BU in Athens

BU in Athens: the Philhellenes’ Summer Trip, 2014

Do Athenians ever sleep? No doubt many of the BU students who spent a month in Athens this summer were already accustomed to staying up late, but the Greeks really showed them how to make the best use of the nighttime hours. Combing the night markets during the name day festival of Saint Paraskevi, watching Euripides’ ‘Helen’ by moonlight in the ancient theatre at Epidaurus, holding long conversations in restaurants and in the dorms about Greek, and then, word by word, in Greek – these were some of the ways our BU undergraduates spent their Attic nights, in a city that stays wide awake once the sun goes down.

Group Dinner in Athens

Group Dinner in Athens

Not that the sixteen students on the BU Philhellenes annual trip to Athens were idle during the day. During their month-long stay at DEREE (the American College of Greece), students took two classes every day, Monday to Friday. Half the group studied Modern Greek with Professor Kelly Polychroniou, and the other half, Ancient Greek with Professor Stephen Esposito. These were intensive language courses, covering a full semester’s work in four short weeks, so students were memorizing their verb forms and practicing their Greek conversation while they roamed the Athenian agora and explored the Acropolis. Additionally, all students took a course on Greek art history and archaeology with Professor Karim Arafat, professor at DEREE and emeritus professor at King’s College London, which involved visits to Eleusis, the National Archaeological Museum, and Karameikos, among other notable sites. The students worked hard - but there could have been no better place to undertake intensive study of Greek language and culture than in the libraries, gardens, cafes and marketplaces of Greece itself.

Professors Esposito, Uden, and Polychroniou

Professors Esposito, Uden, and Polychroniou

Every weekend, students ventured outside of Athens. One weekend, there was a visit to the town of Nafplio, toclimb the steps of the Venetian fortress Palamidi and to investigate the nearby ruins of archaic Mycenae. Another weekend, there was a journey into central Greece: a pilgrimage to the sacred site of Delphi, the “omphalos” (navel) of the Ancient Greek world. Students also had a chance to explore the stunningly picturesque island of Hydra and swim in the blue waters of the Aegean, then try their hands at sailing on a getaway to the island of Poros. By the final weekend, almost every student in the group was plotting their future return to Greece.

The trip would not have been possible without the incredible generosity of BU alumni and members of Boston’s Greek community, who supported the fundraising efforts of the BU Philhellenes, and provided scholarships to students to enable them to participate in the program. We must also acknowledge the meticulous planning of Professors Kelly Polychroniou and Loren J. Samons, and the unfailing generosity and hospitality of everyone at the American College of Greece. For the students, the stay in Athens was a transformative experience. “Am I Greek yet?” asked one student, as she danced her way around the taverna on the final night of the trip. Our BU undergraduates went to Greece with a curiosity and interest in its language, literature and culture. They came back philhellenes.

Students in Modern Greek Class

Students in Modern Greek Class

We extend our thanks to the Hellenic Studies Fund, the Maria Stata Professorship, the Distinguished Teaching Professorship, Ifigenia Kanara (the Consul General of Greece in Boston), George Danis, The John & Sonia Lingos Family Foundation, VII Capital Group, Gregory Agganis, Alpha Omega Council, Stephanie Orphanos, Joyce Deliyiannis, HELPIS, Kleanthi Mavrogiannaki, Greek 4 Kids, John Pappas, and all the Boston University Philhellenes. The trip would not have been possible without your help.