The traditional Mediterranean lifestyle, a cluster of habits and practices that have been associated with various health benefits, is the heritage of millennia of exchanges of people and cultures of all countries around the Mediterranean basin. With a view of spreading the core constituents of the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle and passing the knowledge regarding its beneficial effects on health, the program, Lifestyles of the Mediterranean, aims to introduce this traditional lifestyle pattern to students of the modern era, through observing traditional practices and undertaking experiential activities.
- Familiarize with and experience the concept of the Mediterranean lifestyle as a holistic way of living, incorporating not only lifestyle practices but also other social, cultural and religious aspects of life.
- Study the history and the evolution of the Mediterranean lifestyle in local institutions, libraries, museums and monumental sites, under the supervision of expert instructors.
- Engage with local community members to observe and practice traditional techniques regarding food production, preservation and cooking, to take part in everyday traditional rural activities, and to taste local Mediterranean recipes.
- Communicate with local experts to familiarize with the scientific evidence regarding the health benefits of the Mediterranean lifestyle and ways on how to communicate this beneficial lifestyle to the public.
- Participate in various outdoor activities, including excursions to places of natural beauty and collective sports activities in nature, and enjoy the Mediterranean climate and scenery.
Your Host Country: Greece
The program will take place in Greece, where the Mediterranean lifestyle has been implemented for thousands of years and extensively studied since the first description of the Mediterranean diet in 1950s by Ancel Keys in the context of The Seven Countries Study. Greece is the cradle of Western civilization, and the birth place of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama, including both tragedy and comedy. In addition, Greece is the home country of Hippocrates, a physician who lived during Greece’s Classical period, and is traditionally regarded as the father of medicine. His famous quote "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" is the cornerstone of current integrated and lifestyle medicine. Although small, Greece is huge in its cultural and natural diversity, being a cultural crossroad of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and encompassing landscapes that remain incredibly vivid and of unrivaled beauty; the country provides the opportunity to explore numerous cultural sites, over 5,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, and mountainous mainland with a breath-taking scenery.
The program offers a unique opportunity for students to study and experience the adoption of the Mediterranean lifestyle in everyday life, combining theoretical lectures with experiential activities to cover its fundamental principles and components. These include the adoption of the Mediterranean diet, along with a physically active lifestyle (emphasis on group outdoor activities), and other lifestyle habits that have been found beneficial for health (e.g., adequate rest, relaxation, hydration, conviviality during meals and exercise). During the 2-week program, some days will be devoted to theoretical lectures or discussion sessions on the scientific and culture themes of the day, followed by relevant experiential activities or study and research in libraries of local institutions. Other days will be devoted entirely to field trips, excursions and interactive educational activities, including visits to monumental sites, demonstrations of Mediterranean lifestyle practices by local community members, cooking classes and tasting of Mediterranean recipes in traditional food-service establishments, as well as collective sports activities in nature.
Tentative 2017 Syllabus
During the first week, the program’s educational activities will take place in Athens, the capital of Greece, one of the world's oldest cities. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state, a centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, and it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely because of its cultural and political impact on the European continent and in particular the Romans. In modern times, Athens is a large cosmopolitan metropolis and central to economic, financial, industrial, maritime, political and cultural life in Greece. While in Athens, students will visit monumental sites and archaeological places, including the Parthenon and the Acropolis museum, traditional food markets and establishments, as well as experience other opportunities that the city has to provide. The program will end with a 5-day trip to Peloponnese, famous for its history, cultural tradition, food production sector and landscape. In specific, students will visit Nemea, Mykines, Epidaurus, Nafplio, Kranidi, as well as the nearby Spetses Island. While in Peloponnese, students will have the opportunity to visit cultural sites and learn about the ancient Mycenaean civilization, cover the basics of olive oil and traditional spirits production, nutritional value and health benefits, familiarize with the concept of Greek breakfast and its contribution to health, taste traditional Mediterranean recipes, and participate in walking tours, botanical hiking, folklore dance lessons and cooking demonstrations with local products. Students will also have the opportunity to visit the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies in Nafplio, a unique international center equipped with cutting-edge technology to bring the academic resources of Harvard to Greece, and to foster collaboration between scholars of different nations to promote a greater understanding of Hellenic civilization. During their visits there, students can take advantage of the center’s services, such as studying in a quiet environment, accessing books, papers and other useful and unique resources from the digital library, as well as attend lectures from distinguished professors.
- Lectures, notes and other files relevant to the course’s learning objectives (printed and electronic material).
- Student portfolio (course overview and schedule, summary of learning outcomes, educational tasks, etc.)
- Leaflets relevant to the course’s educational and cultural activities (e.g., Athens-Attica Guide and Gastronomy, Ministry of Tourism, Greek National Tourism Organisation).
- Research papers relevant to the course’s learning objectives (e.g., Bach-Faig A et al. Mediterranean diet pyramid today. Science and cultural updates. Public Health Nutr. 2011 Dec; 14 (12A): 2274-84.).
- Textbook: Foundations for a Healthy Lifestyle, edited by Labros Sidossis.
Students will have a portfolio of evidence in which they will record all the information necessary to demonstrate the completion of the specific objectives and any other relevant information. More specifically, students will describe and evaluate their experiences in Greece, as well as undertake short educational activities associated with the program’s topics, in order to help cover the program’s main learning objectives and assess the knowledge, the skills and the competencies they obtained. The portfolio will be completed through the PAL (Peer Assisted Learning) method. The term PAL essentially means that each student will work in collaboration with at least one other student in order to develop their knowledge and skills.
All students are expected to work in small groups (4-5 students) to prepare a 15-minute presentation related to the course’s learning objectives. Graduate students are also expected to complete an individual written assignment (2000 words) related to the course’s learning objectives. The presentation and written assignment topics will be assigned at the beginning of the course.
Accommodations and Meals
Accommodation and most meals are included in the program’s fees. In Athens, students will stay at a hotel close to the center of the city, while in Peloponnese students will stay at a hotel in Nafplio town (1-day trips included will not require accommodation). Meals will be either offered in the selected accommodations or provided by local establishments as part of the program’s educational activities. If students want to purchase extra foods or snacks, there will be opportunities for them to visit local supermarkets (not included in the program’s cost, as applies to any other personal expenses). In all locations, bedding (sheets, pillows, blankets if necessary) will be provided, although students are welcome to bring their own equipment if they prefer.