BU in Athens 2016 Recap

BU in Athens: the Philhellenes’ Summer Trip, 2016

At 4:45am, the beautiful seaside town of Nafplio in the south of Greece is still asleep. But four hours before the bus departs for the archaeological site of Mycenae, Boston University students are already climbing the legendary 999 steps of the eighteenth-century fortress of Palamidi, hiking up the narrow path in order to get the perfect photo of the sunrise over the Peloponnese. This was one of the many adventures our students had in the five-week trip to Greece in Summer 2016 as part of the Boston University Philhellenes summer program. Twenty-three students – our largest and most diverse group ever – also learned to sail on the Aegean Sea, swam in blue ocean waters off the island of Aegina, and rode donkeys up the steep cobblestone streets of Hydra, experiencing for themselves the hospitality and passion for life of the Greek people. Who could resist? By the end of the trip, we were all philhellenes.

At the top of Palamidi in Nafplio. Photo by William Tengtio

The students’ enthusiasm was fueled by their interest in Greek art, history, and language. Students complete two courses for credit as participants in the program: an art history course taught at the American College of Greece, which includes trips to many notable ancient sites, and a course in either Modern Greek with Professor Kelly Polychroniou or Greek History with Professor Jay Samons. A tour of the Greek Parliament in Syntagma Square gave students a fast lesson in modern Athenian politics. Many students came with no prior knowledge of these subjects, but they got up to speed quickly, and many are now continuing their studies of Greece in the upcoming semester at BU. Outside of their usual Monday-to-Friday classes, students also learned how to cook Greek food and dance in traditional Greek style, skills to practice in their kitchens and dorm-rooms when nostalgia for Athens starts to set in.

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Swimming near the island of Aegina

This was the fourth annual trip to Greece, and there were some new additions to the itinerary. For the first time, students got a chance to visit the extraordinary Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum in Athens, which celebrates the intricate artistry of Greece’s most famous twentieth-century jewelry designer, and they spent time with the museum’s director, Ioanna Lalaounis, on the museum’s rooftop terrace. One weekend, they travelled through the region of ancient Sparta and explored the fifteenth-century town of Mystras; in another, they saw the picturesque churches and windmills of the island of Tinos and visited the stores and restaurants of Mykonos. Through it all, the students were engaged, eager to learn, and hungry for even more adventures. Even those who had no previous interest in Greece came back with a new passion for the country and its culture. They were even willing to get up at 4:45am – and have the photo to prove it.

The program would be impossible without the valuable sponsorship and support from the Greek community in Boston. The Scholarship and supporting funds this year were provided by: the Hellenic Studies Fund, the NEH Distinguished Teaching Professorship, the John & Sonia Lingos Family Foundation, the Alpha Omega Council, George Danis, VII Capital Group, Greek 4 Kids, Brothers Kouzina, Desfina Restaurant, and the Weston Road Café. We are grateful to you all for your help. We also thank everyone at the American College of Greece for their collegiality again this year, and the Center for Hellenic Studies in Nafplio for their hospitality. Finally, we must acknowledge all the hard work devoted to the program by Professors Samons and Polychroniou (see here for information on Professor Polychroniou’s classes in Modern Greek: http://www.bu.edu/academics/cas/courses/modern-greek/). Students who are interested in next year’s trip can visit this page (http://www.bu.edu/classics/abroad/greece/) or contact Professor Samons at ljs@bu.edu.

At the Center for Hellenic Studies in Nafplio