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By Jiri Tucker January 29, 2012

Class Abroad: History in Greece

20 years ago I stood with my college professor overlooking Marathon, Greece. Professor Peter Rahn had his class sketching and reading crumpled copies of Herodotus’ account of the battle, and I had the Romantic poet, Byron, in my head:

The Battle-field, where Persia's victim horde
First bow'd beneath the brunt of Hellas' sword,
As on the morn to distant Glory dear,
When Marathon became a magic word

Rahn arranged the students so that they might imagine themselves to be the 10,000 Athenians and Plateans. Each student had to imagine he or she was holding a shinny bronze shield, the hoplon, a long spear, and heavy bronze armour. This was years before Brad Pitt dressed up as Achilles in Troy. (Wrong battle, wrong time period, but right armour, dude.) Sweating and looking down, now imagine the 100,000 or 600,000 Persian Horde below. Pick your source. You are still outnumbered badly. But the victory belonged to the Athenians that day.

I recount this 20 years later in my classroom. Some of that magic catches the student in class. But it is only standing at Marathon that these moments in time become events that shape us today.

Now Dawson students can stand at Marathon. This summer for a class you will see “the glory that was Greece” (Never on Sunday). You will also see so much more. Homer’s famed city of Mycenae will not be strange slide of stones projected on screen, but a fortress with  Cyclopean walls. I dare students to find the bathtub where Agamemnon was slain with an axe by his furious wife, Clytemnestra. The genius of the clever curves of the Parthenon and the majestic beauty of the Caryatids on the Acropolis will be tangible. Imagine presenting in the very site, the Pynx, where Athenian democracy first took hold.This class abroad will not just experience the ancient past but Greece under Roman rule, its Byzantine culture, crusaders’ visit, Venetian and Ottoman rule, liberation, and the development of modern Greece. Be lord Byron for 10 days. Determine the right goat cheese, fig, and olive. Dance, like Zorba, the fist step of a Rembetiko.  Bring your own shield. 

Limited enrolment: There are still places left, as of Dec. 24. So that if you are interested, not to worry: You can register starting Jan. 2 (No registration will occurr between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2, as the professors who can register you are on holiday break.) That means there is still a place for you.

You may contact Jiri Tucker over the holidays (Please do not expect an instant reply as my Internet connection is weak where I am outside Montreal):

jtucker@dawsoncollege.qc.ca  (if you have an unusual email, you may be subject to spam box sometimes)


It is a good idea to inform me that you wish to register. I cannot 'hold' a spot without the deposit. But this helps.

Course information:

It is a 300 level History class (330-325-DW) for which you must have completed Western Civilization. The trip is open to the first 30 students. First come first serve.

There is a deposit required in December: $500. The trip will cost under $3,000 and includes flight, lodging, transportation around Greece, Museum and site fee entrances, a local guide, and some meals. You do get to be on your own on a few occasions. Additional expenses include: your lunch, a few dinners, theatre ticket, course reading material (approximately $50), departure dinner and proper attire.

If you have questions, you can reach me: jtucker@dawsoncollege.qc.ca

Frequently Asked Questions

How much? and When do I pay?
The cost is less than $3000. (The exact cost will be determined before Registration in December. Presently it looks like $2949.) The first payment, $500, will be due around initial registration in December and three more payments will be made through the Winter so that the entire cost will be paid 99 days before departure (i.e. before March 1).

Can I pre-register now?
A number of students have already been enroled. But there are stll places left so that you might still register.  But don't wait until Jan. 8 when the trip might be full. You you must provide your first payment (as well as be sure that you meet the course qualifications)

Do I need to pay the first deposit in order to be registered?
Yes, if you register and have not paid, then your place in the course will be replaced.

What is included in the cost?
The trip includes: the flight to Greece, travel between locations in Greece, museum and site entrances, a local guide in addition to teachers, as well as most breakfasts and dinners.

What is not included?
Ticket to play in Greek theatre (course requirement), required reading material, a number of meals like your lunch and some dinners. Possibly travel insurance, which is required.

Will there be free time?
Yes, there is some free time.

Who can take the course?
A social science student who has successfully completed History of Western Civilization (330-101) can take this course. You must have place among your credits yet to be taken for a 300-level history course (Applied Social and Economic History, 330-325-DW). Note that we are trying to create a 200 level course in case you have already used your 300 level course.

Can a Liberal Arts Student take this course?
Yes. Please see your advisor about taking this “group III” class. 330-325-DW. Note that we are trying to create a 200 level course in case you have already used your 300 level course.

Can a Science Student take this course?
Not for credit. Unfortunately for administrative reasons this course can not be counted as a complimentary course. More later on accepting students who cannot take this as a course for credit.

When does it take place?
Winter 2012. Trip May 25 – June 4

Is it a Winter course?
Yes, see 330-325-DW

Is it a Summer course?

Must I attend the winter courses and meetings?
Yes. 6 are actual classes. There are 2 required meetings as well.

Where does the course take place?
Dawson College with 8 classes or meetings and Greece: Athens, Attica, the island of Aegina, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Delphi, Marathon, Sunion, Nafplio.

Can I stay longer in Greece or Europe?
For those who are 18 and over, we are looking into that possibility, but it may cost more.

Do I need to have taken another class?
You must have completed Western Civilization or its equivalent (Liberal Arts is a bit different). If you haven’t but you have taken Introduction to Classics, please see Jiri Tucker.

How is the grade determined?
Half of the grade is based on pre-trip work: reading assignments, proposal, and essay. The other half of the grade comes from work done during the trip: the student’s presentation, diary entries, and participation.

What if I don’t successfully complete the course work during the winter?
You can be refused on the trip. This is a class and you are expected to prepare and complete the appropriate material.

Is there reading material?
Yes, an outline will be provided. But you may contact Jiri Tucker near registration period to get started!

Can I take this course even if I am under 18? What is required?
Yes. But your parents or guardians must complete a special authorization form.

Is special gear required?
Appropriate clothing will be required. Good footwear required. No Uggs! Also, there are other considerations such as dress that covers your ankles in visiting Byzantine churches.

Are there any medical considerations?
Bring necessary anti-histamine or allergy preventive medicine. Please inform the teachers of any special conditions before traveling.

Are there any physical considerations?
You must be prepared to do some amount of walking and minor hiking.

Do I need a valid passport?
Yes. Please see Jiri Tucker if you are not a Canadian citizen to verify if there are VISA requirements.

Must I buy travel Insurance?
You must buy travel insurance. The tour operator will offer a discount on insurance (There is some possibility that this cost may be included in the trip. To be determined).

Where will stay?

We will be staying in three star hotels or better. Hotel ratings in Greece are very strict and of good standard. We shall share rooms up to 4 per room.

Is Greece safe?

Yes. We shall be working intensely together in the time that we have. This is not a student holiday trip. It is a course. The tour operator is quite organized as we move together by coach around Greece. There are at least 2 professors on the trip (one female) who are experienced travelers. Jiri Tucker has taken students to Toronto and New York city. While, Greece has been in the news quite a bit recently, the reality is that the protests have been largely in one area of Athens. They are much like any other protest in Canada. (This is not the protest you see in some Middle Eastern countries.). Greece is a small country of thoughtful, friendly, and concerned people.

If there are other questions, contact Jiri Tucker: jtucker@dawsoncollege.qc.ca

About the author

Jiri Tucker teaches Classics, Archaeology, and History at Dawson College.


The photograph “Day 260: Those Greek Gods are Hilarious” is by Lily Monster, under CC BY-NC 2.0


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