Student Summer Reflection
By Ioan Bolohan. Ioan attended MS301 The Archaeology of Greece: From Palace to City-State, study travel course in summer 2013. He came to CYA from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he was majoring in Business Administration and Political Science.
Never before has a course had such an impact on me. In just a few short weeks, the College Year in Athens program opened up the past, shared Greece’s incredible history, and combined learning with fun to not only broaden my horizons but make a lasting difference in the way I see the world. When I signed up for the class, I was excited to embark on a new journey but nothing could have prepared me for the adventure that awaited in the Aegean.
On the first day, arriving at the office, I looked out of the window and saw a breath-taking view of the Acropolis. That was when it hit me: this summer was going to be like nothing I had experienced before. From that moment forward, I knew I had to appreciate every moment—every bit of excitement which would come to mark my stay in Greece. Finding my way through the city, I could not help but stare in wonder at the place I would call home for the next four weeks. Walking through town, I passed the monumental Temple of Zeus on my left and Roman baths on my right—all while carefully navigating the marble walkways and passing through the ancient Agora to find a relaxing café with a view of the Parthenon.
No textbook could convey the beauty of the ancient sites—their imposing sizes, picturesque mountain landscapes, or the feeling of roaming through the halls of what used to be the center of ancient civilization. The course readings described the architecture, artistic style, and culture of the ancient Minoan, Mycenaean, and Greek cities but they did not include notes about the fields of olive trees dotting the horizon, the sun-soaked beaches just miles from the sites, or the natural springs flowing down the mountainsides.
Coupling in-class instruction with real-world experience, the College Year in Athens program offered a truly unique opportunity to students. We did not just sit in a classroom and hear about the temples on the coastal mountaintops, we saw them. We did not just learn about how the museum’s rich golden displays were found, we visited the town in which they were discovered—beneath the majestic Lion Gate. We even had the chance to visit ongoing archaeological digs, study in sanctuaries closed to the public, and witness the process of piecing together millions of pottery shards to form complete works for Greece’s amazing historic galleries.
Our classroom constantly moved. One day, it was by the Marble Stadium in Athens, the next, it was the Oracle’s home at Delphi only to be replaced by the beach at Poseidon’s temple the following afternoon. The syllabus for the course did not just say what we would be learning but where we would be while learning it. Nowhere else does the morning commute involve weaving through fig trees to meet your professor in one of the world’s earliest monasteries. Nowhere else does dinner mean sitting down with an olive expert to discuss ancient farming practices before performing traditional Cretan dances into the night.
Touring these sites would not have been the same without the expertise and experience of Professor Diamant—an instructor who has dedicated his life to the study of these ancient people. Whether it was seeing his field-work first-hand in Franchthi Cave, hearing stories about the discoveries of Classical sculptures, or even looking for recommendations about the best gelato parlor in Nafplio, his personal involvement and commitment to ensuring that students have the best experience possible contributed to the engaging learning environment and welcomed us into his home: the exciting world of ancient Greece.
Sharing in the adventure with other students from across the country also made this journey so incredible. Living, traveling, and learning together, each member of the group grew close to their classmates. I knew I would learn a lot about these ancient civilizations through the program but, during the course, I, along with the rest of the group, developed a passion for the material. On the days off of traveling, my fellow classmates and I went out to explore the sites that the four-week program did not cover, visiting museums and ruins—even making a trip to Plato’s Academy. Knowing that Socrates walked the same paths as I did in the Agora and that Minoan artists had designed the museum’s colorful wall paintings thousands of years ago, I was constantly shocked by the beauty of the Aegean—there was never a dull moment. Even passing through the cities, Professor Diamant always pointed out his favorite places—the Minoan palaces, serene Greek temples, and more “modern” Venetian fortresses and Roman baths.
From mornings on Crete following ancient roads to afternoons spent searching for each town’s best gyros, reenactments of the Olympic Games in the famous stadium, and sunsets in Athens exploring the Acropolis, the College Year in Athens summer was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I know that the lessons I learned, the memories I made, and the people I shared them with will always stay with me. It truly was a life-changing journey and an incredible adventure.