University of Arizona junior Ashley Beasley knew she wanted to study abroad, but with all of her on-campus commitments, she found it hard to find the time to get away. She then discovered Arizona in the Aegean, a new four-week intensive study abroad program at the UA that provides a summer school experience far removed from the classroom.
“I saw things I thought I would only see in textbooks,” said Beasley, an honors student majoring in anthropology, with a focus on archaeology.
Beasley was one of a dozen UA students to participate in the inaugural year of Arizona in the Aegean, based on the Greek island of Paros in the Cyclades, an archipelago of more than 20 islands in the Aegean Sea.
The program was established by UA associate professor of anthropology and classics Eleni Hasaki, a Mediterranean archaeologist and native of Athens.
Hasaki said that while many Greece study abroad programs are based in the capital city of Athens, she wanted to expose students to the culturally rich Greek islands, particularly Paros, where she has done extensive archaeological field work for the past decade.
“This is anchored in the sea rather than the mainland,” Hasaki said. “It’s a great way to study Greece from an island point of view.”
Over the course of the four-week program in June, students traveled to the Cycladic islands of Paros, Naxos, Santorini and Delos to learn about ancient and modern craft technologies in the Mediterranean.
Students had the opportunity to interact with and interview local craftspeople, including a beekeeper, sculptor, weaver, goldsmith and ship builder, as they prepared to write essays about craft apprenticeship.
“We visited about six craftsmen and craftswomen, and quite a few of the students emphasized how passionate these people were about their jobs,” Hasaki said. “They had an appreciation for their dedication and patience.”
The students also visited several historical sites, conducted educational exercises at the Paros Archaeological Museum and heard from guest lecturers in many non-traditional classroom settings, like aboard a boat or atop a volcano on the island of Santorini.
“It was rare that we were sitting in a classroom,” Beasley said. “We were always outside, and it was always hands-on.”
UA junior Rachel DeLozier, an honor’s student majoring in classics and art history, said she appreciated the opportunity to speak directly with the people who live on the islands about their livelihoods.
“The program really focused on interacting with locals and understanding traditional crafts, so it emphasized things that a typical tourist wouldn't likely see,” she said.
She also enjoyed visiting the many historical sites there.
“Honestly, you find them everywhere,” she said. “It is beyond incredible to walk through these spaces and try to understand the cultures that lived in them. The whole month, we were going to ancient sites on and around Paros where we would find pottery sherds and chunks of obsidian everywhere. It's hard to put into words how exciting that is.”
Housed in the School of Anthropology and cross-listed with the UA classics department, Arizona in the Aegean is a six-credit program open to students in all majors. It is one of just five study abroad programs at the UA highlighted for honors credit in The Honors College.
Hasaki said she hopes to grow the Arizona in the Aegean program to let more students study the ancient Mediterranean on a Greek island setting.
“It’s quintessential for anyone to go somewhere out of their comfort zone,” she said. “It’s an eye opener and an open-air laboratory.”