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Macomb guided alum on her journey from Athens to Apple

Monday, June 12, 2023 12:00 AM

Elena Nicko
Elena Nicko

Elena Nicko’s earliest career ambitions were in the arts. She studied singing and dance in Athens, Greece, where she graduated from high school, and progressed from sketching clothing designs on paper to expressing herself with paint on canvas. After a class in Python computer programming language at Macomb, she realized there were other ways one could communicate as well.

“I don’t know if it was the teacher that inspired me or the actual class,” related Nicko, a computer science major at Oakland University, “but I found it very interesting and continued taking more coding classes and ended up liking it a lot.”

Never far from her cultural roots

Nicko studied the English language throughout her school years in Greece, which her parents supplemented with private lessons. It was part of their plan to relocate the family if job prospects and the cost of living in Greece did not improve. With a proficiency degree in U.S. English, Nicko began her studies at Macomb in 2018, the same year she graduated high school and emigrated to the U.S with her family.   

“The economy in Greece is not very good,” acknowledged Nicko. “Since my grandparents had lived in the U.S. for more than 50 years, my parents applied for a green (permanent U.S. resident) card to provide my family with a better future.”

Growing up in a Mediterranean climate among a close circle of family and friends with cultural references as plentiful as fresh seafood, Nicko had to make some adjustments after moving to Sterling Heights. She misses the food and lifestyle of her native Greece but is happy to find some interests have traveled well.

“I love reading about art and European painters,” said Nicko, “and I really love the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts) because it brings me closer to my culture.”

Still an artist at heart

Schooled her entire life in the European style, where class choices are limited and an exam places students on their career/college path early on, attending Macomb also required some adjustments.

“It was my first time in a U.S. college and many things were different from the European style,” said Nicko, who has also traveled to Albania (her parents’ native country), Switzerland and Italy. “But I learned to adapt and because of the people, my experience ended up being very memorable.”

For over a year, Nicko has also worked as a specialist at Apple in Troy (named after an important site in Greek mythology) and wouldn’t mind if the company offered her a permanent position when she graduates from Oakland. But she would also like to work in a European city where her Athenian spirit feels closer to home. True to those roots, and despite her packed schedule, Nicko still finds time for the arts whenever she can.

“I am fascinated by the meanings of paintings,” she offered, “and what the painter is trying to communicate.”