Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Student Cynthia Torrez in Athens

Cynthia inside the Parthenon during one of our on-site classes.
During the 2010 fall semester I studied in Athens, Greece with the College Year in Athens program. I feel like I had a unique experience because the program housed us in nearby apartment buildings so my roommates and I had only Greek neighbors. This is definitely something I know some study abroad students never get to experience. From day one we were fully immersed in a culture I knew very little about! This changed pretty quickly, however, and in my Archaeology of Athens, Modern Greek, and Greek Ethnography classes I learned plenty about Greece’s foundations, history and culture. Within the first week of classes, we were already going to on-site locations for my Archaeology of Athens class to get up close and personal with what we were studying. The first day we hiked up the Philopappos Hill, a hill just across from the Acropolis, and we got an amazing view of the city while we learned about the topography of Athens. 

During the first few weekends, my five other roommates and I explored Athens and the surrounding areas; we went to Sounio to see the Temple of Poseidon, to Meteora to see the amazing cliff-top monasteries, and to the island Hydra, where no motorized vehicles are permitted. A few weeks into the program, the school took all 150 students to the island of Crete for a week long field trip. After surviving th e 10 hour overnight ferry ride we arrived in the small town of Heraklion. The teachers were our tour guides as we went to sites around the island. One of the most interesting parts was watching the tour busses navigate the narrow, winding cliffside roads that covered most of the island. I’m still convinced that pure luck and magic got us around some of those sudden bends. After a week of visiting ancient Minoan sites all over the island and relaxing on the beaches during our free time, we headed back to Athens.

At Mycenae.
Later in the semester, the school took us on another field trip around the Peloponnese. My Ancient Greek Athletics professor took his classes to many of the old stadiums and sports sites, like Olympia, and we also visited a few Mycenaean sites. They also made sure we saw some other important modern sites like the man-made Corinth Canal and the new Rio Antirrio Bridge, a feat of engineering. We ended our trip at Delphi where we got to see the site of the oracle then we had to return to our “normal” lives in Athens.

Over Thanksgiving break a few friends and I went to Cairo. We got to see all the main sites but my favorite experience was when we went to some stables after dark and were able to ride horses through the desert to a Bedouin camp and drink tea while peering at the pyramids in the distance.

Sitting on the camp wall in Giza with the pyramids in the background.
However, after break, the semester was finishing up and most of my time was devoted to studying for finals. This didn't stop me from spending my last days wandering around Athens and seeing things I hadn’t seen yet around the city. I also practiced my Greek while souvenir shopping, and by now I could speak almost all Greek from the time I walked into a store to when I left. Most of the locals were surprised to hear I wasn’t at least Greek-American; I was pretty proud of myself about that. But finally the time came to leave. I'll hopefully find myself back there soon.

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