Staff Spotlight: Vasso Matrakouka

Short Term Programs Manager


Vasso Matrakouka was born and raised in Athens. She studied Travel and Tourism Management in the School of Tourism in Anavyssos, Greece. She also holds a B.A. in Human Communication from the University of Indianapolis Athens Campus. After working for several years in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry in Greece and Europe, Vasso joined CYA in 2011 where she is managing the Short Term Programs Department coordinating study travel as well as faculty led programs.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I have fond memories of my trip to Portugal. I participated in an exchange program of Dundee College when I was studying in Scotland. We spent 2 weeks in Setubal and Lisbon where we visited the World Expo 1998, and enjoyed camping, mountain biking, wine tasting, sailing and learning from local students and faculty all about the wonderful culture of this beautiful country which is in many ways similar to Greece. I was 21 years old and that trip, along with the year I spent in Scotland, opened my heart and mind and made me fall in love with traveling.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

When I started working for CYA, about 9 years ago, I was amazed by the people, the premises, the organization and the care that everyone put in their work so that CYA students and faculty led program participants have a fulfilling and memorable experience. In the first six months I had fallen in love with my work and everything about CYA. CYA became a base, a stable family, that gave me a sense of belonging where I was trusted and supported. I feel blessed to have such a strong support in my working environment as it has helped me flourish and mature in many ways in my personal life.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

The most exiting stories come from students who, when they arrived in Athens, were away from home for the first time, not certain on what to expect or how to continue with their academic and working careers but following one semester or a full year at CYA they managed to find orientation and meaning by discovering a talent, a theme for research, a new science that they would like to serve and because of this they decided to make a major but fulfilling change in their life which became the starting point for their future excellence. This is what makes CYA is a life changing experience!

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would certainly choose the brand new Gap program we created for this fall!
Learning from the Ancients: a Hands-on Approach to Life from the Ancient Times to Today's Healthy Living is a solid 10 week program on Greek language, culture and history. Participants will spend 5 weeks at an Athenian seaside excavation site learning next to Greek university students and under the instruction and supervision of CYA faculty and the director of the excavation. The rest of the time will be spent visiting Athenian landmarks and points of cultural interest, learning Greek and traveling within Greece. Lastly, participants will spend a week on the island of Kos at the "Ancient House Hippocrates Garden" where they will learn how to plant and tend herbs and coexist in harmony with cedar trees, vineyards, and the fruit bearing trees of the garden under the guidance of Julie Zafeiratou, the owner of the garden.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

The uniqueness of CYA lies in the people who work for CYA: first-rate faculty who are distinguished in their field of study and research and who, each in their unique way, guide students through their classes and study travel to discover and love Greece and it's wonderful culture. We have a team of CYA staff who are always available to provide support, assistance, guidance, numerous tips and ideas for exploration and a loving word when that is most needed. We are a team and we love what we do! I felt especially proud of the Short Term Programs team and the greater CYA team when we hosted the Cedar Crest College sophomore expedition to Athens in March 2019 with 165 participants. Also, it was a superb experience and we were all thrilled when CYA hosted the 3rd European Conference of the Forum on Education Abroad in 2016.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Under the shadow of the pandemic that has turned the world and our lives upside down and has shaken our sense of stability, I strongly believe that the biggest factor for success is flexibility that goes along with adaptation and adjustment to whatever each day brings. In order to be flexible you need a solid and stable base which you can in a sense "expand" but where you can always return to and from there move on again to the future step. The next and equally important ingredient for the success of any company, are the people who comprise it and breath in life to each and every little thing that makes the company actually be. CYA has both these ingredients!