By Kayla Marek
Greece: Cerulean blue seas, ancient cities, crumbling columns. Sunsets over the Saronic Sea and races in the first Olympic Stadium, 776 BCE. Holy Temples dedicated to Athena, Nike, Zeus and sacred ground walked by Plato, St. Paul, and more.
A group of 17 students and community members spent up to 10 days traveling the cradle of Western Civilization in May through the Lake Region State College study abroad opportunity. This is the third Study Abroad trip Lake Region State College’s Humanities and Diversity divisions have sponsored for students and interested community members.
For students to receive credit for the trip, they must take a designated course beforehand to give them foundational knowledge in what they will see. To see their “textbook come to life on the trip” is one of the main wonders of the expedition. Talon Mack, one of the students, stated in his photo journal “All the sites look cool in your text book, but seeing them in real life puts them in perspective [for size and location].”
Ramsey Hoey, another student traveler, also observed “that the text book can only show so much, but being right there in person makes the connection so much better with the history of the surrounding landscape. The text books could not do justice for how amazing it was in real life, the experience was rewarding.”
Some of the highlights of the trip included visits to the original Olympic Village (where Alexis Langton was crowned with laurel for winning the race), the Temple of Delphi where even Socrates claimed to have consulted with the Oracle, and of course the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens. As the group would soon realize, most cities have an acropolis, the “high part of the city,” and atop each acropolis is usually a temple to honor a certain god. No matter where the group toured, they were “amazed to see so much history behind all the sites.”
Although half of the group had to leave after eight days, the half stayed for a four-day cruise of the Greek Islands, where even more history unfolded. Some visited the ancient city of Ephesus and the house where it is purported the Mother Virgin Mary spent her last days. Others toured the castle at Rhodes, a common stopping place for Knights of the Templar during the many crusades. Lion’s Gate, the entry to Agamemnon’s (brother-in-law to THE Helen of Troy) was a highlight for many and a disappointment to none. On the last day, on the island of Crete, some roamed the ruins of the Palace of Knossos (circa 1400 BCE; original one circa 200 BCE) made famous by the minotaur and labyrinth.
The country’s culture has its roots in its rich history. Deidra Webster, another LRSC student, commented “Everyone should experience different cultures to open their eyes to how large and [yet, how] small the world really is.” She went on to say that,” Though I loved Greece and all of the history, it created me to love and appreciate America and its people.”
One of the most interesting discoveries regarding food was the love for French fries, served with moussaka and also stuffed into gyros. Somehow, honey was worked into every meal from Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts to ravani, a honey-based sponge cake.
Teresa Tande, coordinator for the trip, also talked about how amazing the trip was. First, just being around surviving structures over 3,000 years old is almost beyond comprehension, especially for those of us from the plains where our oldest remaining structures are maybe over 150 years old.
“I loved how every place had a story from mythology to go with it, but mythology based on some element of reality. But most of all, I was energized seeing the group marvel at the sites, too.” Tande further commented that lifetime learning is at the heart of LRSC’s Study Abroad programs. A huge part of lifetime learning is being open to new ideas and new thoughts.
"Perhaps Ramsey Hoey showed that best with her reflection ‘I questioned life all around, from where we started, seeing the ruins of the ancient cities of Greece, to where we are now. What is left to come? How much are we going to advance in the future?’ or Talon’s of “The trip was … [an] opportunity that will stick with me for the rest of my life.”
In the future, perhaps there will be another opportunity to see the “The glory that was Greece.” But for next year’s trip, to again quote from Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “To Helen,” it will be the “grandeur that was Rome” that is explored. For more information about next year’s trip contact Tande at 662-1656.