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Coworking empowers a lifestyle of diversity

Diversity is the product of community and collaboration blended together with openness. This is, after all, one of the key reasons people want to be part of a coworking environment. This allows them to diversify their vision and experience by collaborating with people from different backgrounds, interests, experiences, and thinking. By creating a community of experiences we try to bring together various perspectives and opinions of people who share a feeling of mutualism. 

Jelia

Jelia has always been looking for diverse experiences and new links. She has chosen Athens to be her new home and she recently joined our coworking community. Since it is one of our core values, we discussed why she is constantly seeking diversity both in her work but also in her lifestyle.

“We carry so many places within us and it’s through these places that we see everything new.”

Safe Passage Reunification

This is what it feels for Jelia when she travels to a new community and gets to meet new people. Coming from a diverse background herself, Jelia is originally from Senegal but she was born and raised in London. She is a lawyer at Doughty Street Chambers working remotely from Greece and she specializes in refugee law, human rights, and international criminal law. Working on a diverse range of issues in these areas, she provides legal assistance to unaccompanied child refugees seeking family reunification in Europe, and to victims of mass crimes seeking to access justice. Jelia joined Stone Soup in October and we had the chance to speak with her about her coworking experience in the diversity of Athens and the importance of inclusion in a community.

Travelling for diversity: Jelia’s background

Jelia studied Law and Spanish language at the University of Sheffield in the UK. She also studied in Barcelona for a year before pursuing a Master’s degree at UCL. After finishing her studies she worked abroad in different parts of the world from Argentina and Colombia to Cambodia. As a result, these travels truly enriched her vision of a world where diversity plays a core part. She first came to Greece in 2016, to work as a volunteer in the camp on Samos island. In 2018, she was able to come back to Greece for another volunteering stint, this time with Safe Passage. And that’s where her story with Athens begins.

Jelia at Stone Soup

Living in Athens: diversity seems familiar

Jelia has been living in Athens for two and a half years since then. For her, Athens is spatially diverse and is “becoming” culturally complex too. So, she loves the ecosystem of the center of the city because it is imperfect and not homogenous. Moreover, she enjoys the diversity of the urban small streets, the micro-neighborhoods, and the variety of independent coffee shops and small businesses. She also likes to cycle and walk in the area of “petroukaki”, which is the name she gave to the Petralona and Koukaki areas! In general, she highlighted the feelings of familiarity this imperfect environment creates in her. It reminds her of all the different cities she has lived in, like Buenos Aires. Driving in Greece is terrible like in Senegal too, she adds! Jelia notes that living in Athens has deepened her work because she is more directly exposed to migration. As a result, she can better understand the needs of the community she is trying to help.

Coworking in Athens: diversity in the workspace community

Jelia at Stone Soup

The choice of coworking in the diversity of Athens has offered her more work-life balance than London, she admits. The city doesn’t stress her out and meets her needs while she is trying to integrate. She decided to join a coworking space because she felt isolated and stressed working from home during the lockdown. She picked Stone Soup because the privacy she can have makes her feel settled. Now she laughs when she gets home and only has to say “Hi, flat!”. As a self-employed professional she needs both privacy and proximity to an everyday community. Her work and traveling experience add to her words about the elements she looks for in a workplace: “People always bring diversity and complexity and that enriches a community”. So, for Jelia, the coworking community should be a respectful place where people can express themselves without fear in these crazy times. She also works as a human rights consultant for the United Nations and NGOs. Her part-time work for the NGO All Survivors Project, which focuses on male survivors of sexual violence in war zones (gay, trans, non-binary), highlights the need for a safe space for everyone who challenges the norms.

Coworking for diversity in Stone Soup

The Stone Soup philosophy and Jelia’s work experience are based on the pursuit for inclusion and the expression of diversity. Here, Jelia adds, you can choose your friends because there are no office politics among the coworkers. Here, she gets to learn about tech and algorithms from Paulin and meet people who can be friends and not colleagues. She misses many things from pre-pandemic Athens though. But there is one thing she can’t wait to have once again: live concerts and drinks on the roof!

Jelia wears a mask

The expat experience: How can you stay happy in the here and now?

A new start may be full of new experiences but may also be stressful and affect our psychology. How could we overcome our negative feelings and open ourselves to every new encounter that awaits for us?

Electra Matsangou is a psychotherapist and psychologist from Greece. She grew up in Volos and then moved to Thessaloniki to study psychology. Thanks to the Erasmus exchange program, she first went to the Netherlands in 2008  and completely fell in love with the country and people. In 2010, she moved to the Netherlands to get her Master’s degree in Health Psychology. After completing her MSC, she started training in Gestalt Psychotherapy.

Living in a different country for six years had Electra facing the challenges that most expatriates have to go through, as well as all thoughts and feelings that are common amongst people that live in a new environment. “The Gestalts of an Expat” was an article she wrote while living abroad, for the Dutch e-journal “e-awareness”. She was an expatriate herself, so she knows that sometimes it can be really hard to adjust in a new country, being away from your family and trying to adapt to a foreign work environment.

Her passion about understanding one’s emotional state and working with people, plus the first-hand knowledge of the life of an expatriate made her want to work with internationals who live in Athens.

“I know sometimes it can be difficult to talk to a Greek therapist. Besides, the cultural differences and the language barrier, perhaps it is uncomfortable because you might want to complain about Greece or Greeks!”.

However, having this experience herself and talking about it with her patients made things easier and much more comfortable.

Greece, a multicultural destination

After 6 years in the Netherlands, Electra decided to reunite with her family and start her life again in Athens, Greece. She was also longing to come back to the Greek nature, the islands and the beautiful mountains that make her home country a place of many colors and shapes.

Electra has opened her new office in a coworking space and her aspiration was to consult and support international people that have decided to start their life in Greece. The coworking environment is what she was looking for, as being in touch with so many different people with diverse backgrounds and cultures is very refreshing.

“I like meeting people coming from different countries; it can be quite challenging, as people’s behavior and personalities are influenced by their cultural context, so it takes some effort to familiarize oneself with these contexts. But I personally find it to be a very beautiful and enriching experience. Having my office in a shared environment gives me the opportunity to spend some of my time between sessions with lots of multinational people and talk about politics, philosophy, or just personal stuff. That  boosts my energy and spirit in a whole different level.”

As a psychotherapist, Electra emphasizes the importance of surrounding ourselves with an environment that makes us happy. Athens is a city of  great vibes which can come alive day and night, making it absolutely a place to feel welcome! She also highlights the significance of making conscious choices in the here and now.

“Every choice we make doesn’t need to be always right for us or permanent. We need to revisit our choices in order to see if we still stand by them. Many times as expats we can have mixed or even contradictory feelings and thoughts regarding our experiences or the decisions we need to make and that can be distressful. In those cases, it can be very helpful to reach out to a specialist. Through counseling you can clear things up and get the support you deserve. You don’t have to do this alone!”

We would like to thank Electra for our beautiful chat, you can go ahead and check Electra’s coming workshop and further work on her website.