SFA students go abroad to explore history and architecture in Greece

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — For nearly two weeks this summer, 16 students from various colleges and areas of study at Stephen F. Austin State University traveled to 14 cities on mainland Greece to study the country’s history, culture, economy and politics, as well as learn how to become a global citizen through travel.

Dr. Perky Beisel, professor of history, led the interdisciplinary trip for students studying history, English and creative writing, cinematography, mass communication, business, psychology, biology, political science and education. Linda Reynolds, director of SFA’s East Texas Research Center, also traveled to offer assistance and insight.

From May 10 through 21, the group visited many iconic sites and museums in such cities as Thessaloniki, Philippi, Vergina, Meteora, Delphi, Olympia, Bassae, Kalamata, Ancient Sparta, Mycenae, Nafplio, Epidaurus, Haidari and Athens.

Among the large number of sites visited, favorite locations according to students included the Temple of Epikourios Apollo on a remote mountain top in Bassae, the seaside town of Nafplio and the landscape of the monasteries at Meteora.

“The trip to Greece was an eye-opening and life-changing experience,” said Erin Odom, early childhood education senior. “It was such a great opportunity to see a different part of the world and experience a different culture. My favorite parts of the trip were interacting with the locals and finding a hidden access point to the ocean in Nafplio.”

Though the group had a hefty itinerary, students had time to experience the culture on their own. According to Beisel, this time led students to become connoisseurs of street food stands, which may have sparked a newfound love for oregano potato chips for some.

“Students learned how to travel and appreciate the opportunity of exploring another culture, even if they didn’t fall in love with traveling internationally,” Beisel said. “They learned how to appreciate differences and the value of going outside oneself by trying to speak a very foreign language, eat different foods and use different currencies. I’d say most embraced the daily experiences and the travel as a whole.”

To prepare for their travel, Beisel met with the students each week throughout the spring semester to discuss travel procedures, packing and currency and to practice language and food identification. Each student also was required to present on one of the sites they were going to visit. 

“It was an amazing trip,” Beisel said. “I wish I could take more students tomorrow. I greatly appreciate the support of the Office of International Programs’ staff members, who helped every step of the way. Special thanks to the Department of History and Dr. Lorenzo Smith, SFA provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, for providing funding to defray the students’ travel costs.”

For more information about SFA’s study abroad opportunities, visit sfasu.edu/international.