Students tour Greece for a crash course in "Divine Design

By Annie Lewine

This January, ten students from Macalester and twenty from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., traveled as a group to Greece in order to learn about religious architecture in a course titled “Divine Design.”
The itinerary for the trip focused on religious art and architecture, said Macalester Professor Michael C. Nelson who accompanied the students to Greece.
Students were expected to complete a variety of readings and were given the option of attending lectures at Carthage College prior to the trip in order to learn more about the sites they would be visiting.
“We kind of home based in Athens and Thessaloniki [ƒ?Ý] where we explored both Classical and Byzantine sites, but we also visited other non-religious sites because you might as well if you’re already there,” Nelson said.
This year’s trip to Greece was one of the Macalester Classics Department’s annual J-Term programs. Past destinations include Turkey, Italy and other places in which many important ancient civilizations were cultivated. “We decided to go to Greece this year because it really fits the Classics department’s profile ƒ?” it’s one of the major ancient civilizations that we focus on,” said Nelson. “The classics department offers these trips to give students greater opportunities to travel and to gain a greater understanding of what they’re studying in the classroom.”
Some Macalester Classics students were excited to have the opportunity to study the ancient sites first hand.
“When you actually go visit the places where Plato and Aristotle were, it just completely changes your understanding of them,” David Wheeler ’09 said. “You can read the dimensions of the Parthenon in a book, but it’s not until you’re actually there that you really comprehend its size.”
Although the trip was sponsored and organized by the Classics Department, the trip was not reserved for Classics majors.
“We had students from all disciplines,” Nelson said. “I think a very small percentage of the students were actually classics majors.”
Claire Hipkens ’09, an International Studies and Art History major, said she felt the trip would be useful for both of her majors, especially Art.
Other students said they joined the trip for non-academic reasons.
“I’d never been outside of the United States before,” Krista Yank ’09 said. “Not even Canada.”
“I’m Eastern Orthodox which is a major religion in Greece so I thought it’d be really interesting to learn about it there,” Yank said. “Also traveling with a college program is much more accessible than trying to do it by yourself.”
Many students felt that by traveling with the Classics Department’s program, they were able to get more out of their trip to Greece.
“Traveling with classicists is the best way to travel,” Wheeler said. “When you travel with classicists and archaeologists you get to see and learn about stuff you wouldn’t if you were on your own.”
In addition to the academic benefits, Abby Tofte ’09, said she felt that the trip was also a valuable bonding experience, and that she became incredibly close with people she had met only two weeks earlier.
“I finally met my soulmate!” Yank said, referring to Tofte. “I mean we lived next door to each other but didn’t really know each other until the trip.”