In the following blog post, Dr. Paul Ranieri writes about a summer study abroad program to Greece that he frequently teaches in. In the post, Dr. Ranieri shares the experiences of Alisha Layman, a Creative Writing major who recently completed the program.
Alisha Layman (Creative Writing) always wanted to go to Greece as far back as she can remember. “When I was in third grade I picked up my first Greek mythology book and I’ve been in love with Greece and mythology ever since. So then I heard about the KIIS Greece trip when I was a freshman at Ball State, and I determined I was going to go before I graduated.”
This past summer, Alisha joined 22 other students from the Kentucky Institute for International Studies and five faculty members, three from Ball State, for 33 days in Greece. Alisha spent seven days in Athens, eleven traveling by bus to Delphi, Olympia, Mycenae, Argos, Corinth, and Nauflion, and fifteen days on the islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Delos, Naxos, and Sifnos.
Students on KIIS study abroad programs are required to take at least two classes with faculty accompanying them. Alisha took “Mythology” with Dr. Richard Jackson King and “Day to Day in Ancient Greece” with Dr. Chris Shea, both Ball State faculty members in the Department of Modern Languages and Classics. “I picked Dr. King’s class,” said Alisha “because I love mythology and, even though I have read several mythology books already, you never stop learning about mythology because there are so many variations of the myths and stories. Dr. Shea’s class interested me because I think it’s intriguing to compare the lives of ancient Greeks to that of modern Greeks, and even to my own life.”
During the 33 days abroad, students visited at least 27 museums and archeological sites. One specific site appealed to Alisha’s Creative Writing side: the Kastalian Springs at the sacred site of Delphi. The springs, nestled between the archeological sites featuring the Temple of Apollo and the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, were praised by the ancient Greeks for the pure, bubbling waters used by visitors to Delphi seeking advice from the Delphic Oracle and used by athletes to purify themselves before competing in the Pythian Games. These waters were also renowned by poets—Roman and Romantic—who felt that drinking the waters would enhance the poetic spirit.
For Alisha, this spring “was exciting to visit because of its association with writing.” She added that “ancient poets used to go there to drink the water in hopes of acquiring inspiration from the water. Maybe I’ll write the next best seller now that I drank the water too!” Overall, Delphi was Alisha’s favorite site: “You always hear about the Temple of Apollo, and it’s so incredible to actually see it in person.”
One characteristic of students who experience such programs as KIIS Greece is that they seek opportunities to travel again, often to the same locations. For Alisha, “if I had the opportunity to revisit any of the sites, I would definitely choose Delos.” Delos is a small island roughly at the center of the Cyclades and was considered by the ancients to be the birthplace of Apollo, and one of the most venerated sacred places for Greeks, Romans, and early Christians. Once home to thousands, now it is the permanent home for less than 15, who tend to the extensive archaeological remains. “I was actually one of three students who stayed on the island until the last ferry, but I still feel as though I didn’t spend enough there. There are so many amazing ruins to see there: beautiful floor mosaics, temple remnants, statues, etc. I just didn’t have enough time to see it all!”
Many wondered why Alisha would want to visit a country that has recently seen its share of social turmoil. “There were several people back in the States who wondered why I’d want to go to Greece during the political turmoil,” she said. “It was definitely not as bad as people were thinking, at least in the areas we were. Sure, we saw riot police and encountered a few demonstrations, and I even saw some more violent activities, but you just have to stay smart. Avoid areas where most demonstrations take place, walk away from dangerous situations. Just like in any other country, you just need to stay aware.” Despite the hectic schedule and exercising caution, Alisha values most what she describes as the “little moments with myself,” moments when “I thought, ‘Wow. Homer wrote about this place and I’m actually here’ or ‘So-and-so mythological figure was said to have done such-and-such here and now here I am.’” It brought “things to life for me,” she said.