When I was an undergraduate at Holy Cross, I cut a deal with my parents. If they would let me enroll in a summer study program in Greece after my sophmore year (instead of finding a summer job at home), I thought I could graduate in three years instead of four, and save them substantially on tuition and room and board fees. I must have been convincing because they actually agreed to my proposal.
So, for the summer of 1970, I enrolled in the Aegean Institute, based in the little village of Galatas in Troizen on the Peloponese, just across from the island of Poros, Greece. This program doesn’t exist anymore because it was founded and run by one person, Niki Scoufopoulos-Stavrolakes, a wonderful woman who grew up, I think, in Galatas and who introduced many young people, like me to the excitement of studying in Greece. Unfortunately she died at the young age of 46 in 1986 and her program did not survive long without her.
Getting to Galatas was part of the fun. After landing in Athens, you had to find your way to the port of Pirlaeus, take a ferry to the island of Poros, and then cross the strait to Galatas in a rowboat. Galatas itself, then, was pretty isolated but I still remember enjoying all the beautiful flowering plants and walking along the shore of the Aegean, in wonder that I was really there, in Greece!
But in 1970 the Aegean Institute was thriving and I was able to choose among a number of courses, including archaeology with Niki, Greek history (with the illustrious British historian A.R. Burn), Greek art and modern Greek. I would like to have taken them all, but could only choose two, archaeology and history. And studying both subjects on Greek soil was exiciting and mind-boggling. Listening to Prof. Burns lecture on Greek history on the actual sites of events was unforgettable.
The program included lots of fieldtrips, certainly to Athens (to the Acropolis, the National Museum, Daphne, etc.), to Delphi, to Olympia, and to Mycenae/Tiryns. There was also a trip to Epidauros to attend a performance of a Greek play, the Medea, I think. I am still amazed how much we saw in such a short program.
I vividly remember not wanting to leave Greece when the program was over. There were still a few weeks left of summer and I tried unsuccesssfully to rebook my plane ticket home.
But that summer marked me for life. My only trip outside the United States before this had been a trip to Expo in Montreal in 1967, but going to Greece as an undergraduate has made me a committed world traveler for the rest of my life. Studying abroad also taught me the value of such programs for students and, as a result, I spent many years as a professor leading short student trips abroad and encouraging students to enroll in longer study abroad programs.
And, by the way, the academic credits I earned that summer did enble me to graduate early from Holy Cross, and probably set me on the road to graduate school at Johns Hopkins, a Ph.D in Classics, and a long teaching career.