I didn’t realize just how mountainous Greece was. Athens is on a hill surrounded by a couple of mountains, but I didn’t feel the overwhelming presence of the mountains. As you get farther away from the city, you begin to experience the natural mountainous landscapes of Greece. And, let me tell you, they are marvelous. Earlier in the semester, I wrote about a CYA-led optional trip to the island of Chios. This weekend, I went on another trip, this time to the mountains of northern Greece: in just three days, we visited the villages of Metsovo, Ioannina, and Meteora.
For the weekend, we traded the hot Athenian sun for fall weather. It was needed after weeks of consistent heat and beating sun (I think it’s only rained twice since being here!). When we arrived in Metsovo, we learned about its unique wine and cheese production. We went to one of the leading cheese producers and tried a unique (and delicious) assortment of their finest cheeses. Obviously, this was paired with a glass of red wine straight from the mountains. Coincidentally, next semester, I will be taking an Honors Seminar called “Chemistry of Wine.” I understand that I’ve been doing some serious research during my semester in Greece.
The next day, we went to the village of Ioannina. At its prime, Ioannina served as the hotspot for intellectual engagement and excellence. Most of our time here was spent talking about Ali Pasha, an Albanian ruler who ruled strictly as an Ottoman Pasha. While learning about his rule and the village’s deep history, we were able to visit Ali Pasha’s tomb and castle.
Meteora was the last leg of our trip. It is home to some of the most impressive Eastern Orthodox monasteries upon naturally magnificent rocks. In the 10th century AD, Meteora had ten fully functional monasteries. More now than ever, many have lost interest in monasteries and they are closing their doors. Currently, there are only six monasteries open for visitors. Despite being breathtaking, the current times simply value different lifestyles. It’s a shame because they are so beautiful.
Having grown up in the city my entire life, I feel like I’ve missed out on something. During these trips to the mountains, I often find myself feeling small among these creatures of the Earth. They are not threatening, yet offer protection and solace. During the evening hours, the stars embrace us from across universes. I don’t know how it’s possible, but it truly is a transcendent experience every time. I love it here.
Subtle flex: going to the Acropolis to learn about Athena. One of the courses I’m taking is called “Greek Mythology and Religion.” Briefly, it deals with the myths of Ancient Greece, puts them into perspective with the ancient Greeks, and analyzes their reception and possible relationships with our mortal world today. It’s quite an enjoyable course, especially while studying in Athens.
If you don’t know, Athens is named after the goddess Athena, a virgin warrior goddess known also for her wisdom and craft. She is the namesake of Athens following a contest with Poseidon. For those dwelling in the area (soon to be known as Athens), Poseidon produced a spring, but it was salty; Athena produced the olive tree, bearing a multitude of fruits and gifts for the mortals. As you can guess, Athena won this contest. Thus, Athens received its name.
In the discourse surrounding the goddess, Athena is also known as Parthenos (Παρθένος): virgin. Like the other goddesses, Artemis and Hestia, she was to remain a virgin. If you didn’t know, now it might make more sense how the Parthenon got its name. During our lecture on Athena, the Parthenon, and Athens, we had the opportunity to learn more about the relationship between Athena and the ancient Athenians. We also discussed our opinions and thoughts on the modern implications of this relationship.
I chose to study abroad in one of the places from where my Classics major comes for several different reasons (which I can elaborate on in the future). Of course, being in the spot where the Athenians lived, learned, and worshiped is close to the top. I’d take a lecture on the Acropolis over being in the classroom any day. I feel grateful to be able to learn about the illustrious Athena and her temple while being in its very presence.
Athens is known for being the birthplace of democracy. Nearly all modern political ideology and institutions find their roots in the political system of Ancient Athens. Down south, on the island of Crete (Κρήτη), I also got a sense of a strong and central community rooted in tradition across millennia. Crete is the largest and most populated Greek island. It is known for its beautiful beaches (arguably more beautiful than those of Santorini), cultural heritage, and, most importantly, one of the most advanced ancient civilizations: the Minoans.
This trip was a mandatory field study organized by CYA, so it had more specific academic objectives than our optional weekend trip to Chios. My field study focused on the mythology and society of the Minoan civilization while thinking about the traditions and politics of modern-day Crete. Each group went to the same sites, just approached them with different lenses. After a long overnight ferry from Athens, we arrived in Crete’s capital city of Heraklion. Our first stop was the Palace of Knossos. The first time I learned about the Palace of Knossos was in my Introduction to Visual Arts course in my first year at the college. From what I remember, it was a massive and mysterious complex. Still, it had a lot of significance during its time.
The palace was way bigger than I ever imagined from learning about it in class. There are many mythological stories attached to the palace, one being about the Labyrinth and the Minotaur. After exploring the palace for a day, it makes sense why people created such a story. If I weren’t with my group, I would have easily gotten lost: there were multiple entrances, countless rooms, and even more than one story. It’s impressive to see what was left of a civilization so long ago. It makes us think about just how advanced they were back then.
Much of our time was spent discussing the mythological presence in Crete, but we also had the opportunity to learn about modern Cretan (and Greek) politics. We went to the city of Anogia, a mountain village that thoughtfully preserves its deep traditions. I learned that Anogia has a long history of personal vendettas, which are still around today, so be sure not to mess with them. Their village was relatively small, but I could tell it was rich in history, culture, and food. One of the highlights was eating roasted lamb straight off the grill. It was one of the specialty foods of Anogia, and it did not disappoint.
We spent the second half of our trip in a different part of the island called Chania (Χανιά). Unlike most of the time we spent in Heraklion, we focused on the more “modern” aspects of Crete, like its 14th-century Venetian architecture and beautiful beaches. To be fair, we were at the weekend at this point, so after several archaeological sites, museums, and lectures, a beach day was well-deserved. Throughout my travels thus far, I’ve observed such rich traditions and identities. Crete is one of the exemplary places to witness such rich communal identity. It takes a lot of dedication and enthusiasm to have a legacy run so deep it lasts for centuries, even when a small town like Anogia might be at odds, given its size. Overall, it was a very successful trip, and I’m looking forward to the next mandatory field study in the Peloponnese. Γεια σας!
School sponsored trip to a Greek island? Count me in. As part of its experiential learning initiative, CYA offers many opportunities for on-site learning. Each semester, students are required to attend two field studies. This fall, we are going to Crete and the Peloponnese. In addition to these thematic trips, CYA offers several optional trips. The first optional trip was to an island off the coast of Turkey called Χίος (Chios). Less than an hour after leaving Athens, we traded the Acropolis for the crystal blue waters of the Aegean Sea. Being one of the Mediterranean’s biggest and historically rich islands, we had a lot to accomplish in the next three days. I could write a book on this trip alone, so I’ll give you a couple of highlights and takeaways.
Our first stop was up to the abandoned village of Anavatos (Ανάβατος). Established in the Byzantine era, this medieval village was abandoned after the Massacre of Chios in 1822 and the earthquake of 1881. While the village was desolate, much was still to learn about the city. We went up and down the hills and in and out of houses where possible. Even after so much time and destruction, the foundations remained intact; it was pretty impressive!
The following day, we learned more about the identity and history of the island. From a foreigner’s perspective, Chios takes its communal identity very seriously, as it is deeply rooted in the island’s history. With this in mind, we went to a Mastic farm and museum unique to Chios. Mastic (Μαστίχα) is a type of resin that comes from Mastic trees in a crystal-like formation. In Chios, and Greece, more broadly, Mastic is used to make high-quality products like gum, pastries, bread, beauty products, and a liqueur called Mastika. If you ever come across a product with Mastic in it, you should give it a try! We even had the chance to harvest some Mastic from the trees. Overall, it’s a tedious process and takes a lot of dedication and hard work to keep up with it for the season.
At the end of the day, we made it to a volcanic beach called Mavra Volia (Παραλία Μαύρα Βόλια). This isolated beach was full of small black pebbles that resulted from a volcanic eruption sometime during the prehistoric era. Without the proper shoes, it was quite tricky to walk on the rocks. It was so worth it! Over the weekend, we went to three beaches, all beautiful in their own ways, but Mavra Volia was by far the best one.
Sure, no serious formal lectures were going on, but I still learned a lot about Chios as an island and also a community. There is a lot of deep pride and enthusiasm that speaks for itself. I saw this on the beaches, on the Mastic farm and just by walking around different villages. I also have a couple of friends who come from this island (I know, it’s such a small world); even at home, they constantly talk about their connections to Chios, even when they’re so far away. It was an overall incredible experience, something I couldn’t have imagined doing without this program. Shoutout to Angela, our incredible tour guide, who also comes from Chios!
Thank you for reading along today, and be sure to anticipate my next blog post about our field study in Crete!
Hello everyone from Athens, Greece! This semester I’ve traded in Mount St. James for Mount Lycabettus, and I hope you all will join me on this journey. At the end of August, I moved into my new home in Pangrati, a neighborhood in Athens walking distance from the Acropolis (!!!!).
I’ve been living and learning in Athens for about a month now, and it has already been a rewarding experience. It’s been tough at times, but overall, full of a lot of good energy! I’ll be updating my blog often each month, so be sure to check for updates. There is already a lot to report back about!
This semester I am participating in the College Year in Athens Program. CYA is an educational institution that is completely geared towards students’ international learning experiences. All courses are taught in English by professors from all around the world, but mostly from Greece. During my semester abroad, I am taking a full Holy Cross course load. I’m taking Intermediate Ancient Greek, Greek Religion, Digital Archaeology, and (appropriately) Introduction to Modern Greek. You can’t do a semester abroad right without attempting to learn the language! It’ll be difficult, but I’m sure it’s worth it.
CYA does an exceptional job at experiential learning outside of the classroom. Mandatory and optional field trips are coupled with primary and secondary source readings, tailored for all courses and interests. Before classes even began, the entire program took a trip to Delphi, right outside of Athens, to visit the Archaeological site of Apollo’s Oracle. It only seemed right to go to his oracle to begin a semester in Greece. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to in my entire life…
I’ll leave you with this. Be sure to keep checking this blog for more updates throughout the semester. You’ll definitely be hearing from me later this week. To all my Crusaders on the Hill, I miss you lots!
Sophomore literally means “wise fool.” How are we supposed to feel about being called a wise fool? Is it a good thing? Does it embrace our naivety? Or, undermine our intelligence? It’s up to you. For me, it’s a fitting description for the sophomore year I had at Holy Cross. For my last post of the year (which is long overdue!) I would like to share some overall highlights, lessons I’ve learned, and some highs and lows. Precisely, I’ll take you through a year of a wise fool.
College classes are difficult. Yet, they are not impossible. After a successful first year at the college, I felt unstoppable in terms of my academic career. I earned high marks in all of my classes. I was settling into my Classics major pretty well. I couldn’t tell you what came over me, but before the spring semester, I decided to switch up half of my classes. Even though it meant putting my Art History minor on hold, I decided to take intellectual risks by taking my first Political Science and Philosophy courses.
While I was prepared for these courses, they were well out of my comfort zone. I took a class on American Politics because I longed for some sense of political literacy and involvement. Turns out, politics is just as hollow as the politicians make it out to be. Spoiler alert: it’s all about power. I can’t see a future in politics for me, but I used my interest in the Ancient Roman Republic to fuel my involvement and interest in this course. My background in this field in Classics guided my understanding of American politics, and vice versa. It was a nice complement to my upper-level Latin class on the politician Cicero, whose Pro Caelio I read in the fall semester.
Philosophy was a bit harder to get into, but the most rewarding of them all. The course topic was called “Metaphysics.” Yea, maybe I should’ve swapped the class when I had the chance. At the start of the semester, my professor gave several warnings about the difficulty of the class. He wasn’t kidding, these philosophers are no joke. Some days I was better off not reading the chapter, because whether I read it or not, I wouldn’t even begin to understand what these people were talking about. But, that was the beauty of the course. I learned how to better approach philosophical thought, even philosophize myself, but my professor’s lectures about the importance of the metaphysical were all worth swallowing my fear of misunderstanding the readings. I got over being wrong in class a long time ago; there is no room in college for a fear of making mistakes.
This course was such a challenge that it completely altered my approach to my life. I saw my writing style, intent, and ideas flourish in front of my very eyes. In the same interdisciplinary nature, I was able to connect all of my classes with one another. Ancient transformation myths were now paired with Ancient and Modern political theory. I could go on and on.
New Windows of Opportunity
This fresh embrace of life and interdisciplinary thought was not only fostered within the classroom. This year I worked as a Research Associate for the New England Classical Journal. With NECJ, I was able to write my own abstracts, host a podcast episode, and even present my very own research paper at a conference. I never thought I would have accomplished something as an undergraduate student, but I did it! Even though I was a nervous undergrad surrounded by intimidatingly brilliant grad students and professors, it was excellent exposure I am grateful for so early in my career. I even had the opportunity to produce original research in Art History for the exhibition, which you’ve heard me talk about countless times. It was truly a success!
This year I also planned and hosted Classics Day, which was a massive undertaking. The students and volunteers all had a wonderful time celebrating the Classics. In my eyes, it was a little peace in the ever-changing world of a liberal arts education (we can get into that issue another time). This was my ultimate intellectual and leadership accomplishment that I have completed in my life thus far. Along with being Classics Day Chair and doing Community Based Learning work in my courses, I was recently named a Charles A. Dana scholar (2023-2024) for my outstanding intellectual competence, good character, and representation of the values of Holy Cross. What a way to end my sophomore year! I am beyond grateful for these opportunities and excited for what the future holds. You know, in Athens next semester! 😉
Fools as My Friends
Turns out my fellow wise fools make the best friends. This year has posed a lot of challenges. After a particularly low fall semester, I was reminded about how much of a gift we are to one another. College is a stepping stone for our success, not the end all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m that girl who will be in Dinand for hours; but, in the spring, I found my crowd that will do the same. My people who work so hard and deserve all the accolades, but remain humble and kind. Most importantly, we have fostered a loving community that cares for one another, the kind that supports one another instead of bringing each other down.
All the lows were worth it when I put into perspective what it means to be a woman for others. It means putting faith in yourself, your family, and your very best friends that we can do anything we set out to do. And, this is not over-optimistic, it is true. This comes out of pure joy for the people I have grown close to and those I have sadly grown apart from: you all have positively impacted my life. Thank you. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Whether it be cracking up in the main reading room, family Kimball dinner, or an off-campus walk (or two), these memories are forever.
Well, I guess I’m wiser now. Or, more foolish? Either way, this year was wild, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It’s been lovely writing to you all, and thank you for sticking around. If you don’t hear from me on this blog, you know where to find me!
Boy, has this semester flown by. Each year, we mark the end of the academic year with a Spring Concert, organized by the Campus Activities Board (CAB). For weeks now, the beautiful weather has teased the summer months. But, there is nothing better than community bonding on the Hill with music. A core Holy Cross tradition is the Spring Concert. A few weeks before this, students can sign up for “The Battle of the Bands,” a night celebrating students’ accomplishments in music, having fun with friends, and the end of another semester. At this event, CAB supposedly announces who the Spring Concert performers are, and the winner of the battle gets to open for them!
This year, the Spring Concert was…drumroll please…Two Friends! Two Friends are a DJ duo whose mixes of popular music have taken the world by storm. So, this past Friday, the campus was gathered down the Hill on Freshman Field ready to let loose and dance off any concerns of finals next week. It was truly a blast and something I’d never forget.
I always look forward to the Spring Concert for several reasons. First, I am a big fan of live music. And, who doesn’t want to enjoy some great tunes with even greater friends?! It’s a time for all of us to come away from our work, and just be in tune with each other. We’re connecting with friends from our classes, old-friend groups, new best friends, and everyone in between. It’s an overall great experience for all those who participate.
Last year, we got lucky and had two concert experiences. In the fall, we had the chance to watch Kid Laroi on stage. It was actually insane, you had to be there! Then, for our usual Spring Concert, we had the Plain White T’s serenade us with “Hey There Delilah.” It’s not everyday we get to do this type of thing, so I feel privileged to have been given these amazing experiences. Any guesses as to who the next Spring Concert will be?
Many say that your twenties are the best years of your life. I guess it’s time to find out what’s so great about them. As we enter the last weeks of the spring semester, we have begun to think about what’s next. For some of us, we’re just getting started on our college journey. For others, we are soaking in the very last seconds on the Hill. For me? Well, I’m at a weird point in my college career. When you get to sophomore year you too will understand. There is not as much of a rush of newness as there was freshman year. You are figuring out your interests and friends that make you happy. While this is all and well, it’s the perfect time to learn about yourself.
For some of us, we will be bringing Holy Cross away by participating in DC and international programs. I’m part of the latter group: I’ll be studying in Athens, Greece next semester. It’s a big jump, but I am confident that Holy Cross has prepared me well beyond my expectations. For many others, the Hill will continue to nourish their studies and relationships.
So, I just turned 20 yesterday. And, attending my classes yesterday, Metaphysics and Latin, reminded me why I’m at Holy Cross in the first place. I am on the Hill to make mistakes (And, if I weren’t here for that reason, I would not be in college.). I am here to learn. I am here to love what I’m learning and to enrich my soul with these studies. Like the inscription in our beloved Dinand Library says: haec studia adulescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant. Coincidentally it’s my favorite Latin author, Cicero and translates to: “These studies nourish the youth, they delight old age.”
While I have my thoughts of Holy Cross as a Liberal Arts Institution, I personally keep these values as grounding my identity as a Holy Cross student and woman for our community and our world. Sometimes we forget why we’re here, both in our world and our campus. But, learning things that make us happy, regardless of a direct outcome, is our purpose.
Holy Cross allows us to enrich our souls by studying a wide range of disciplines insofar as we consider this an advantage to our future. Of course, we are working towards a productive future in our professional lives, but like Holy Cross, I am a firm believer in allowing our studies to shape our person so that we can be the best version of ourselves in whatever workplace we deem fit. I have a good feeling that my twenties are going to be rewarding as long as I continue to flourish where I’m meant to be.
At the core of our Jesuit identity is service. At its most basic level, service is the practice of helping others. This can take so many different forms in different places and circumstances. From my experience, however, service is a duty we must fulfill given that we have gifts, skills, and passions to help others. As a Holy Cross student, I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to study. When I figure out what I am meant to do in this world I will consider three things: What do I love? What am I good at? What does the world need me to do?
That last question grounds my identity as a woman for others. Whatever we put out in this world, whether we see explicit effects or not, is affecting our world. And so, why should we not make the world a better place from it? Even if it is a small deed, it still has a meaningful impact, even if it does not have a massive change. This blog post goes out to the skeptics who claim that smaller deeds of service, like the ones I will describe here, are meaningless. Here goes nothing.
For the most part, the Holy Cross community practices what it preaches. They take this value so seriously, some courses have a required Community Based Learning (CBL) component alongside course material. At a quick glance, this CBL component is not seen to be merely a requirement for the course, but it should enhance the course’s material aims and goals.
I have taken two CBL courses: Kings & Caliphs: Art of Luxury and Introduction to Greek 1 and 2. I already wrote about my experience in the first course, so be sure to check that out! Right now, I’ll give you the rundown on a more hands on CBL experience with my Introduction to Greek classes.
In the fall semester, we had a CBL section of the class which focused on creating a project for the Worcester Art Museum to work on. My group created an interactive pyxis, a jewelry-type box out of materials we had at school. We were able to create a fun and enriching experience for anyone who would use our pyxis, both younger students and older ones.
In the spring semester, we completed an exciting project which included going to Worcester East Middle School and teaching a lesson on the Ancient Athenian Legal System. After weeks of planning and outlining our lesson plans, our groups split up into pairs and we had the opportunity to teach our lesson to 7th grade students. Overall, the students seemed like they were engaged and learned something new about Ancient Athens and American Democracy. I would love to go into specifics, so feel free to reach out!
From a service learning perspective, this one day of teaching did not transform the kids. But, what is important to get out of this experience is that we showed up for them. Service, regardless of its size, is something that I will defend until the end of time. Let’s make sure we show up and understand what the world needs us to do today.
I used to hate writing. Now, you should just call me Alexander Hamilton. After nearly two years at the college, I feel like I’ve finally come close to finding my voice in my writing. But, academic writing can take a toll on us all. When the spring semester began, I decided I wanted to challenge myself in my writing by joining the Opinions Staff of The Spire.
The Spire is the College of the Holy Cross’ student newspaper. It has been published weekly since 1925, with a core mission to serve the Holy Cross’ population by sharing student stories in mainstream news, campus features, opinion editorials, sports, and their Eggplant (the satirical) section. To be completely honest, I didn’t know that The Spire existed, but I am so glad that I stumbled upon it.
Being an opinion staff writer has proved to be a great opportunity in several different ways. On one hand, I am more aware of my own beliefs and values toward things happening on a daily basis. That is not to say I am not attentive in my life, but having a certain intention behind my writing has already begun transforming me for the better.
While I would say I’m closer to attaining my personal style in my articles, I am still struggling to let my voice shine through my opinions on paper. Every week, I have the chance to write about anything as long as I have an opinion to back it up. And, there’s no pressure! So far, I’ve written movie reviews, political and news commentaries, and pieces about my personal experiences. The weekly publication of The Spire allows me to stretch out my writing capabilities and see how far I can go.
There is a phenomenal group of writers that contribute to the newspaper weekly. And, they are some of the most supportive people I’ve met at the college. I feel lucky to have found a niche that allows my creativity and skills to strengthen.
For more on The Spire and how to get involved check out their website here. Or, be sure to pick up a paper issue around campus!