A ‘Classic’ Trip: Knox Students, Alumni in Greece

December journey is extension of Greek Art and Architecture class

January 21, 2014

Knox in Greece

by Kayleigh O'Brien '16

Note to readers: Knox College sophomore Kayleigh O'Brien joined three Knox faculty members, two current students, and 20 alumni for a trip to Greece during the College's December break. Here's her take on the experience.

I'm a sophomore classics student, so I'm enrolled in Latin and Ancient Greek classes, and I'm involved with Greek life on campus. So naturally there was a lot that I could gain from this trip. Not only would I be able to see some of the most famous sites of the ancient world, but I would also be able to learn more about the Greek values and histories that sororities and fraternities base themselves on.

Kayleigh O'Brien '16 at the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens

The trip was planned in conjunction with a course taught by Jason Nethercut and Stephen Fineberg on Greek art and architecture. The purpose of the class, as Jason said, was to give classics students and alumni an "experiential learning opportunity" that would cater to both their academic needs and expectations for an enjoyable trip.

For students, Steve Fineberg had a very particular outcome in mind: "Students see the animals and flora that thrive on the Greek soil; they eat the food; they dance; and they discover with some greater immediacy the setting where Socrates carried on his daily conversations in the Athenian Agora. Students who have seen Greece first-hand return with a greater sense of excitement to their study of the classics at Knox."

He was definitely right. Traveling to Greece as a young classics major, traveling with professors specifically, was a nearly surreal experience. I saw the temple that was on the cover of my Ancient Greek textbook, I ate the native food (of which I had always tried American versions), and I got to see temples dedicated to the patron deity of my sorority. (Photo at top: The Knox group at the Theatre at Delphi. Photo above left: Kayleigh O'Brien '16 at the Theater of Dionysus in Athens. Photo below right: At the Temple of Poseidon. )

Overall, it was unforgettable in both an academic and personal context. Here are some excerpts from my blog of the trip:

Kayleigh O'Brien '16 in Greece

Day 4

Today we went to the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion. The temple was placed on a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. When we were there, the clouds were almost ominous. But there was one little crack in the sky where sunlight leaked and lit up a patch of the sea. Seeing that wonder and power of nature makes it so easy to understand why they believed in nature gods.

Plus, my sorority is strongly rooted in Greek values, especially ones that are connected to Poseidon. Being so close to an area of his worship was an awesome experience.

Dinner Last Night

While we were eating dinner one night, we suddenly see Steve Fineberg walking from table to table with a little menorah in his hands, complete with candles. He made his way through the room, where many alumni were eating, and slowly collected a group of people who participated in Hanukkah. It included Nicola, a student, a few older and younger alumni, the 7-year-old son of Professor Judy Thorn, Sam, and Steve and Brenda themselves. They all gathered around some couches in a corner to say the prayers and light the candles.

It was an amazing thing to witness, so many people from all different backgrounds coming together to celebrate. I'm glad I got to see it.

Alumni sing "Hail to Alma Mater" in a Greek theatreThe Road to Athens

We made a stop in Epidaurus to see an ancient and beautiful theatre. It was just fantastic. We got there and saw how massive it was, I think it was bigger than a lot that we had seen. We went up and sat in the seats as Maria, the guide, dropped a single coin in the center of the stage. We could hear it at the very top! The acoustics were perfect, which is apparently why it's famous.

Then some Greek students came in on their own tour. Our guide was talking to them a little in Greek as she was giving her demonstration, and it turned out that they were classics students just like us! That was really awesome, Brenda insisted on a picture with them. And they all seemed like really nice people.

We stayed there for a little bit, some people speaking at the center of the stage to hear the acoustics. Jason went up and recited some of Aeschylus' Agamemnon and Euripides' Hippolytus. But then Mike, an older alum, Sarah, a younger one, and Maria, an alumnus' wife, stood in the center of the stage and sang "Hail to Alma Mater." Hearing that in an ancient Greek theatre, hearing the perfect acoustics -- it was amazing! (Photo above left: Members of the Knox group sing "Hail to Alma Mater" in a Greek theatre. Photo below: The Knox travelers in Olympia.)

Group photo at Olympia