Greece: A Crucial Foundation for Study Abroad


Without Greek studies there is no education.

– Leo Tolstoy

If you are looking for the essential primer for study abroad curriculum, you must begin at the beginning of Western civilization.

Would you like to inspire your students, please your administrators and enjoy educational travel? Whatever your field of study you can trace its roots to the foundation of Western culture: ancient Greece. If you follow this subject as I do, you will encounter an infinite number of articles that start with a reference to ancient Greece and then quickly jump to a related dilemma facing us today. So much of our modern culture still has its roots in that period from 1,500 to 200 B.C.

Scanning through a list of college and university departments nearly every subject can be traced back to that time. First are the obvious ones like Classics, History, Philosophy, Theatre, Medicine, and Political Science where their very names come from Greek words. With a little thought we can also link subjects such as Anthropology, Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Science, English, Mathematics, Psychology, and Physics — everyone has heard of Archimedes and his Eureka moment. Using Google we can also find the relationships between the ancient Greeks and Chemistry (names of most of the original elements in the periodic table are Greek), Computer Science, Military Science, Statistics and probably every other academic field. For instance Marketing is considered a thoroughly modern concept but the fundamentals taught by Socrates and Aristotle center around the art and science of persuasion.

Yet how many students with these majors and minors will voluntarily register for a study abroad program that will examine temple pillars, analyze wall friezes or poke around in piles of old rocks? Certainly not as many as will enthusiastically raise money for a Greek island journey involving windsurfing, kayaks, beach breaks or party boats. So how do you then convince parents and administrators that this is a worthy college expense? You emphasize the power of engaging students by walking on the same paths that Socrates walked; by sailing to the same islands that Ulysses sailed to. Nothing focuses the mind like the awe of standing where it all began—the intellectual forces that still powerfully influence our art, culture and science today.

All this knowledge comes together with a well-planned odyssey to modern Greece. By simply traveling to and from the Athens airport you can visit arguably the most significant architecture in the world, the Parthenon. A mere day trip away is the ever popular original site of the Olympic Games and the enduring center of the Western world, Delphi. That is the center according to Greek mythology with which so many students identify.

On both the mainland and on the islands just a short ferry trip away there are many beaches that have ancient antiquities right there to be studied while reflecting under an umbrella with a cool drink. One example of an active archeology dig is on the island of Despotico, a short swim from Antiparos or a short boat ride from the island hoppers’ favourite, Paros.
So whatever your field of study, a smidgeon of imagination and a modicum of research can produce a curriculum and an itinerary that will put your students’ feet on ancient rocks and their eye balls on the real things that brought civilization into being. The extra-curricular activities at the beach bars or Mediterranean restaurants will keep their motivation levels high. You don’t need to fret the logistics of transportation, accommodation, meals and the like. There are numerous experienced and specialized companies that can handle that at low student travel rates.

Once you have a successful Greece study abroad program under your belt you will have mastered the roots of your discipline and will be well positioned to apply the same principles of study, fun and reflection to your next year’s educational adventure anywhere in the world.

About the Author:

After leaving his native Oregon, USA, Michael Shepherd has lived many years in Ireland, Greece and the Czech Republic. He publishes travel guides based upon his experiences as well as the popular He also provides hosting services for art workshops and study abroad. His life is an open book at


Contributed by: Michael Shepherd of

Editor: Andrew Simenson

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