Every Summer, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) offers students the unique opportunity to learn from a Princeton professor abroad whilst earning course credit. The dubbed ‘Global Seminars’ include a range of topics in a range of locations – from Culture and Politics in Vienna to Capitalism in Kenya – all of which allow the student to immerse themselves in the culture of their host country.
This past summer I was afforded the opportunity to attend one of these seminars, A Land of Light and Shadows: Modern Greek Literature and Photography, in Athens, Greece. As both an academic and personal desire, the seminar was a truly unique experience that I am grateful to have been a part of.
Coming to Princeton, one of my main to-dos was to study abroad – it is something that I had been dreaming of for a long time. This was compounded by the fact that I am half Greek, a part of my background that I identify heavily with. Having never had the opportunity to visit the home of my grandparents, I jumped at the opportunity offered by PIIRS. The Global Seminar, apart from appealing to my heritage, also piqued my interest in photography and by extension, how it relates to literature.
The seminar began in early June and spanned until the middle of July. The duration of the seminar allowed for so many opportunities to see and explore Greece, both alone and as a part of the seminar. I was joined by 14 other students as well as Professor Eduardo Cadava and graduate student Anthie Georgiadi. Living and learning together, we created bonds that will last our time at Princeton and even beyond!
One of the core aspects of the seminar was the daily language class taught by Anthie, a native Greek speaker, who introduced us to the Modern Greek language. Although difficult at first, it became progressively easier to pick up as being immersed in the country allowed me to see how the language was spoken. Along with the language class, the seminar taught by Prof. Cadava was held twice a week, where we met and discussed readings relating photography to Greece while exploring the more philosophical aspects of the texts. Some of my favorite discussions revolved around how philosopher Gerhard Richter (we actually met him!) relates photography to death. On a similar note, many of the readings mentioned different areas around Greece, many of which we visited, including Athens, Delphi, Galaxidi, Mycenae, Nafplio and Crete. We were able to explore archaeological ruins, usually privately guided by an actual archeologist!
The other main aspect of the seminar was the weekly photography workshops, where we met with renowned photographers who showcased their work and assigned us projects. This was a truly unique experience since these photographers are experts in their field. Additionally, there was also at least one guest speaker event every week. The speakers ranged from Greece’s former Minister of Culture and Education to artists who worked on activist issues – a truly diverse selection. In short, the guests that contributed to the seminar were nothing short of amazing.
Overall, this past summer was one that I will remember for the rest of my life, for many, many reasons. To any student, current or prospective, I strongly encourage participation in a PIIRS global seminar – it is an opportunity that you cannot miss. I am truly humbled to be a part of the Princeton community and have access to such unique and impactful opportunities.