Europe’s living classroom


The Acropolis

From Jan. 19 to Jan. 28, 30 students from Johnson State College, Lyndon State College, and Vermont Technical College traveled to Italy and Greece as part of an immersive history course titled “Global Studies Fieldwork: Italy and Greece,” offered by Lyndon State College.

Alexandre Strokanov, professor of history at Lyndon State College, taught and led the trip. Strokanov has worked as a professor at LSC for the past 16 years, and leads multiple international trips each year.

“The goal is to provide students with an opportunity to study [the] history, culture, politics, and economics of foreign countries, not just from a textbook but through direct exposure to these things and personal experience of it,” said Strokanov.

 Strokanov and his students traveled to a variety of famous cities, historical and cultural sites, and monuments during the trip. The group first toured the city of Rome, where they visited the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Monte Cassino, and a monastery south of Rome built by St. Benedict. The group also visited the town of Pompeii.

The group then boarded a ferry to Greece, where they visited Patras, Delphi, and the city of Athens. They toured the Acropolis, Tomb of the Unknown Solider, and Plaka, the historical district of Athens. Towards the end of the trip, the group went for a boat tour of three small islands: Hydra, Poros, and Aegina.

“This particular trip is absolutely great for teaching history of Ancient Greeks and Romans, early stages of Western Civilization history, or for teaching European Government and Politics, Comparative Governments courses,” said Strokanov.

“I learned a lot more about Greek culture than I knew prior, and also about the landscape of Greek which is nothing like I’ve ever seen before,” said Elizabeth Carr, a junior at JSC. “I learned also how other people in different countries live and behave, which was very different than at home in many regards, but also similar in some ways.”

The course was based almost entirely on hands-on learning during the trip. Class- and homework assigned to students included watching two films about Italy and Greece prior to departure, reading “The Odyssey,” keeping a journal during the trip, and choosing a specific subject for their final projects to research during the trip.

“We learned constantly on the trip, from discussions about what we were seeing and in-depth tours of places like Pompeii and the Vatican, to discussions on current US politics,” said Ophelia Blair, a junior at JSC.

During the trip, students participated in fieldwork for the course, which included interacting with citizens of Italy and Greece. This meant asking for directions, practicing speaking the native languages with locals, and purchasing food and items from shops. Other fieldwork included studying ancient Greek and Roman architecture and archaeology while at famous cultural and historical sights and monuments, as well as visiting art galleries and museums such as the Vatican Museum.

“I took this course because it gave me an opportunity to see a part of the world everyone hears about, but I had never gotten to see before,” said Blair. “I was curious about what it was really like compared to how it is represented in the media and in school.”

Samantha Fox, a junior at JSC, said that ever since she was little she has always loved Greek mythology and knew this would be an incredible trip to experience and learn in person about the locations where these myths originated.

“From this class and trip, I gained a lot of knowledge about mythology because I finally got to see what I was reading about and experience it for myself,” said Fox. “Being able to finally see all of these locations where different myths originated was amazing and something that I will never forget.”

Strokanov not only emphasized the importance of international trips to enhance students’ learning experience, their understanding of the world, and the tools and knowledge they need for their future careers, but also how it helps them improve their understanding of themselves as individuals.

“These trips provide you with opportunity to learn about yourself, your abilities and capabilities. These trips are excellent testing ground for your relationships with your friends,” said Strokanov.
“Students often comment to me that they learned a great deal about foreign countries but, to their great surprise, they learned even more about their own qualities, strengths, and weaknesses.”

“I believe this trip has helped me grow as a person, if only because it has given me perspective on my life as a whole,” said Blair. “It is easy to get caught up in your own personal universe, and I think traveling helps break a person out of that.”