Thessaloniki Summer

Study & Volunteer on a Teaching Farm on the Mediterranean

Your academic home in Greece will be Perrotis College, also known as the American Farm School. This unique program is perfect for students interested in agriculture, animal husbandry, animal welfare, biology, veterinary medicine, horticulture, food science technology, environmental systems management and international agribusiness; all would benefit greatly from the experience to study and volunteer doing real, hands-on work in these fields.

The language of instruction is English – a lingua franca because the American Farm School was founded by Americans to serve students from the Balkan Countries who speak numerous languages. Students study and serve alongside Greek, Albanian, Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian and other European and international students.

Perrotis College is situated on unique rural acreage just outside of the bustling urban center of Thessaloniki and houses a state of the art-of-the-art Educational Dairy and Milk Processing Training center that includes a Holstein Friesian dairy herd that is ranked among the top 10% in the world and from which students help produce and market prize-winning dairy products. The college also houses a newly created on-campus elementary school dedicated to exposing children to environmental education through experiential-learning. The School has a long history of experiential-learning and sustainable-living and utilizes a blend of theory and practical experiences in outdoor classrooms, dairies, poultry farms, vineyards, fruit and olive orchards, vegetable gardens, greenhouses, field crop acreage and state-of-the-art science laboratories to give each student a hands-on education like no other.

I fell in love with Thessaloniki in a way that I have never loved before. Wandering around the city was healthy, exhilarating, and aligned with my desire to adventure. My study abroad experience was split between three places: Perrotis College, downtown Thessaloniki, and my home in Panorama. Perrotis College is a great place to study agriculture. My service-learning placement was at ARSIS. ARSIS is an NGO that partners with homeless street children located in downtown Thessaloniki. I taught art lessons and supported an English teacher during her English lessons. I lived with an awesome family in Panorama. My host mom Maria became my closest friend while I was abroad. She constantly supported me. We had a lot of fun.

One of my favorite travel experiences in Greece was exploring the anarchist district in Athens. I would recommend the program to anyone who is interested in agriculture, loves to explore, is politically conscious, and does not mind riding the bus. - Becca R., Seattle

Thessaloniki, the second largest city and capital of Central Macedonia, is a 2,300 year old city still playing a vital and active role as an integral international trading city for much of Southern Europe.  Thessaloniki has been called Greece’s ‘cultural capital.’ Those interested in Grecian history will adore Thessaloniki’s unique history as a symbol of the Byzantine Empire, a free state under Roman rule, captured during Ottoman rule, and the city where the Young Turk Revolution began. 

Where you'll stay in Thessaloniki

Students will live in a homestay on Perrotis campus with families of faculty and staff or off campus with local Greek families. All host families are carefully selected and experienced with hosting students. Living with local residents is part of the immersion experience. Instead of being a tourist, a student gets to know what it's like to be a "Thessalonikian."


The program welcomes students of any nation who have a high school diploma or equivalent credential. TOEFL equivalent 550. No Greek language requirement.



Located in Thessaloniki - a key academic and commercial center in Southeastern Europe - The American Farm School at Perrotis College enables students from every country of the world to engage in active, hands-on learning in both the humanities and sciences. Students interested in agriculture, animal husbandry, animal welfare, veterinary medicine, horticulture, food science technology, environmental systems management and international agribusiness would benefit greatly from the experience to study and volunteer doing real, hands-on work in these fields.  Humanities students will also find a variety of courses available in history, culture, language and more. Theory as well as practice is emphasized along with practical preparation for careers.

American Farm School Perrotis is housed on a century-old campus in Greece's second largest city in the Northeastern part of Greece. This small school (on a large and lush campus) hosts students both from Greece and a wide range of countries including Turkey, Italy, the Balkans, Serbia and many others. The holistic nature of the program is well-suited for students who want to "do and experience" as a complement to traditional academic learning.

With over 100 years of experience in educating the "whole individual: the head, the hands and the heart," the American Farm School is dedicated to the fusion of theory and practice in its agricultural, life science, business and animal welfare programs. The American Farm School established the Perrotis College of Agriculture, Environment and Life Sciences in 1996 and recently created a new Center for Agricultural Entrepreneurship in 2012 with a mission of creating healthy and sustainable entrepreneurship and educating future business owners. The college is unique in that it offers programs of study in more than just humanities and liberal arts. 

Required Courses

The Greek Cultural Experience

This course introduces students to various aspects of modern Greek life and culture, including basic elements of the Greek language, history, society and traditional dances. Through lectures and organized trips and tours, students are introduced to the basic concepts and experiences that will enable them to understand and respond to cultural differences. In addition, this class provides a forum through which they can reflect on and discuss their experiences.

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. credits: 3

Institutions in Greek Society

This Service-Learning course enables students to engage in volunteer work and service activities on the American Farm School (AFS) campus in the Thessaloniki area and in rural Greece. Students enrolled in this class perform 10-15 hours per week of volunteer service by choosing from a variety of activities, which can be done on an individual or group basis. These activities include doing volunteer work in one of the departments of the AFS Educational Farm (e.g. assisting the veterinarian or helping in the greenhouses, winery, or dairy and poultry units). Volunteers may also tutor high school students in English, work in the Daycare/Kindergarten School, or do volunteer service for charities, NGOs or ecologically-oriented organizations in the larger Thessaloniki area.

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. credits: 3


As a service-learning participant in Thessaloniki, Greece, you'll have the opportunity to do volunteer work in one of several local agencies. We do our best to match your skills and interests to the placement, but please remember that the notion of service is, first and foremost, to respond to the needs of others. You will be an active participat with a determined role among the team members, and enrich the projects and programs with your knowledge, experience, and hard work. Your impact on other people's lives will be powerful and sustainable, even if you don't see the results right away.

The service-learning program in Thessaloniki offers students the opportunity to experience service in a local city or on the American Farm School campus in rural Greece. Students perform 12-15 hours per week of volunteer service by choosing from a variety of agencies and organizations.

The following are some of the service opportunities that may be available:

Migration, Refugee and Human Rights
This organization addresses racism and xenophobia in and around Greece, along with the wider European continent. Programs involve peace studies, non-violent action, social change, upward mobility for minority groups, human ecology, and anti-racism.

Projects Address:
• Citizenship and Migration Issues Facing the EU (Asylum Seekers)
• Human Rights Abuses
• Education & School Systems
• Crime Prevention
• Mental and Physical Disabilities

Human Trafficking & Domestic Abuse
This NGO serves victims of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and domestic violence. Its primary service is providing a safe house for individuals suffering from “hopelessness” due to being the victims of sexual abuse, trafficking and exploitation. This shelter is open to men and children as well as women. Services include housing, food, clothing, and medical care. The NGO also provides individuals with psychological counseling and legal assistance. They work in coordination with authorities to visit women in detention centers to offer food and personal hygiene items. Their goal is to assist these women in starting their new lives.

Sustainability & Development
This collective (created by the Rockefeller Foundation) researches and helps prepare for the growing environmental, economic and social strains on our cities and population. The theme is “Resilience” - the power and strength to be resilient to these world ailments. The “Challenge” consists of a contest where (now up to 100) member cities have been selected by the campaign due to their progressive models for addressing the world's problems and exhibiting the best practices in being “resilient.” The long term goal is to institutionalize the practice of resilience so all 10,000 of the world’s cities can improve and work toward creating more supportive systems for their citizens.

ARSIS is an NGO located in the center of Thessaloniki that helps homeless street children (and their parents). Volunteers will be giving direct service to homeless and at-risk youth by providing English tutoring and peer social interaction through sports, art, and music. Volunteers tutor children between the ages of 8 and 16 in English and also participate in other activities connected to helping these children.

Asylum for the Child
This school is located within walking distance of campus and serves the children of economically disadvantaged families in Thessaloniki. Volunteers can work with classroom teachers in the elementary school, assisting them in a variety of ways but mostly helping them teach the children English.

This environmental organization works on conservation and environmental education programs. Volunteers can assist staff in caring for endangered animal species of Northern Greece, maintaining and staffing the visitors’ center and providing public conservation and environmental education.

American Farm School Educational Farm
Volunteers will assist the veterinarians, or help with the greenhouses, landscaping, winery, vineyard, orchards, dairy fields or poultry farms.

Dairy Farm
Volunteers will be responsible – working with supervisors – for the daily care and management of 250 dairy cows on a very unique farm. This includes feeding, milking, administering medication (learning to identify and treat basic cow diseases), managing the breeding process (detecting when a cow is in heat & performing artificial insemination), and calving and caring for new calves. Students will also clean and maintain the farm buildings and equipment.

Dairy Processing Farm
Volunteers will learn the processing procedures of milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese. Your main responsibility will be processing the products using the dairy technology at the farm and analyzing them in the lab. All volunteers will follow proper milk handling procedures when unloading and transferring milk and will learn good manufacturing, laboratory and safety procedures according to ISO regulations.

Poultry Farm
Watch chicks emerge from their shells after you learn how to inspect eggs and use the specialized machinery to understand and work all phases of the feeding and manufacturing process. Students will work on the farm in chicken processing, egg processing and assisting with packaging and labeling eggs to be marketed and sold.

Horticultural Department
Volunteers will assist in various plant research activities in the campus greenhouses and participate in research-based projects in sustainable agriculture. You'll learn first-hand about how what is grown relates to the amount of water available, making agriculture a field focused on evolving with the planet, not fighting it. Volunteers may also prune olive trees, harvest wheat, barley, and a wide variety of vegetables, all while learning and complying with ISO regulations.

School and Educational Programs
Volunteers may tutor students in English and engage in environmental education projects as well as provide direct assistance to staff engaged in fundraising.

Things to do

Travel is  an essential element of the study abroad summer experience. Through their explorations of Greece, students gain a unique awareness of the country, its culture and its resources, and are more fully able to apply their classroom learning to the Greek reality.

As part of the summer and semester onsite orientation upon arrival, students will be given a day-long guided city tour highlighting some of the important historical sites and museums in Thessaloniki. This will serve as an introduction to the rich history of this part of Greece as well as provide a logistical orientation to the city.

Examples of some additional excursions may include:

Mt. Olympus & Dion (two days, one night)

Students will enjoy a hike up to Mt. Olympus home of the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greek Mythology.

Athens (four days, three nights) 

Students will have the opportunity to spend four days in Athens exploring everything this 3,400 year old city has to offer.  Example: The Hellenic Parliament and the Acropolis. 

Optional Sailing Trip (four days, three nights, additional fee)

An unforgettable journey to the Aegean islands of Alonissos, Skiathos and Skopelos and the National Marine Park

In addition to the above trips, students taking the Greek Cultural Experience and other classes go on short excursions and field trips that are related to the class content, including visits to museums and markets, organic farms and vineyards, and nearby exhibitions and fairs.

All study abroad participants are encouraged—especially those in a semester program—to take part in all aspects of Perrotis College’s active student life. The Student Life Department and the Student Council organize numerous social, cultural and athletic activities for the entire student body, including barbecue parties and day trips to nearby hot springs, beaches, and ski resorts.

To help students make the most of their time in Greece and Southeastern Europe, we also help interested students organize their own weekend trips or excursions to various Greek islands and mainland destinations. Students in Thessaloniki may also work with program staff in Thessaloniki and on the American Farm School campus to arrange for independent travel to other regions of Greece. A visit to Mt. Athos (the oldest surviving monastic community in the world and a designated World Heritage site) and Phillip II's (Father of Alexander the Great) tomb and museum are popular and there are many opportunities to experience the natural beauty of the region. Camping, river rafting, beach excursions and gorge hiking experiences abound.

As with all travel, weather and other travel hindrances can affect the exact destinations of excursions. In such cases, program staff make every effort to find suitable replacement itineraries.

AFSNext seal of approval

This program is implemented by a trusted organization within the AFSNext partnership community and has our full endorsement. While not managed or operated by AFS, it maintains the same exceptional quality standards, which are set by a network of experienced international non-profits operating within the international education field.