History, breathtaking vistas highlight UW-S tour to Greece
What started out as a tour to Egypt turned into an experience of a lifetime in ancient Greece for 36 University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan travelers this past March.
From the gorgeous Greek Islands to the ancient Oracle and the site of the first-ever Olympics, local travelers are still reeling from the sights and history experienced in this renowned Cradle of Western Civilization.
“I think perhaps the most interesting aspects of traveling to Greece was the history,” said Stephanie Larson of Sheboygan.
“Regardless of a person’s faith, it is quite impressive and humbling to actually walk among the ruins dating back well before the birth of Christ. It was almost surrealistic to stand in places like Corinth and Ephesus, where Paul visited and preached. Being there, looking at the ACTUAL place in which this early society lived and learned about Christian beliefs, was a remarkable feeling and experience.”
Larson, who owns her own independent advertising firm in Sheboygan, traveled to Greece with 35 other local residents on the “Highlights of Ancient Greece” Study Abroad Tour with UW-Sheboygan’s Center for Engagement Learning March 18-29.
The tour, which was originally scheduled as a tour of ancient Egypt, was forced to change its destination abruptly when violence broke out in Egypt in February. Despite the change in destination, UW-Sheboygan instructor of Religious Studies Dr. Rich Edwards remained the trip leader and offered travelers abundant insight into the religious beliefs and history of Ancient Greece. The tour also featured on-site tour guides who could easily translate Greek to English and navigate through crowds and ticketing.
Some of the tour stops included the Greek Islands, including Hydra, Aegina, Poros, Crete and Santorini. Other stops included the site of the first Olympics in Olympia, the sanctuary of the God Apollo and its dramatic setting in on the slopes of Mount Parnassus in Delphi, the Theater of Tholos at Epidauros, the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey, the Acropolis in downtown Athens and much more.
For many travelers, it was inspiring to see the actual sites of the history they have only read about – or in some cases – actually taught students about.
“For me, I greatly enjoyed the open theater at Epidauros,” said Tess Larson, a Sheboygan high school English teacher. “In my sophomore English classes, I teach the classic Greek drama Antigone, and it was fascinating to see where this piece was originally performed. I took a lot of photos to show my students the stage and seating.”
For others, the trip offered a greater appreciation for the Greeks and their impact on today’s society.
“I found historical Greece to be the most fascinating and intriguing aspects of this tour,” said Elaine Wagner of Sheboygan. “One could not help but have a deep appreciation of Classical Greece as a foundational culture from which many facets including politics, education and philosophy have modeled throughout the centuries.”
For Wagner, each and every site visited had something special to offer visitors, but two ruins did leave a lasting impression. The ancient Mycenaean citadel and the Temple of Apollo on Mount Parnassus provided unforgettable experiences due to their engineering, construction and history.
According to Valerie Graczyk, UW-Sheboygan Center for Engagement Learning travel coordinator, trip participants have been raving about their experience in Greece. From evaluation statements such as “the trip was beyond my expectations” to “this trip far exceeded any trip I have ever taken,” travelers all agreed that the “Highlights of Greece” offered them a learning experience that may never be equaled.
“As travel coordinator for UW-Sheboygan, I want our travelers to have a great travel experience and to learn about the history and culture of the country we are visiting,” Graczyk said. “We had a great group of people, lots of laughter and good conversation.”
UW-Sheboygan tour participants all agreed that the CEL tour offered a unique travel experience and that they would recommend the tours to others.
“There is no question that be being part of this group I had the advantage of some of the best guides in the business,” Stephanie Larson said. “Our guides provided the history, showed photos of how the ruins looked in ‘their time,’ and shared interesting stories, legends and mythology that led to a richer experience. I believe 36 people left on March 18 as strangers and returned on March 29 as friends. I will treasure the memories I have of this trip to Greece.”
Wagner agreed. “I would definitely recommend these tours to others,” she said. “I have done a number of tours in the past, and I consider traveling with the Center for Engagement Learning my best experience to date.”
UW-Sheboygan is already planning for its 2012 Study Abroad Tours, which will be offered to Southern Germany/Austria in March 2012 and China in May 2012. Reservations on both tours are already being accepted. Space is limited on each tour, so early registration is encouraged.
For more information on upcoming Center for Engagement Learning tours in 2012, contact the UW-Sheboygan CEL Office at (920) 459-6617 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.