Though Still in Greece, International Student Finds Home at Widener

Hilary Bentman, Assistant Director of Communications
Greek international student Thanos Tziatzioulis standing in front of the sea
Computer science major Thanos Tziatzioulis ’24, a native of Greece, is a recipient of a #YouAreWelcomeHere scholarship.

Like many of his fellow freshmen, Thanos Tziatzioulis ’24 spent his first semester at Widener University learning remotely due to COVID-19. But Tziatzioulis may win the prize for most remote.

That’s because he’s currently in his home country of Greece, more than 5,000 miles from Chester. The pandemic has temporarily prevented the international student and computer science major from coming to the campus where he will spend his college career. 

In fact, Tziatzioulis has never even visited Widener.

Still, he says his fellow students and professors have made him feel welcome and part of the Widener community, even if it’s virtual. 

Tziatzioulis, who wanted to study in America for the educational opportunities, is a recipient of the #YouAreWelcomeHere scholarship, awarded to selected international undergraduate students dedicated to advancing intercultural learning and who have demonstrated leadership abilities through prior high school and community experiences.

Widener joined more than 50 other U.S. colleges and universities in offering these renewable scholarships to affirm that international students are welcomed and supported here, and that the university is committed to cultivating a diverse and inclusive community. 

Tziatzioulis is eager for the day when he can come to campus. In the meantime, we recently caught up with him to hear about the unusual start to his Widener experience. 

Why did you choose to study in the United States, and why Widener specifically?
I specifically chose the United States as I have visited the country on multiple occasions and just love the core values that it was founded upon. I was drawn to Widener as the small, focused class size appealed to me, along with the incredibly vibrant and diverse community present within the university. 

There is a 7-hour time difference between Chester and Athens. How do you manage any synchronous classes you’re taking?
My morning classes begin at 3 p.m. for me, and then my afternoon classes end at around 11 p.m. Greek time. Honestly, the schedule isn’t that much of an issue as we are under a lockdown, and there aren’t any places for me to be early in the morning, so I can work well into the night on my assignments and sleep in the next morning. 

What has been the most challenging part of the experience?
So far, the most challenging part for me was my adoption of a night schedule, whereby I’d have to make sure I wouldn’t miss a class or be late for one due to the confusion with having to compute U.S. time to Greek time. 

What has been your favorite part of being a Widener student?
My favorite part of being a Widener student so far was how the faculty tried as much as possible to make the virtual class experience as close as possible to an on-campus experience. Furthermore, everyone is just so nice and welcoming, which has been really important to me as an international student. 

The #YouAreWelcomeHere scholarship recognizes student leaders. How have you demonstrated leadership attributes?
During my high school years, I participated in multiple community outreach programs such as charity drives, community work, etc. The experience I am most proud of is when we ran a charity drive for sick children at my city’s largest public hospital. We asked everyone at school to bring toys and other items that would bring children who are in hospital joy, and we then brought them to the children just before Christmas. It was one of the most gratifying experiences I have been a part of so far. And I plan on continuing to organize such initiatives in the future. 

Have you found Widener to be a welcoming community?
Absolutely! Yes! Everyone has been super nice, and I’ve been made to feel welcome by both students and faculty alike.

Are you involved in any Widener organizations or activities?
Unfortunately, I am not yet involved in any campus-based organizations, but I am really looking forward to joining some!

What are your career goals, and do you see yourself living and working in Greece or somewhere else?
At the moment I am keeping my options open and will hopefully have a concrete path set out for a career soon. I want to spend the next two years or so developing my interests and desires, so as to be really sure of what I want to do. But one thing is for sure, I want to be involved with people and companies that have a deep passion for technology and have a strong desire to innovate. 

What do you do for fun?
I like to travel, mess around with technology, and also watch movies.

Give us three fun facts about yourself
•    I get really excited about traveling, so excited that I can’t sleep properly for days! 
•    I am a total tech geek. I will camp outside a store to get a new tech product.
•    I speak a total of three languages -- English, German, and Greek.

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