My big, fat Greek summer abroad

Greek tradition revolves around celebrating family, so why would a study abroad program to Greece be any different? The group of SMC students that attended the summer 2010 study abroad trip to Greece lived, ate, studied, and traveled in the ravishing country of Greece together as just that: a family.

Referred to by some as "Real World Athens 2010," the trip panned out to be all too similar to that depiction.

A group of 22 students, myself included, and two SMC professors Eleni Hioureas and Jim Stramel took on three weeks abroad in a country steeped in a rich culture and history that was comprehensively explored.

Fittingly, we studied Literature Analysis and Composition with Hioureas and Early Philosophers with Stramel. For our benefit, they included all things Greek in the teachings: mythology, ancient Greek philosophy, ancient Greek plays, the country's history, and current events.

In addition to the academic knowledge that the professors held about Greece's history and culture, their experience went beyond the books.

A native to Greece, Hioureas visits the country every couple of years. "I love the Mediterranean climate and the food, and the ancient sights and the scenery are amazing," she said.

Allowing merely half a day of rest following an entire day of traveling from LAX to Athens, the group was put to the test.

With temperatures reaching well over 100 degrees, our first week consisted of waking up at 8 a.m. for four-hour tours of ancient ruins and other popular sites with tour guide Konstantina Statho.

"It is always nice for me to work with colleges or universities. I get to learn many things and it is always nice to have people very close to your culture," says Statho.

We soaked up the sun on our travels to the Parthenon, the National Archaeological Museum, Socrates' prison cell, and the Temple of Zeus.

After each tour we ate lunch and attended five hours of class in our hotel conference room.

In no other setting would you roll out of bed and ride the elevator down to your classroom with wet hair wearing pajamas and slippers.

Thanks to Hioureas' connections in Greece, our group was able to branch out to more than just the touristy route. "[Professor Hioureas] took us to villages and [taught] us dances so we weren't just seeing the culture, she was involving her students in everything that was happening," said student Bliss Franco.

During the weeks and weekends our free time was spent anywhere from the beaches of Aegina, which are essentially small strips of sand along its pebble-lined coast, to the mountainous town of Delphi.

We participated in a mock race on the grounds of the first Olympic games, and after reading Aristophanes' The Acharnians in class we traveled to the ancient Greek theatre, Epidaurus to witness the spectacular mountain backdrop at sunset.

We spent our final week in the seaside town of Nafplion in a hotel on the water.

The week there was relaxing and spent visiting beaches, working on final projects, and studying for exams. If we were going to spend hours per day studying regardless, I'm thankful we had the opportunity to do so near a breathtaking sea.

"There are so many exciting opportunities abroad, and traveling will change your life and will change the way that you think," says Hioureas. "I know that it is expensive to travel, but well worth the cost. People don't realize how valuable it is until they actually go."

Nothing and no one can take away what the SMC group experienced, if only for three weeks in the "Real World Athens 2010." Opa!