εντός και εκτός έδρας: The Greek students who don’t want to go home this summer

‘Everything is unstable right now, everyone is unsure’


For hundreds of Greek students studying in the UK, the economic crisis, which will culminate at midnight tonight in a vote on whether to remain in the Eurozone, isn’t just another headline, it’s part of their home-life. Some of them are forgoing the chaos entirely, and staying in the UK this summer, even if it means not seeing their families.

Eleni Mitzali is a graduating Architecture student from Agios Nikolaos, a tiny summer area close to Saronida, an hour south of Athens.

Eleni’s plan to return to Greece at the end of this month for a holiday before coming back to the UK has been deeply affected by the crisis. She said:  “After all of this there’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to go back at all. I feel that I don’t really deserve a vacation when I should really focus on the next stage of my career and not get sucked into what’s happening back in my home country.”

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Eleni is living in England this summer

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Eleni celebrating her graduation

The Nottingham grad, who is also half-American, is now considering going back to the US instead of Greece. She describes herself as “lucky” for not being stuck in the middle of the crisis thanks to her links to other countries.

She said: “We always knew the situation was bad and that it was only getting worse, but now the world is watching things are happening for once. To be honest I was worried about how things are back home so i keep asking my friends what it’s like, but really life hasn’t changed. People are still enjoying their life, going out and seeing their friends.

“It’s the money and job issues which have affected everyone – but Greeks have a mentality to still be happy and try and enjoy life.”

Like Eleni, Odysseas Sclavounis is also planning to stay in the UK for better employment opportunities after finishing his studies.

Odysseas, who is currently doing a Master’s in Comparative Government at Oxford, says his decision to stay in the UK over the summer isn’t directly related to the crisis in Greece, but admits: “I did want to find a job for the summer and I knew that I was unlikely to find one in Greece. But I could just as well have decided to go to France – I’m half French – and I wanted to be close to Oxford for my research.”

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Odysseas in Athens

Although he says his family isn’t representative of “typical Greeks”, the post-grad adds: “Things have been tough for us, but nowhere near what it has been for some of my friends and there families. For those of us that have links to other European countries I think things are easier.”

Odysseas’ family are still in Greece at the minute, but his father is considering moving to another European country, a decision he says was definitely motivated by the crisis.

“He planned to retire in Greece, but now all that has changed because the economic conditions are too uncertain.”

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After his final exam

Odysseas and his family are originally from Athens, but he hasn’t been home to Greece since December last year.

“I certainly wouldn’t go back just to find any normal job. What I would consider going back for would be a job that is explicitly focused on making the place better.”

Despite taking a grad job in England, Spiros Papadopoulos, who is just graduating from his Master’s degree in Equine Dentistry at Leeds Beckett, says the crisis hasn’t put him off going home.

He said: “Greece is a place like no other, and despite austerity people are still for the most part chilled out and hospitable. My decision to stay here is based on professional progression, but if I hadn’t found a job I’d have gone home for a holiday.”

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Spiros in Greece

Like Odysseas, Spiros is from Athens, where is family still live. He said: “They’re happy to stay in Athens. Life goes on as usual, and not everyone is running through the streets crying. But it is harder to find a grad job. People I know who live in Greece permanently do struggle to find work after five years of austerity.

“I am proud of my country but I don’t believe in boundaries and I consider myself a citizen of the world.”

Zoi Millia, a first year at Liverpool, says she was considering cancelling her tickets to revisit home this summer because of how bad things are. She said: “People can’t get more than £40 out of the bank a day. Everything is unstable right now, everyone is unsure. One of my relatives is a police officer and has seen people raiding supermarkets.”

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Zoi at an event in Liverpool

Zoi’s family were able to take some of the family’s savings from the bank just a day before the government imposed a limit on what could be withdrawn, but she says they are still “nervous and scared”.

“It’s hard to pay the bills as well right now as you can imagine. Every single person I’ve spoken to, not just my family, are so stressed. Moving out of Greece is definitely a possibility.”

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Zoi at the Acropolis

Zoi doesn’t graduate from Liverpool until 2017, but doesn’t see herself returning to her home country. She explained: “The reason I came here to study is because there’s less unemployment than there is in Greece.
“I know it’s sounds like I don’t care about my country and I care more about myself, but I want a better future with opportunities and a good career – and I don’t think my country is in a position to offer that to me or anyone else.”