Orientation, lectures and “culture”

The first day of the program started with an early morning walk through the city to Aristotle University’s Research Dissemination Center, where, first, Professor Tokmakidis officially opened the program with a summary of this year’s contents and a brief talk on the significance of taking notes, expressing ideas and focussing not only on criticism of the status quo but also on constructive suggestions. Followed a presentation of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki by Professor Papadopoulou who finished with a few words she borrowed from the speech of the mayor of Ichinomiya, during last year’s GSP: “change can only come from the young, the strangers and the simple-minded.” The morning orientation ended with an explanation of the characteristics of GSP and of the objectives of the program this year by Chiba U staff. Emphasis was given on what we mean by collaborativity and what are the challenges associated with it.

AUTh had prepared for us a series of surprises: a badge for each student, with the first name written in Greek (for Chiba U students) or in Japanese (for AUTh students), and a bag with plenty of useful stationery, including a clipping board that was to be cherished throughout the program, eventually filled on the last day with messages and signatures from other fellow students. Also, we were joined by three participants from last year’s GSP, Evgenia, Anastasia and Xanthi, who were to be the teaching assistants of this year’s program (despite the fact that they all had already graduated and at least one of them was working full time, thus using her yearly holidays to help with the program). The TAs already surprised us with their initiatives: they had prepared a diary with each student’s name that they would distribute to students everyday and collect back throughout the two weeks. At the end of the program, they were planning to make a presentation based on these diary entries, which revealed themselves to be quite interesting and, some of them, unique in their own way.


The orientation session was followed by the lecture of Professor Thoidou, who had kindly also taken part in the program two years ago with a fascinating talk on the development of the seafront of Thessaloniki. This year, Professor Thoidou’s lecture, “Culture and Local Development: Sustainability and Creativity Approaches”, considered the role of culture in evaluating the territorial potential of a locality under development. The lecture introduced three models of the relationship between culture and sustainable development, which were to have a big impact in the way students came to conceptualize their proposals at the end of the program. In fact, some students replaced in their final presentations “culture” with “archaeological site”, using the venn diagrams shown below.


Lunch was also a surprise. Professor Papadopoulou had arranged for the members of the Agios Antonios’ Women’s Co-operative that we had visited two years ago to come and offer us some of their local and freshly cooked products, of which the pies remain an unforgettable dish. During the break, the vice-chancellor of AUTh also made a visit and greeted us, wishing the best for the two weeks to come.


The afternoon started with the cultural presentations prepared by teams of students from each university. The tone was mostly serious as students had to keep the time limit of 10 minutes in mind, but all went well in the end, and we had the chance to discover some interesting facets of each other’s contemporary societies.


Following the presentations, we held a short workshop so that students start getting used to working in groups, trying out their cross-cultural communication skills, and attempting to use ideas from the cultural presentations to think already about eventual public archaeology proposals. This was made possible by an exercise that started before the cultural presentations, as shown in the slides below.

It was a very long day and a long walk back (although we had the time to check on the location of the local laundromat). After a very brief meeting outside the hotel, the day was over and students took the time to discover the city.


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