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Living in Greece - A Guide for Students

by Mark Bennett

What's it like to study abroad in Greece?

As a postgraduate travelling to study for a Masters in Greece, you'll be following in some impressive footsteps. Some of the most important figures in antiquity were educated in Greece, including Alexander the Great and various Roman Emperors. Today Greece continues to be an attractive destination for international students and it's not hard to see why. There are few other countries where you can study in an educational culture with a two-thousand year heritage, be surrounded by some of the most important historical sites in the western world, and spend your downtime relaxing in a Mediterranean climate, enjoying excellent local cuisine.

Key facts for Masters students in Greece

  • The academic year in Greece usually runs from September to August.
  • Around 33,000 foreign students study at Greek universities.
  • Greece spends approximately 4.1% of GDP on education.
  • The language of Greece is Greek, descended from, but distinct from, Ancient Greek - one of the oldest written languages in the world.
  • The Greek term for a Masters degree is 'metaptychiakó'.
  • The currency of Greece is the Euro (€).
  • Greece has a population of around 11 million, about 3.8 million of whom live in the capital, Athens, and the surrounding region of Attica.
  • Greece is a parliamentary republic, with an elected parliament designating a presidential head of state, but with most power vested in the Prime Minister.
  • Freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed in Greece, but the Greek Orthodox Church is the most prominant faith.

Culture, leisure and everyday life for Masters students in Greece

As a Masters student you will be resident in Greece for at least a year, which means you'll have some great opportunities to make the most of your time living at the heart of the ancient Mediterranean. The majority of Greek universities are based in and around the cities of Athens, in the south, and Thessaloniki, in the north. Both of these areas offer an exceptional selection of heritage sites, including the Athenian Parthenon and Agora as well as numerous Roman remains at Thessaloniki. Other sites, such as the oracle at Delphi or the remains of Olympia (site of the original Olympic Games from 776 BC) may be best visited by joining a coach party. A large number of operators are available and basic packages are relatively inexpensive.

Daily life in Greek cities combines modern bustle with more relaxed traditions. During busy periods a city like Athens can be a hive of activity, but many Greek businesses still close for an afternoon siesta and residents appreciate the chance to enjoy some good food and company after a day's work.

Food and drink

Greece has become famous for a healthy 'Mediterranean diet' based on fish, healthy oils, legumes and small amounts of good quality grilled meat. As a resident student in the country you'll have a chance to sample some more familiar foods, such as feta cheese, olives and flatbreads as well as other dishes such as gigandes (giant lima beans in herb and tomato sauce), dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with rice and seasonings) or saganaki (a lightly fried cheese in breadcrumbs). Greek wine is also excellent and, though relatively underappreciated today, was considered some of the best in the ancient world. Meanwhile, Greece's most famous spirit, ouzo, is available in a range of local varieties and provides an excellent accompaniment to an evening's relaxation in the Mediterranean sun.

Accommodation and living costs for Masters students in Greece

Costs for some goods and services in Greece have risen in recent years, but the country is still a relatively inexpensive place to live as a student. Smaller cafes and diners are often a good source of cheap food using local ingredients, with a good meal costing no more than €10-12 ($14-17) or so. Some universities may offer subsidised dining options to students, but if you are in self-catered accommodation you will still be able to take advantage of markets to pick up ingredients for home-cooking. Supermarkets and hypermarkets will also be a good source of affordable food and other groceries, though they may be located away from city centres.

Some universities will be able to offer accommodation (or may maintain a list of recommended local landlords). In Athens and Thessaloniki the large number of students has led to the establishment of private rental flats and student hostels. These may cost as little as €300 ($410) or less per month, but their quality may vary and you may benefit by seeking advice from your institution or asking if they can put you in touch with existing international students.

Working whilst studying a Masters in Greece

As you might expect in a country with large numbers of international tourists, there is a strong demand for English-speaking workers in Greece. Though regulations govern rights to work for foreigners, attitudes to employment within the country can appear quite casual (particularly for irregular or seasonal work). Nonetheless, you should be wary of any apparent loopholes: less scrupulous employers may allow you to work without proper registration, but you'll have little recourse if they refuse to pay you as agreed.

Casual work in the summer will usually be easy to obtain in hospitality and related services, though you may need to undertake some initial health and safety certification in order to work with food. EU citizens will usually be able to work upon receipt of their resident's permit (see our article on studying for a masters in greece for information on visas and immigration for international students in greece). nationals of other countries are best advised to contact a greek embassy in order to inquire about their employment rights in greece.

You can also use PostgraduateFunding.com to search a comprehensive database of small grants available to all postgraduate students. These can help top up your funding if you have any difficulty finding work alongside your studies.

Other useful information for Masters students in Greece

By now you should have a good idea of what to expect from the experience of living and studying abroad in Greece. You should be able to find accommodation, look for a part-time job and budget for your living costs with some time left to find a taverna with a good bouzouki player, or relax with a copy of Plato beneath the shadow of the Acropolis. Of course, you'll need to sort a few more mundane details as well. Click 'read more' for a brief introduction to travel, banking and healthcare for Masters students in Greece.

Travel and transportation

Most international students arrive in Greece by plane and the country has several major airports in and around large cities such as Athens. Ferry travel is also available and passenger services operate internationally as well as between the Greek mainland and associated islands such as Crete. Metropolitan subway services exist in Athens and Thessaloniki, despite the difficulty of installing subterranean infrastructure in a country with so much archaeological heritage. In fact, some stations even make a virtue of this difficulty, with passengers able to see some of the materials that have been unearthed or sites that have been revealed.

Money and banking

Banks are available in all major Greek cities and will be able to perform useful services such as exchanging international currency and operating deposit accounts. They are open Monday to Friday, but will usually close on Friday afternoons.


EU and EEA students may be entitled to free healthcare provision, depending on reciprocal arrangements between Greece and their home country. Others may need to take out some form of private cover, but your local Greek embassy should be able to advise you as to your requirements and responsibilities.

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