Fulbright Student Program Blog

Tag Archives: Greece

Reading Greece

Written by Steven Tagle, Fulbright US Student to Greece 2016-17

At Mytikas, the highest peak of Mount Olympus, with Josh Arnold, an American friend I made on the way up

When I describe my year in Greece, I often feel like I’m describing a place I imagined rather than a place that actually exists. It is a place where golden light strikes marble columns and sparkles over the wine-dark sea; where rowdy, curious, and clever characters drink and dance; where tradition and innovation, creativity, and chaos brew in a social and economic cauldron. As a fiction writer with an admittedly tenuous grip on reality, I’ve inhabited Greece the way a reader inhabits a book. “Reading” Greece this year has reawakened my senses and bound me to Greek and Syrian people whose mythic stories have challenged what I thought I knew about the crises, and what I thought I knew about myself. I may be the newest reader of a book that spans millennia, but like Byron, Fermor, and Merrill, I’ve found a home in this country and hope to contribute to its pages.

The Vikos Gorge from the Beloi Lookout in Vradeto, supposedly the deepest gorge in Europe.

I came to Greece through its mythology, intrigued by a people whose gods were as raucous, petty, and vindictive as they were noble and just. The landscapes of Greece retain the mystery and power of mythology. Thanks to Fulbright, I’ve visited many of these places, where our world still seems to touch the world of the gods. I’ve walked along the Acheron River –  the “River of Woe” – whose spectral blue waters seem colored by the spirits of the dead. I’ve listened for prophecy in the rustling oak leaves at Dodona and felt stalactites drip onto the back of my neck as a silent boatman ferried me through the caves at Diros. I’ve retraced Odysseus’s homeward path through the Ionian Islands and paid tribute to monsters Hercules had slain in the Peloponnese. Some days, traveling alone and outside my comfort zone, I walked on the edge of fear, knowing that beyond fear is awe, or δέος, the proper attitude for approaching the gods.

I saw δέος on a Naoussan boy’s face during Carnival when he put on the wax mask of the γενίτσαρος for the very first time. I learned to play Trex in UNHCR hotels and befriended an amorous Iraqi who had lost his legs as a child. My students at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki shared their yiayias’ spoon sweets and their own stories of first love, of coming out, of overcoming anxiety, of living with HIV. I visited their hometowns, stations of my Syrian friends’ wayward journeys. I know which cheeses each island produces and for which dessert each village is famous. Everyone I’ve met breathes a bit of Greece into me, and their life stories take root in my imagination. Now initiated into Greek culture, I’m eager to soak up every bit of history and myth, new local food, new tradition.

At Kallimarmaro Stadium with the Solidarity Now team, the first refugee team to run in the Athens Marathon.

A monk on Mount Athos gave me this advice: To write distinctly, live distinctly. In Greece I learned a different way to live. I’ve always held myself apart from people, but here, I was expected to spill into other people’s lives, to reach over them for food, to let myself need and be needed by them. Friends who have visited me in Greece say that I speak louder in Greek, that I’m more willing to talk to strangers, more willing to ask for help. They notice how Greek people open up to me when I speak the language. When a Greek asks me if I’m part Greek, I respond, Ναι, η καρδιά μου είναι ελληνική, “Yes, my heart is Greek.” Completing my Fulbright year is a bittersweet accomplishment, like coming to the of a beloved book. But as Greece has become part of me, so has my experience become part of the story of Greece.

The Power of Immeasurable Curiosity and Passion in Greece

Evy Vourlides

Evy Vourlides, 2013-2014, Greece

I lived in the neighborhood of Koukaki—below the Acropolis and just a short walk from Panteion University, my academic home during my nine months as a Fulbright U.S. Student in Greece. The small details of my daily life in Athens were unexpectedly tremendous. I had a Greek bank account, a lease, and a phone contract. This meant learning firsthand the experience of waiting in line at the bank, signing contracts, and paying bills as (albeit temporary) a member of Greek society. Greeting the baker down the street, who knew me by name, cracking a passing joke with the beet vendor at the community market, practicing yoga on a rooftop with a beautiful group of new friends under a closing day’s sky—these memories continue to bring me deep joy and reflect the great love I have developed for Greece. These details are what the Fulbright Program is about because they lead to something greater.

Senator J. William Fulbright headed efforts for the Fulbright Program after the Second World War. He believed that educational and cultural exchanges would lead to intimate intercultural understanding, and could promote peace of global proportions.

Understanding and empathy inevitably result from working, studying, and carrying out daily tasks in a new place, amongst a new group of people, for a prolonged period of time. This becomes a space where discussion and, ultimately, diplomacy can flourish.

Navigating Politics, Civil Society, and the Public Sphere in Greece: One Fulbrighter’s Experience

Michael

Michael Nevradakis, 2012-2013, Greece, giving a presentation on the progress of his research at the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences in Athens, Greece

When I first found out that I would be spending nine months in Greece performing research for my doctoral dissertation as a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grantee, there were some who thought that I was not making a wise decision. “Why would you want to go to Greece now?” they would ask. “Haven’t you seen the riots and unrest in the country?” Beset by a severe economic crisis that has generated international headlines, Greece is a country that is experiencing historic and turbulent changes. It is precisely for this reason, though, that I decided to go to Greece to perform research.

Being of Greek descent, this was not my first visit to Greece. It was, however, the first time that I would spend an extended period of time in the country. Interestingly enough, a number of people that I met while there expressed the same proclamations of surprise that I had chosen to come to Greece at such a difficult time as I had heard back in the United States. “Why did you come here when you could have stayed in the United States?” I would be asked, or “Why would you want to come to Greece when most young people in Greece want to immigrate?” Far from being dissuaded, I became ever more enthusiastic about my research.

A Slew of New Opportunities

In the last couple months, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program has added several new opportunities throughout the world, from Laos to Greece to Senegal, in both English Teaching Assistanship and Study/Research (full) categories of grants. Here’s a quick listing below, with three from just the last two days!

With the deadline only a few weeks away, could one of these new opportunities be the one you were looking for?