This summer’s short term, for-credit trip to Greece made an enormous impact on the students who participated. Following up on the original post by Dr. Jeffrey Collins, we now hear from three of those students, in their own words. [Read Part II: An Odyssey of Learning, Part III: Study Abroad Creates 'Momentum'.]
When I began my Oglethorpe journey, I never could have anticipated everything I would both gain from and give to this incredible community. As a freshman, I vividly remember studying The Return of Gilgamesh in Dr. Shrikhande’s Core class, Narratives of the Self. The epic tells a tale known as a bildungsroman, a novel dealing with one person’s formative years or spiritual education. Retrospectively, it seems that these past four years have been something of my own bildungsroman, and I couldn’t be more grateful for Oglethorpe’s key role in the person I have become. Following graduation this past May, I embarked on a study abroad trip in June, spending 20 days touring Greece with two of my favorite professors, fellow alumnae, and students earning academic credit in art history or studio art. The trip was a serendipitous way to end my time at OU, celebrate graduation, and solidify my entire college experience.
Although I’ve been back in Atlanta for a couple of weeks, I am still trying to fully process the amazing journey through Greece. We began in Athens, island hopped, ventured back to the mainland for a land tour, and then ended up back in Athens, full circle, before heading home. In Athens, we were blown away by the historical value of the Acropolis and the majestic Parthenon and entertained by the hustle and bustle of the busy Plaka where we ate and shopped. When we left on a ferry, I could feel the vastness of the Aegean Sea begin to settle my soul as we voyaged toward the islands.
Our first stop was the beautiful island of Mykonos. We felt like we were in paradise at our quaint resort. A maze of streets lined with crisp white buildings with blue accents, Mykonos was as lively as its famous Don Quixote-esque windmills. I would’ve gladly stayed, convinced that it couldn’t get any better aesthetically—until we arrived on the island of Santorini.
Santorini, the remnant city, is re-established in optimism after one of the largest volcanic eruptions of all time wiped out the entire Minoan civilization and devastated the island. The desire to remain here despite fear of another natural catastrophe was much easier to understand after seeing Santorini’s beauty and grandeur in person. We hiked Nea Kameni, the burnt island, feeling empowered as we stood on the basalt of a dormant volcano. The view from the winery, where we sampled local wines, was absolutely breathtaking, illustrated with shades of blue I thought could only exist in my imagination. One night as we walked back to the hotel from dinner, we paused to gaze upon the charming town on a cliff, lit up against the dark sapphire sea. In that moment, I understood why so many people from all over the world find Santorini so special and appealing—it is certainly the most gorgeous place I have ever seen.
Reluctantly leaving behind Santorini, we made it to the island of Crete, with its unique combination of metropolis, oceanic and mountainous scenery. We spent much of our time in the old port of Hania, characterized by a beautiful lighthouse and an animated town. There we saw the Phaistos Disc, one of archaeology’s great mysteries, engraved with some of the first known hieroglyphics.
We finally made it back to the mainland of Greece, where we recuperated in the serenely quiet coastal town of Nafplio. We had become fairly well acquainted with Greek cuisine by this point in the trip, and were thrilled to have a great feast followed by lessons in traditional Greek dancing. I will never forget Dr. Collins doing a flip or proposing a toast to Professor Loehle for his tireless efforts in challenging us artistically.
After much anticipation, we got to the mystical town of Delphi, which felt like another plane of existence with its astonishing view of mountainous landscape for miles. A cozy town with a main road of shops and cafes, Delphi seems ordinary, but the spiritual feeling it evokes in its visitors is anything but. One morning, we arose early with the roosters and went for a run along on what was once known as the sacred road to the Castalian spring. Mystics before us had cleansed and hydrated themselves with its healing waters, and I gained from our ritual an awakening I will never forget.
Everyone in our group seemed to be on the trip with an objective. Whether we realized it beforehand or not, we were all searching for something… education, mental retreat, vacation, spiritual awakening, perspective (albeit personal or anthropological), or maybe a little bit of all these things. What we would all manage to find throughout our journey in this fascinating, ancient place—and also within ourselves—far exceeded our expectations.
Chelsea Reed graduated this past May with a major in Communications and Rhetoric Studies and a minor in Studio Art.