The following is a review of my study trip to Athens, Greece.
During my time in Athens, I have been able to learn through observations and experiences; even more importantly, I have been able to talk to and listen to real people’s stories and have interactions with other humans beyond that of your archetypical Humanities course. I have come to realize that studying the Humanities must mean learning from diverse perspectives of the human experience, one that is not stuck within a certain time frame nor simply one narrowed perspective.
In Athens, we heard from Kostas, our incredibly knowledgeable and dynamic local guide and professor, who told us his personal familial stories of living in Greece throughout the junta. They were moving stories and were a crucial part of our learning experience and understanding of revolution beyond that of the American perspective. Immersing ourselves in this environment allow me to learn and think in a way that you cannot do simply by engaging with a text. Crucial to the study of Humanities is the people you meet. Interacting with people, especially people not like us, is how you can grow as a person and are able to change to how you used to see the world.
After Athens, I’m not the same person. I’ve seen what it is like to be treated like family by a group of strangers. How good food brings about laughter and open intellectual discussions. I’ve seen what Western civilization was built upon. I’ve seen beautiful architecture and a sense of serenity like no other.
When your classroom is the Acropolis of Athens, you can immerse yourself with your environmental surroundings, reaching a higher level of learning than that of an outsider looking in. As a woman, it is empowering to hear about how the Parthenon was dedicated to the city’s patron deity, Athena, a woman.
Through our tour guides, Kostas and Thamos, we were able to hear the stories of Revolution beyond that of a bubble of happiness that one can be easily sucked into with a beautiful place like Athens. At Polytechneio, a university in Athens, we learned about the Athens Polytechnic uprising occurred in November 1973 as a massive demonstration of popular rejection of the Greek military junta of 1967–1974. In the words of Kostas, “revolution is not about massive overthrow, but change.” This is something that has refined my working definition of revolution. I was shocked to see how the graffiti on the walls was not only in English, but very similar to the issues we face in the United States, like “my dress is not a yes.” The walls of Polytechneio became a place of empowerment for these people.
I could say so much more about my time in Athens, but all I can say is how we became a family by the end. I experienced it all. Love, laughter, happiness, sadness (over leaving), endless food comas, and stories to last a lifetime. I’m so grateful for my time in Athens, it is an experience that I never would have been able to have as a first-generation, low-income, minority student that has never left the Midwest before.