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Hutton Honors College

 — Indiana University

Dionissi Aliprantis, an Indianapolis native, majored in math, economics, and Spanish. Dionissi spent the summer of his sophomore year abroad in Greece.

Dionissi Aliprantis
Summer 2001

I find it very difficult to compress the events of my entire summer onto paper. There were so many experiences that I feel as though I lived a chapter of my life this summer in Greece.

My summer began in Athens. I took a three week class entitled "Discovering Ancient Athens on Site." The professor was excellent, and I was able to visit some of the most important historical sites in the western world. Imagine seeing a machine used to allot fair and impartial juries over two thousand years ago. Or standing in the room in which Socrates drank hemlock to end his life. The foundations of western society, both governmental and cultural, were laid in ancient Greece. I am very curious in the governmental and economic structures in the world today, and I found studying ancient Greece to be helpful in understanding the world as it is today.

In addition to studying ancient Greece, living in Athens for three weeks is also an immersion into modern Greek culture. One of the first things that struck me about Athens (and in fact, in all of the traveling that I have done) is the pollution. I have heard that Athens is considered the most polluted city in the world. I would be surprised if there is a more polluted city on earth. I was slightly depressed when I could not seethe sun on a cloudless "sunny" day.

Aside from the pollution, I loved Athens. I will discuss Greek culture later, but it is worth a mention even in Athens (as are the clubs). The daily life in Athens is at the same time both incredibly stressful and very relaxed. An example of the stress is the traffic, while a great example of the relaxation is that two blocks from my apartment, a farmers' market is held every Friday. Everyone in our apartment loved the fresh fruits and vegetables and the social exchange between buyer and seller. I could not imagine such an event taking place weekly in downtown Indianapolis.

After three weeks in Athens, I spent six weeks on the island Paros taking courses in modern Greek (language). The six weeks I passed in Paros were indescribable. From a large polluted city, I arrived onto a beautiful, peaceful Greek island. Every day would begin with class. The afternoon would be spent studying, eating lunch, and when time permitted, sifting on the beach. More classes were held in the afternoon, and each night held a feast. Some weekends were spent traveling to exotic islands like Santorini and Mykonos. Others were spent on Paros. Along the way, I was able to catch a glimpse of Greek island life.

The culture on Greek islands is such that it must be experienced. Everyone is incredibly laid back. Meals are enjoyed, not just eaten. Dinner is a social event that often runs into late night or morning. One thing about Greece is that everyone is very social. This is simply the culture. People go for coffee, for dinner, or just for a walk to speak together. Everyone is always out, and everyone is always talking. And when people talk, they talk about everything. Nothing is left out of the discussion, and no topic is feared. People discuss politics, religion, or anything else in life. I must say that I strongly prefer this cultural attribute as opposed to a culture that spends much of its time watching television. I feel that this is responsible for the health of Greece. For example, the murder rate in Greece is 2 per million. That means that in one year in Greece, about 20 murders occur. I don't think that this is because of the incredible policing in Greece, its harsh punishment of criminals (Greece does not practice the death penalty), or any other punitive measure. I think that this is a result of the family and cultural accountability of each member of Greek society. If a murderer exists in Greece, he must be accountable to his family, his neighborhood, his community—in short, too many people to want to murder someone. Seeing the comparative health of Greek society (which is still very far from perfect) makes me believe that other countries should focus on forming strong communities and families as a cure to social ills as opposed to simply putting more police on the streets.

I cannot to forget to mention my teacher in Paros. She was an incredible woman. She has been an opera singer, and is very cultured. She can discuss any poetry, Greek, English, or French, at a level that just blew me away. She told stories about living through the Second World War, being a part of the Greek resistance to the junta, and today's life in Greece. She had seen friends executed by German soldiers, and she is living today simply because a friend did not speak even under terrible tortures. Along with Maya Angelou, she is perhaps the most dignified woman I have ever met.

After my time on Paros, I spent three weeks with family on the island Kephalonia. My family has lived on this island for over a thousand years. I am incredibly proud to be Greek, and I feel that my experience this summer has made me a richer person able to contribute more to the world. I feel that I have connected with my past and my history, which in turn makes me better able to see the future consequences of my actions.