Gordon in Greece: Alumna Directs Newly Approved Study Abroad Option
What would it be like in 2023 to stand in the spot in Thessaloniki where the Apostle Paul preached the gospel in 49 A.D.? Gordon students will soon have the chance to find out thanks to a new partnership with the American College of Thessaloniki (ACT).
“Greece is one of those places that kind of calls to people,” says Heather (Funk) Theodoridi ’00. Theodoridi is in her eighth year as the director of international programs and student services at ACT. She is thrilled at the opportunity for Gordon students to experience the place that stole her heart. “[ACT is for] somebody who wants to come to a place where history, modern life and the Bible are all walking together, every day, all the time.”
Theodoridi’s passion for international affairs took root during her time at Gordon. She served on a missions team to Mexico, then took on a study abroad experience in Spain. After Spain Theodoridi returned to Mexico as a translator. “I think the translation experience for me was really powerful because it helped develop my current leadership style.” After graduation Theodoridi carried her enthusiasm for global experiences to a career in international education, ultimately leading her to ACT in Greece in 2015.
ACT was founded in 1886 by Armenian and American missionaries from the Boston area. Modeled after a traditional New England college, ACT stands out for cultivating an environment that allows students to experience rich history and culture alongside the lifestyle amenities that make campus life feel closer to home. “We’ve developed study abroad services that are very similar to what a student would have in the US regarding housing, residence life, emergency medical care, mental health support, trips, clubs, sports activities and service learning,” says Theodoridi. This setup is uniquely structured to ensure students succeed while still serving as an international growth opportunity.
These differentiators are part of the work of the postgraduate fellows who work under Theodoridi. In 2021 she experienced an unlikely connection while interviewing a candidate for her third fellow in Greece. Hannah Vincent ’22 stood out to Theodoridi for her own experience studying abroad. It wasn’t until the interview began that they uncovered their shared alma mater.
In her fellowship role Vincent works with the activities team to support student life at ACT. “She has been instrumental in helping organize our website, launch intramural sports and assist with the varsity teams,” says Theodoridi. “Her work immediately yielded results that we saw through the positive results on the fall student satisfaction survey.”
Currently the ACT study abroad program is available to psychology and English students at Gordon, with a business program in progress for fall 2023. ACT has 52 active partnerships globally, including with Northeastern, Michigan State and Rutgers; Gordon is one of only two Council for Christian Colleges & Universities schools to partner with them.
“I see the potential with ACT and the structures they have in place for students to delve in and not just exist on their own far away from Gordon for a semester, but also be poured into and expanded in a safe way where there’s a mutual trust, “ says Lis Whittet ‘04, director of global education and extended studies at Gordon.
The new ACT opportunity is one of 26 approved study abroad programs for Gordon students. Gordon also hosts its own signature programs in Orvieto, Italy, and in Croatia (the Balkans Semester). These programs provide the ideal by which Gordon’s study abroad opportunities are measured, supporting students in community as they experience the world and learn to thrive.