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Exploring Art and Philosophy on the Greece and Italy Abroad
January 25, 2017
Principia abroads are designed to help students discover the essence of a country or region, as exemplified during the fall semester Greece and Italy Abroad, led by Dan Kistler (C'79), Associate Professor of Studio Art, and Chris Young, Assistant Professor of Philosophy. Students developed a keen sense of observation while visiting some of the most notable archaeological sites and art museums in the world, including the Acropolis in Athens, the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, and the Colosseum in Rome. Drawing, painting, and photography became powerful tools for recording their impressions of historic sites, landscapes, and slices of daily life.
The abroad included a component focused on Plato, Aristotle, and pre-Socratic thinkers—a natural fit for traveling in Greece. “Students looked at how early Greek thinkers attempted to determine the primary substance (Arche Ousia) of existence, saw how this investigation evolved through several hundred years, and studied ancient issues of governance in the birthplace of democracy,” Young says. “Spending time with a local scholar, we walked the same path that students of the ancient Academy traveled on their way to listen to the thoughts of Plato. Thinking through the ideas of these giants of Western thought in the ancient city of Athens and on the southern coast of Italy allowed students to feel the weight of history around them and not just read it from a book.”
Interacting with Locals and Offering Help for Syrian Refugees
Throughout their travels, the group discovered ways to connect with people, whether with young children in an art museum curious to see the students’ artwork, with shopkeepers pleased that Principians had learned enough Greek and Italian to exchange warm greetings, or with a young woman curious to hear their testimonies during a Wednesday evening service held on a beach. (The group visited Christian Science churches whenever possible but sometimes held their own services.)
Eating was another popular way to connect with local residents—and each other. Senior Natalie Gill nominated herself the “foodie” of the group, poring over every detail of Greek and Italian cuisines. “Our number one favorite is the Greek gyro—pork or chicken, tomato, tzatziki, onion—and french fries!” she wrote on the group’s blog. “Each day, we hunt for the best spots to get this 2.50-euro bundle of joy.”
Students also spent lots of time outdoors. “We’ve gone hiking and spelunking, walked across active volcanoes, ridden on donkeys and mules, [and] gone swimming in the ocean (multiple times), and we’re not even half way done,” wrote junior Omari McIntosh early in the trip.
Students will likely never forget one experience in particular in Greece. A guide in Athens connected them with a Salvation Army center, a hotspot for the flood of Syrian refugees coming into Greece. While sorting supplies in the stockroom, students learned about relief efforts and how refugees are striving to build a new life. Students also played games and drew pictures with refugee children while their parents obtained provisions.
For senior Bailey Bischoff, the abroad taught her to think deliberately while traveling. “The abroad has shown me how to be an intentional learner, and for that I am truly grateful,” she wrote on the group’s blog. “I don’t want to go to a place just to see it. I want to have a purpose and experience something new and impactful. And I don’t think I’ll be able to travel again without a small sketchbook to make notes and draw.”
In addition to this abroad program, students have recently traveled to Finland, Greece, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, and Austria. Others are packing their bags soon for Germany, Scotland, Switzerland, Ireland, Slovenia, England, Peru, St. Lucia, Grenada, New Zealand, and Malta. Learn more about Principia’s study abroad programs.