Athens, home of the crumbling but still majestic Parthenon. Delphi, the land of the Oracle. Corinth, the once-wealthy seaport. Olympia, the seat of the original Olympic games. Mycenae, the motherload of breathtaking archeological finds. Some of the best-known cities of Greece are on the itinerary of the first Honors Summer Study Abroad program. Due to their stringent class schedule and preparations, the ten participating honors students should know these cities inside and out by the time they get there.
Participation in the program, which is lead by Prof. John Vonder Bruegge, includes one two-credit Honors seminar, one two-credit preparatory class, which they are currently enrolled in, and a mound of paperwork. Finally, on May 12, the group will embark on its three-week tour of Greece.
Within the classes, the students are expected to acquire a basic understanding of Greek history, geography, language and culture (both modern and ancient). In the first half of the semester, honors students completed the seminar by writing a 10-page scholarly paper on the Greek roots of different subjects assigned to them.
Despite the heavy workload, students Hana Spangler and Jessica Ausborn are enthusiastic about being part of the program.
Ausborn is Northwestern’s first ancient history major. She learned about the trip while it was still in its developing stages.
“Dr. Vonder Bruegge is my advisor, and when I was planning my course schedule for spring 2014, he suggested that I should save a slot for the onors seminar,” Ausborn said. “He knew I’d be interested in the trip because it’s so connected to my major.”
Spangler, a sophomore theater and history double- major, was considering studying abroad in Oman but changed her mind when she learned of the Greece trip. She saw it as a perfect combination of her two majors.
Both students said that the honors courses have prepared them well for their journey. The honors seminar was not required for the trip but was highly recommended. Ausborn said that during the honors seminar, students had to present the ten page paper they had written on their assigned subject.
“Hearing other people’s reports was interesting because I’ve never focused on what they talked about,” Ausborn said.
Although writing the final paper was strenuous, Ausborn and Spangler agreed that it was worthwhile. Ausborn was assigned the specific subject of warfare.
“I read lots about death and how the ancients killed each other,” Ausborn said. “It was pretty interesting to look at specific battle sites and places that we might be going to see.”
Spangler’s paper on Greek theater has led to an opportunity outside of NW. Spangler was accepted to present her paper at this year’s Upper Midwest Honors Conference in Waverly on April 24–26.
The second class the honors students are currently taking is preparing them with detailed knowledge of the places they will see during their trip. Each student is assigned a destination in Greece to study and then educate the rest of the group on.
“I got the coolest city of them all,” said Ausborn, who will be guiding the group in Corinth. “Corinth has been torn down and put back up by the Romans. It’s a Biblical city. It has a lot of history, especially in the areas that I’m interested in.”
Spangler is equally excited about her assigned locations, the Theater of Epidaurus and the South Slope of the Acropolis.
“Someday, I’ll read a reference to the Theater of Epidaurus in one of my textbooks and be able to say, ‘Yeah. I know that place. I led a tour there,’” Spangler said.
Ausborn said she’s looking forward to seeing the historical sites and engaging in what she calls “hands-on history.”
Both said the concept of Honors Program Study Abroad is a great idea.
“Everybody’s committed to a deeper level of scholarship,” Spangler said.
“We’ll be doing what we’ve been doing,” Ausborn added “only in Greece.”