Abby’s J-term Experience

DePauw University sophomore Abigail Emmert participated in the J-term program earlier this year. Here’s what she learned about the ancient world and about herself:

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens by Abigail Emmert

Thinking back on my time in Greece – my first trip ever out of the US  –  I can’t imagine not having this experience when I did. The opportunity to participate in Sunoikisis’s J-Term had appeared out of nowhere, and I applied because I just had a feeling that this was the kind of trip that would take my classical studies learning to the next level. After getting settled in at Chania, our whirlwind journey through the worlds of the ancient Minoans and Mycenaeans began. In Chania, we saw the Master Impression seal – something that would end up setting the tone for the rest of our trip. Wherever else we went, Prof. Nagy would refer back to the seal and we always found ways to link the ideas shown in that one seal to what we were seeing at the site.

We learned gradually through Prof. Nagy and Prof. Morrell to make our own connections, to foster an active mind that was always ready to notice the small details that might connect various artifacts or sites. That opportunity to make connections is the thing that I loved about this trip, why this J-Term experience was completely different from any other that I might have had and why it was the best experience of my education to this day. Classroom readings and studies can do only so much, but the opportunities this trip offered brought something more to my study of classics. We climbed the main staircase at Knossos, walked the causeway at Phaistos, and picked olives on the hike up to the Menelaion. We ran a race at the Nimean stadium and meandered among the korai at the Acropolis museum, imagining the times when they were created. We were encouraged to think about the ancient world of which we were getting glimpses in terms of classical texts; we often surprised ourselves with how much we could recreate those ancient empires just from the texts we studied and the sites we saw.

During the final week of my trip, I wrote in my travel journal, “After spending time today with some of the world’s leading scholars on classics, I know that even as I’m taking in so much, I also see more of what I don’t know. But it also makes me see where I want to go and what I want to do. I’m afraid of going back for fear that I will lose this all – I can’t do that. It’s so open here – I feel ready and fresh to learn, expanding with each conversation. I challenge myself to keep this alive.” This trip created new challenges for me as a student and new ideas for me as a person; I look forward to returning someday to continue the learning that was sparked by this one J-Term.

Abby on far right with other J-term participants.

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