Jai Gohain '19 is an international student from Kolkata, India. He is a classical studies major, with minors in dance and mathematics. He is also a member of the Connecticut College Dance Club and Connecticut College men's rugby team.
This semester I have been fortunate enough to be a part of one of Conn’s TRIP courses. As the name suggests, the Travel, Research, and Immersion Program makes a standard 4-credit class unique by adding a field trip to its syllabus. However, the destination of this trip is not a mere bus ride away from campus, but a trip to a foreign country! A remarkable collaboration between professors, donors and Conn’s Office of Study Away makes these week-long educational trips possible. Over spring break I was fortunate to be part of Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Nina Papathanasopoulou’s TRIP course on Homer’s Odyssey that visited Greece!
For a classics major, much of our time as undergraduates is spent reading and analyzing texts related to the subject matter. It is rare that we get to see material proof of all that we study. Thus, our class trip to Greece was not only a vitally important addition to our development as classics students, but also an opportunity for us to collectively nerd out over the sites and monuments that we finally got to see.
Of course, we started with Athens. The largest, most important city of the Classical era did not fail to disappoint with its Acropolis, Agora and modern-day thoroughfare. Whether it was ogling at the intricacies of the Parthenon’s architecture, or using our knowledge of ancient Greek to figure out the etymologies of modern Greek words on street signs, we were never wanting of things to see and do in this ancient capital city.
We also visited the ancient sites in Cape Sounion, Brauron, Epidaurus, Mycenae, Pylos, Olympia and Delphi. Each site presented features of Greek Civilization within the physical settings in which they took place. Our visit to Cape Sounion reinforced the importance of the sea and seafaring to the Greeks, which is an idea at the forefront in the story of our class’ text, the Odyssey by Homer. Mycenae and Pylos featured awe-inspiring palaces, initially built for the rulers of the ancient city-states. Their mythological kings, Agamemnon and Nestor, are both characters in the Odyssey. Epidaurus and Delphi, known as places of healing or worship, are both examples of the extensive infrastructure that the Ancient Greeks had in place for the pilgrimage of large numbers of people. Themes of the healing of the soul, religious devotion, fate and prophecy are all key ideologies that drive the plot of the Odyssey. Finally, the campus for the ancient Olympic Games at Olympia allowed us to fully absorb the status that superior athletics awarded an ancient Greek, his city-state, and the ancient Mediterranean at large. Further, our trip and experience was productive and meaningful because of the care and thought by which it was planned by our professor, and a native of Greece. Professor Papathanasopoulou organized the trip and selected the sites we visited, and she found incredibly capable tour guides to facilitate class discussion at each site. The guides focused on facts and historical context, while professor Papathanasopoulou would use the information to add cultural and literary meaning to the location. Through this unique learning experience we were encouraged to think critically about the subject and link discussed themes and issues to our course’s main focus, the Odyssey.
Finally, the icing on the cake for my personal experience is the people on this trip. I could not have asked for a better group of classmates with which to have explored Greece. The sightseeing; trying absolutely delicious, authentic Greek food; evening walks, going on shopping sprees; and relaxing in our trip’s van would have all felt incomplete without them. So, to LJ, Ashley, Natalie, Bailey, and of course, professor Papathanasopoulou, ! (“thank you” in modern Greek)
I sincerely hope that more classics students get to take advantage of this privilege that Conn so readily makes accessible. I can assure them that it makes for an unforgettable spring break!