My First Time Studying Abroad in Greece

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Photo courtesy of Madeline Harper

This past winter term, I went on my first abroad trip to study the architecture of sacred landscapes in Greece. My classmates and I traveled across the country studying topography, archaeological sites, and other sacred spaces like churches and monasteries. 

Throughout the trip, the question of sacredness was on the forefront of my mind. What makes a space sacred? What gives a place authority? How does architecture influence the sacredness of a space depending on the time period? 

Throughout our exploration of Athens, Crete, the Peloponnese, Central Greece, Olympia, Delphi, Meteora, and Thessaloniki, I gained a greater understanding for the importance of the authority of sacred spaces, and how architecture contributes to society. 

The pinnacle of Athens, for me, was when we visited the Acropolis. I began to understand how sacred spaces possess authority because of the significance of their structure and location. Seeing the ruins in person was humbling, especially because the Acropolis played such an important role within the function of society. 

Another moment that stood out to me was in Crete when we visited Matala beach which possesses history from the hippies of the ‘70s. We explored the cave systems, carved rocks, and were able to sit in silence and completely absorb the nature around us.

A highlight of the trip was when we visited Epidaurus, and I completed my sight presentation on the healing cults of Asclepius at the Temple of Asclepius. It was humbling to be speaking on a site that possessed so much authority. Knowing that thousands would take the harrowing journey to worship Asclepius and pray for healing at the site I stood upon was overwhelming. It also made me question the significance of a journey. 

Throughout our trip, we traveled by bus, plane, and an overnight ferry throughout our two and a half week journey, which also allowed me to fathom the significance of traveling to and from sacred spaces. It reminded me that I am not alone walking on my path. I am not the first, and I sure won’t be the last. We are all going through a transformation of sorting things out, and this course reminded me that I cannot forget the personal journey that I am undertaking throughout my life.

Besides the more “academic” parts of the course—although I can confidently say that I now completely understand how personal and academic identities influence one another—traveling with a group of 25 students that I barely knew displayed to me how new environments bring people much closer together. 

I knew two people pretty well before the course, but now I can say that through many long days of exploring, hiking, and immersing ourselves temporarily into a different culture, I formed unforgettable bonds with each member of the group. 

Though I am a senior and this was my first time studying abroad, I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in such a special winter term through DePauw. I would encourage anyone considering studying abroad to get in contact with the Hubbard Center because this was an experience that I wouldn’t change for anything.