May travel-study course explores ancient and modern Greece

May travel-study course explores ancient and modern Greece

June 14, 2019

“Life-changing. Beyond memorable. Something I will never forget.”

 That’s how Caroline Hood ’21 described a recent trip to Greece that she, along with 14 other Maryville College students and two professors, took as part of a May Term travel-study course.

“Traveling has always been one of my greatest interests, and Greece was one of the many locations I intended to check off my bucket list,” said Hood, who is from Seymour, Tenn. She had traveled around the U.S. and North America but had never been abroad before. “As an art major, I was more than excited to see the sculpture, architecture, ceramics, mosaics and paintings of the Greek Cycladic and Minoan civilizations that gave birth to Western classical art.”

The 13-day trip began in Athens and included tours of the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora Museum, the Museum of Greek Culture, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Exarcheia, the National Archaeological Museum, the Olympic Stadium of Athens and the Herakleidon Art Museum. The group also visited Heraklion, the Palace of Knossos, the Palamidi Fortress in Nafplion, and the archaeological sites of Mycenae, Olympia and Delphi.

The WRC 370: World Cultures course, or “MC in Greece 2019,” was led by Irene Guerinot, lecturer in physics at MC, and Dr. Carl Gombert, MC professor of art. Guerinot, who lived in Greece until she was 19, also assisted with translation and interpretation during the trip.

“Classroom learning about Ancient Greece is instructive, but to actually be there, face-to-face with the Lion Gate of Mycenae and the Parthenon on the Acropolis, is entirely different and an invaluable experience, impossible to have any other way,” according to the course description. “Why Greece? Ancient Greece significantly influenced the development of the Western culture and civilization. Modern democracies are based on the Greek beliefs in government by the people, trial by jury, and equality under the law. Greece is the origin of many outstanding accomplishments, such as: spectacular architectural monuments, unique works of poetry, fundamentals of philosophy as well as significant findings in natural history and mathematics.”

During the spring semester, students participated in lectures and completed research assignments about the culture and history of ancient and modern Greece.

“The class assignments served as a crash course in the Greek history we would be exploring first-hand through visiting museums and archeological sites,” said Elizabeth Coyle ’19, a psychology major from Prospect, Ky. She had traveled abroad twice before but had never visited Greece. Coyle was interested in the course so she could “see how the ancient and modern were connected in Greece.”

“In class, we also discussed cultural differences and our expectations of what Greece would be like. It was great that Ms. Guerinot was a faculty leader because she grew up in Athens and has an intimate knowledge of modern Greek culture, so she was able to help us manage our expectations and give a more realistic picture of what Greece would be like.”

During the trip, the group participated in guided visits, independent explorations, organized events and personal interviews to learn about Greek culture and history. Students also learned about the “economic and political challenges and opportunities inherent in creating the European Union and Greece’s place in it.”

“I hope the students gained understanding of how the ancient world reverberates in the modern, how ideas took root and grew over centuries, how Greece is also a thoroughly modern European nation dealing with globalization, economic uncertainty, etc., and I hope they gained both greater self-awareness and confidence as world citizens,” Gombert said.

Guerinot said that most importantly, she hopes the students gained a desire to go back to Greece.

“Also incredible new foods, customs, traditions and social atmosphere, as well as a better understanding and appreciation for the nation’s people and history,” Guerinot said. “The trip has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my academic career!”

Brianna Bakoledis '21, who had always wanted to visit Greece, described the trip as "the most surreal experience."

"On our drive to Delphi from Olympia, we traveled for hours on a road that followed the curvature of the hills and the sea," said Bakoledis, a vocal music education major from Clarkesville, Ga. "There were gorgeous mountains in the background with white clouds billowing around their peaks. The mountains reflected blue from every direction creating an ombré-like effect between the sea and the sky. I tried to take pictures, but it didn’t do it justice. It was one of those scenes where only your memory could fully capture how amazingly beautiful it was."

When asked about the most memorable parts of the trip, Ben Galloway ’20, a biochemistry major from Blue Ridge, Ga., had a hard time picking just one.

“The entire trip was the most memorable part,” said Galloway, whose interest in Greece stems from his childhood, when he became fascinated by Greek history and mythology. “If I had to pick a few things, it would be the visit to the Acropolis and Parthenon in Athens, the olive farm visit while we were at Crete, racing on the Olympic track at Olympia, the visit to Delphi with many great views, and meeting Professor Guerinot's family and having the opportunity to talk to them. The entire trip was amazing, and I would have liked to stay longer.”


Coyle enjoyed spending a day at the beach in Crete, but a city tour of Nafplion was also memorable.

“A friendly stray dog followed our group around the city right to the restaurant that she's frequented since she was a puppy,” Coyle said.

Trip highlights for Hood included visiting the Acropolis and the National Archaeological Museum, enjoying traditional Greek food prepared and hosted by locals, the beach day in Crete, a cooking class at a Cretan olive oil farm, and running foot races in the Olympic Stadium.

“There were moments I simply stepped back to fully take in everything around me, places, people and happenings that were too surreal to believe,” Hood said. “Many days were met with a dissociation in which I believed my eyes could take in no more beauty. So many breath-taking adventures in which I questioned if it was me who was actually experiencing them.”

Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”