The Remaking of the Self IMG 2315
20 Jul 2022

The Remaking of the Self

Article by CYA Spring ’22 alumna Nicole Zembski.

When choosing to study abroad it might be difficult to decide what classes to take as CYA offers an abundance of them and they all sound fascinating. While someone might be quick to choose one with the most field trips, I would recommend looking a little further and taking psychology: Trauma and the Remaking of the Self. This was by far my favorite class that I took at CYA as I learned so much from it, saw my relationship with my classmates grow, and really got to know my teacher as an individual. In this blog post, I will give you the inside scoop about Eleni Koukouna and the psychology class that she teaches here at CYA.

Professor Eleni Koukouna attended Aristotle University of Thessaloniki where she studied psychology and then she did her masters in Britain, focusing on neuropsychology. Since then she has worked in various hospitals and organizations as a psychologist. Recently she has been teaching trauma psychology here at CYA. She also has her own private practice that she’s been focusing on while working at CYA. Overall is an experienced professional and she brings that experience into the classroom.

2022 marks professor Koukouna’s third year teaching here at CYA. She started teaching at CYA because her friend worked here and she was very impressed at what they do and the work they have accomplished. So when they were looking for a psychology teacher, her friend reached out to her. When first asked about coming to teach, Professor Koukouna was skeptical because she was more used to and liked working with clinical patients. But she stepped outside her comfort zone and took the challenge. She says she is so happy she chose to do it, and that she deeply enjoys it.

“It is like taking all your past knowledge and putting it into words, passing it down to young-gifted people ”. She says there’s a  lot you take back from it so she’s incredibly happy with her choice.

When I asked her about her transition going into the teaching realm, she said it was a bumpy ride! She was heavily pregnant when she started teaching so it made things a lot harder. To be exact, she was eight months pregnant, and to add a cherry on top, covid had just started! All those circumstances,  made her start in teaching hard, but very unique at the same time. Last year she taught all her classes via zoom which is very different from her usual class planning.

A fascinating thing about her class that she likes is that she can improvise, adapt, and change or add things so she can ensure things are never boring. So that freedom and flexibility to really come up with her own plans and be able to change them is what really intrigues her most about the class.

When asked what she loves most about teaching this course she said, “Since it is a very heavy course with difficult topics, the students who choose to take it are really driven. They know exactly why they are here and they have a lot to bring to the classroom”. This is what really keeps her going because she is so proud of her students and thinks it is an incredible reward to see all that they do and the fact that they push themselves to learn more and do the best they can.

She thinks the most important thing about her class is the fact that a lot of people can relate to trauma whether they have experienced it themselves or know someone who has been going through similar experiences. She thinks the class is very real and not theoretical, which I completely agree with. The class touches on subjects that I think everyone can relate to in some way, so it makes learning about it and talking about various situations much rawer. I think it hits close to home for a lot of individuals which is why the conversations within our class are so valued. We all listen to each other and give advice, and are all very open with each other. We also talked about education and what can be done within the classroom which can be important knowledge to students. For one assignment, we chose a topic within the subject of trauma, and we taught it to the class. Professor Koukouna loves this because she says she learns a lot more along with the students, and it is very fascinating to see what students choose. Throughout these presentations, we have engaging conversations. These conversations are part of why taking this class is a valuable experience.

Something Koukouna thinks the students gain from taking her course is becoming familiar with the overall experience of trauma, especially within a different country. You learn more about its cultural aspects of it and how it functions within a different society. Although many students may have taken a psychology class within the US, taking it here is a different experience and involves slightly different practices, which you learn within the course.

One example is a field trip we took to Amina, an organization that aims to help refugee women in their host communities feel and behave as empowered actors. They offer information, aid in re-establishing a support network, psychosocial support, and other community-building services. They also collaborate with reputable organizations that provide legal, health, and vocational assistance. It was a very eye-opening and fascinating experience to be able to see an organization like this in Greece, and to see how they handle sensitive situations.

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Class visit to Amina NGO

I asked professor Koukouna what she would like students to take with them after they take this course. She said a core take is understanding the true meaning of trauma as something that is broad, personal, and different from one individual to another. Apart from an overall grasping of the concept of trauma, she would like students to become aware of new ways to deal with trauma that can help them or someone else in the future.

Although the topic is heavy, there’s a variety of things that lighten the course up. We make jokes, get to know each other, we take field trips, and we have guest lectures come in from time to time which I really enjoyed because you get to hear about their experiences and learn about the programs they work in which really broadened a lot of students knowledge about the field and what aspects it exactly entails.

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Guest Lecturer in class. Psychologist Eleni Panagiotakopoulou from SolidarityNow was invited to talk about on Refugee Camps in relation to psychological trauma

So when choosing your classes for your study abroad experience at CYA I highly suggest you take professor Koukouna’s course as she is an incredible human being and an amazing teacher who will teach you so much and make your study abroad experience very memorable. You will learn various things within her course and make strong bonds within her class that you will forever take away with you once the course is finished.

Article by CYA Spring ’22 alumna Nicole Zembski.