culture where they couldn’t even understand the alphabet.

Ten graduate students in counseling took Dr. Andrea Tackore’s “Ethnicity & Multicultural Issues in Counseling” course, with most of the instruction happening abroad. Dr. David Lawson, professor of psychology and counseling, handled logistics — not to mention early morning wake-up calls. Students and faculty stayed at the Greek Bible College, the only evangelical Bible college in the region.

Greece is an ideal location in that “99 percent of the time, our students are going to have no connection to Greece,” said Tackore, assistant professor of counseling. “I can take advantage of that in the classroom to really tap into what they’re feeling and experiencing.”

Students are on equal footing — uncomfortable, surrounded by the unfamiliar and sometimes feeling like “the other” for the first time in their lives. For example, the trip may be the first time someone turned around and stared at them because they spoke a different language on the metro.

“When they come to class, it’s raw. It’s real,” Tackore said. “It becomes an opportunity to be far more honest and real with each other about how we handle difference.”

PBA Orlando counseling students feel like "fish out of water" as they learn about multicultural issues in counseling firsthand by being immersed in a culture where they don't even know the alphabet.Students read “Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships” by Sherwood G. Lingenfelter and Marvin K. Mayers and took a six-dimensional assessment of how they view the world. While they were in Greece, they evaluated how their assumptions about “how things are supposed to be done” affected their relationships with others, Tackore said.

Student Valentina Ellis has lived in France, Great Britain and Switzerland and traveled extensively in Spain. Yet she still felt like “very much like a fish out of water” in Greece because the language and culture were so different.

“I have another a layer, a sense that our world is very, very big,” Ellis said. “The more that I learn, the more I realize that I don’t know. It’s never good to assume anything.”

Faculty previously conducted research on students who took the class in the U.S. and in Greece and found that students who took the course in the U.S. thought they understood multicultural issues better than they actually did, Lawson said. Students who took the course in Greece thought they knew less, even though they knew more.

Students also visited the red light district in Athens. It was one of the most “disheartening and frustrating” experiences for Sherry Turner. Viorica Tataru, of Nea Zoi (New Life), led a prayer walk and taught students about the human trafficking problem in Greece.

Greece is considered a training ground for women from Eastern Europe or North Africa, who are then trafficked to the United States. Traffickers tell women they are free to leave the brothels and then hire thugs to beat them up on the street when they go. In doing so, traffickers trick the women into relying on them for protection, Lawson said.

It offered a valuable lesson to future counselors like Turner: You can’t look at a person and judge them.

“You need to really take the time to get to know their story,” Turner said. “They may have a smile on their face, but they’re hiding a lot of sadness and trauma in their lives. There are so many hurting people out there that are hiding behind closed doors.”

Counseling students Valentina Ellis, Sherry Turner and Admelyz Bueno pose for a photo in Greece. Bueno's boyfriend also flew to Greece and surprised her with a marriage proposal.Just as they are in Greece, young girls are being trafficked into the sex industry in downtown Orlando. Based on population, Orlando ranks third in the nation — behind Washington, D.C., and Atlanta — for calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

The trip, particularly not knowing the language, also reminded Turner to be patient with people. Some Greeks were more willing to teach their language and customs than others.

“The more you travel abroad, the more you recognize the way we do things in the U.S. is only one way of doing things,” Turner said. “It causes you to realize that you need to be curious about people’s lives and listen to their stories with a very open mind.”

Photo 1: PBA Orlando counseling students pose for a photo in Greece. They learned about ethnicity and multicultural issues in counseling while they were immersed in Greek culture - which was totally foreign to most of them.

Photo 2: PBA Orlando counseling students feel like "fish out of water" as they learn about multicultural issues in counseling firsthand by being immersed in a culture where they don't even know the alphabet.

Photo 3: Counseling students Valentina Ellis, Sherry Turner and Admelyz Bueno pose for a photo in Greece. Bueno's boyfriend also flew to Greece and surprised her with a marriage proposal.